Maharashtra’s Climate-Resilient Agriculture Project Faces Funding Disparities and Sustainability Concerns
Since 2018, Maharashtra has initiated a pioneering project known as the Project on Climate Resilient Agriculture (pocra), aimed at helping farmers transition to climate change-resilient practices. This ambitious endeavor, implemented in 16 out of the state’s 36 districts, is touted as the country’s largest climate-resilient agriculture initiative. However, data reveals that a significant portion of the project’s funds has been channeled into specific districts and types of interventions, raising concerns about equity and sustainability.
Pocra was launched with a budget of Rs 4,000 crore, featuring a substantial World Bank loan of 70% and a 30% contribution from the state government. The project operates on a direct benefit transfer (DBT) model, allowing farmers, communities, farmer producer organizations (FPOs/FPCs), and self-help groups (SHGs) to register on the official website and apply for funding for 25 designated interventions, including drip irrigation, warehouse construction, seed production, and agricultural mechanization.
One key issue arising from pocra is the unequal distribution of funds among districts. Over 60% of the project funds have been directed to just three of the 16 districts: Aurangabad (26.1%), Jalna (18.8%), and Jalgaon (15.6%). This concentration of funds means that a limited number of farmers in specific districts benefit while the agrarian crisis affects the entire state. Additionally, some vulnerable districts have been omitted from the project.
The criteria used for selecting districts under pocra have raised questions, as they do not align with vulnerability assessments to climate change. For instance, some districts with high vulnerability have not been included, while politically motivated decisions have influenced district selection. Critics argue that these decisions may not effectively address the needs of climate-vulnerable regions.
Interventions and Farmer Benefits
While the farmers who have received assistance under pocra have reported benefits, concerns persist about the sustainability and scalability of the promoted practices. Some interventions, such as shade-net houses and zero-tillage, raise ecological and sustainability concerns. Shade-net houses have a limited lifespan and can negatively impact soil productivity over time. Zero-tillage, while reducing plowing, relies on weedicide usage, potentially harming the environment and increasing crop disease prevalence.
As the first phase of pocra nears completion, plans for the next phase are underway. The government has provisionally approved a second phase with a budget of Rs 6,000 crore, extending coverage to five additional districts. However, concerns about the project’s equitable distribution and sustainability must be addressed to ensure its effectiveness in promoting climate-resilient agriculture.