National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture

Under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, India has launched a dedicated National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) to define its strategies for climate mitigation and adaptation within the agriculture sector.

Emission by Agriculture Sector

Agriculture is responsible for around 14% of global emissions. If the emissions from the agriculture are combined with the emissions caused by deforestation for farming, fertilizer manufacturing and agricultural energy use, this sector becomes the largest contributor to global emissions. In India, the agriculture sector accounts for 17.6% of total emissions. At the same time, it consumes some one fourth of the electricity, so, it is indirectly responsible for another 10% of the GHG emissions. When we combine these figures with the fertilizer industries, catering solely to agriculture, and use of diesel, we find that agriculture is the largest contributor of GHG in India. So there is a need that the farm sector is given priority in India’s climate mitigation strategy.

Focus areas of NMSA

The core focus areas for NMSA include Dryland Agriculture, Risk Management, Access to Information and Use of Biotechnology.

Dryland Agriculture

This further includes:

  • Development of drought and pest-resistant crop varieties.
  • Improving methods to conserve soil and water to ensure theirs optimal utilization.
  • Generate awareness through stakeholder consultations, training workshops and demonstration exercises for farming communities, for agro-climatic information sharing and dissemination.
  • Financial support to enable farmers to invest in and adopt relevant technologies to overcome climate related stresses.
Risk Management

This further includes:

  • Strengthening existing agricultural and weather insurance mechanisms.
  • Development and validation of weather derivative models by insurance providers.
  • Ensure access to archival and current weather data for this purpose.
  • Creation of web-enabled, regional language based services for facilitation of weather based insurance.
  • Development of GIS and remote-sensing methodologies for detailed soil resource mapping and land use planning. All watershed and river basins to be covered.
  • Mapping vulnerable eco-regions and identification of pest and disease hotspots.
  • Developing and implementation of region-specific contingency plans based on vulnerability and risk scenario

Note: The energy sector emissions comprise of emissions due to fuel combustion in electricity generation, solid fuel manufacturing, petroleum refining, transport, residential & commercial activities, agriculture & fisheries. It also includes the fugitive emissions due to coal mining, and handling of oil and natural gas. The largest chunk of emissions was from electricity generation amounting to 719.31 million tons of CO2 -eq which represented 65 percent of the total CO2 equivalent emissions from the energy sector.

Access to Information

This further includes

  • To improve and expand the data bases on (a) Soil Profile, (b) Area Under Cultivation, Production And Yield, and (c) Cost of Cultivation.
  • To digitize data, maintain database of global quality, and streamline the procedure governing access there to
  • To build public awareness through “National Portal” on agricultural Statistics.
Use of Bio- technology

This further includes

  • Genetic engineering to convert C-3 crops to the more carbon responsive C-4 crops to achieve greater photosynthetic efficiency for obtaining increased productivity at higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and to sustain thermal stresses.
  • Development of strategies for low input sustainable agriculture by producing crops with enhanced water and nitrogen use efficiency which may also result in reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, and crops with greater tolerance to drought, high temperature, submergence and salinity stresses.
  • Development of nutritional strategies for managing heat stress in dairy animals to prevent nutrient deficiencies leading to low milk yield and productivity.
  • Development of salt tolerant and disease resistant fresh water fish and prawn.

We see that as such NMSA has been successful in identifying the larger challenges faced by Indian agriculture and how they will be exacerbated in a changing climate context. However, the strategies proposed to meet these challenges are largely drawn from past policies and are highly technology focused. Here are some issues in this mission.

  • Most of the proposed strategies target the big farmers, while the small and marginal farmers are left vulnerable.
  • Water use efficiency has been given importance but the chemical fertilisers have been largely igonored in the strategies. Chemical fertilizers are also a major driver of rising demand for irrigation water.
  • NMSA lacks adequate regulatory framework required to meet climate change related challenges to agriculture.

About Green House Gases

Greenhouse Gases are gases in the atmosphere that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse Gases greatly affect the temperature of the Earth; without them, the Earth’s surface would be about 33°C (59 °F) colder than at present. The natural greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. Some amounts of GHGs are absorbed by the natural systems such as oceans and plant biomass, which are also referred to as sinks of GHGs. However, when plants are cut down and allowed to decay or are burnt; the GHGs absorbed by them from the atmosphere are released back into the atmosphere. The build up of GHGs in the atmosphere is therefore the net emission from sources and removal by sinks. Since the time of Industrial revolution in the mid-18th century large scale burning of fossil fuels, land use change and forestry activities have considerably enhanced the concentration of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere, for example, the concentration of carbon dioxide had gone up from 275 to 285 ppm in the pre-industrial era (AD 1000–1750) to 379 ppm in 2005. Additionally synthetic greenhouse gases like CFCs, HCFCs and SF6 are also accumulating in the atmosphere.