Remarks By Ambassador Jonathan Addleton at the National Stakeholder Conference on Managing Climate Risk in Agriculture in India

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Global Climate Change and Agriculture

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning! I am delighted to be here today to join this very important conference on “Managing Climate Risk in Agriculture in India.” This meeting of the minds could not have taken place at a better juncture; right when the country is bracing up for an unpredictable Monsoon.

India today is the one of the world’s largest agricultural producers of staple crops, fruits, horticulture, and dairy. The country’s intensive focus on agricultural development over the past 40 years has resulted in increased agricultural production through the adoption and adaptation of new technologies and production methods. 

But the agricultural successes achieved over the course of these last 40 years now face a new challenge: global climate change. Increased variability in weather patterns such as rainfall and temperature is impacting agricultural productivity, food security, and overall livelihood of rural populations in many parts of India.  

In Bihar, for example, studies have established that early arrival of intense summer heat is shrinking wheat production by 25 percent. In Latur district in the state of Maharashtra, drought situation has escalated to unprecedented levels. Yesterday, as I browsed through the news, I learnt that a train carrying 10 special wagons filled with 5 lakh liters of water arrived in Latur to ease the parched lands. 

This and much more needs to be done.  Indian farmers need climate adaptation support, and they need it promptly.  That is why USAID/India and Skymet Weather Services started a four-year “Partnership in Climate Services for Resilient Agriculture in India” in October 2015 to help a farmer decide which crop to sow and how to harvest best results against the threats of climate change.

Lack of reliable climate information at local level is one of the primary challenges that affect decision-making at the farmer level. There is a critical need to improve access to good scientific data and a comprehensive approach to utilizing this data, supported by appropriate risk mitigation approaches.

To fill this critical void, I am happy to share that the USAID-Skymet program is establishing a network of “Automatic Weather Stations” in 31 districts across nine states in India.

These stations collect and process high resolution data, and provide farmers with holistic and integrated extreme weather-induced risk management solutions at all stages of crop life cycle, thereby increasing farmers’ capacity to adapt to climate-associated risks.

It is encouraging to know that the program sends daily crop advisory to farmers as a text message, alerting them about today’s weather conditions. So if it is going to rain in that region, the program tells the farmers not to spray fertilizers as it will be all washed in the rain, thereby saving the farmers’ precious resources.

To further mitigate risks, the program is also promoting farmers to purchase crop insurance. Majority of smallholder farmers in India and in other developing countries are vulnerable and do not have the financial capacity to mitigate risks associated with crop failure.

The program is helping farmers safeguard their lives and livelihoods against extreme weather conditions, and I want to thank Tata AIG General Insurance Company for partnering with USAID and Skymet to help us in our mission to make farmers climate-resilient.

Further, the program through its various activities is expected to develop a community of practice on climate services in India for sharing best practices and lessons learnt with other developing countries across the world.

The India-U.S. strategic partnership is a significant contributor to regional and global stability and prosperity and the two governments are working together and leveraging our combined capacities to assist other developing countries and address global development challenges for the benefit of the wider region and the world.  This program will not only strengthen the agricultural sector in India, but also create stories of success and resilience that will be replicated across Asia and Africa.

Promoting climate-resilient agriculture is one of USAID’s most important development goals in India, and I am extremely pleased that Skymet is organizing this conference today to seek views from all stakeholders – the government, academia, farmer groups, insurance companies, banks, and private sector – to find the practical solutions that will help the hands that feed us every day in the wake of climate change.

I’m confident this partnership will build upon the successes the U.S. and India created during the Green Revolution as we act to mitigate and adapt to climate change. And this time, maybe we’ll call it the Blue Accord, where blue will signify our peace pact with nature.  

I wish the conference the very best and look forward to the deliberations during the day.  Thank you!

New Delhi
Issuing Country