The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as technologies, practices, and services that sustainably increase agricultural productivity, enhance agriculture’s resilience to climatic stresses, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by agriculture. Examples of CSA includes use of improved seeds, rainwater harvesting, nutrient and irrigation management, and crop/livestock insurance. The adoption of CSA technologies can substantially reduce the impact of climate change on agriculture; however, farmers’ likelihood to adopt CSA technologies varies and is impacted by numerous factors. A new paper published in Agricultural Systems examines farmers’ preferences and willingness-to-pay for CSA practices and technologies in diverse rainfall zones in Rajasthan, India.
The study used a participatory assessment method that included surveys and group discussions with a randomly selected group of 25-30 farmers from 16 villages across 4 districts. In these districts, agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate change and rainfall variability. Moderate drought probability ranges from 19 to 27 percent, while the probability of severe drought is above 5 percent. The rainfed area accounts for between 44 and 85 percent of agricultural production in the areas, with major crops including maize, soybean, groundnut, wheat, lentil, and barley. The research team assessed farmers’ understanding of climate change and rainfall variability, past climatic threats and their impacts on agriculture, and the available adaptation options.
The study covered 21 CSA technologies; farmers’ preference for these technologies varied based on average rainfall and rainfall variability. More than 80 percent of farmers in low rainfall zones preferred crop insurance, rainwater harvesting and storage, fodder management, weather-based crop advisory services, and contingent crop planting; preference for these technologies was lower for farmers in areas with higher average rainfall. Surprisingly, farmers in areas with low and variable rainfall had lower preference for improved crop varieties, seed and fodder banks, and the integration of legumes into the cropping system, even though these technologies can significantly offset the impact of climate change and rainfall variability on agriculture. The research team suggests that this last finding may indicate that farmers are likelier to adopt risk-reduction technologies that are supported through government-provided technical and financial services, such as insurance.
In addition to whether services are provided through government programs, several other factors appear to determine whether or not farmers adopt certain CSA technologies. The study found that the farmer’s age had a significant effect on their preferred CSA technologies. Older, and thus more experienced, farmers tended to prefer site-specific nutrient management, integrated pest management, laser land leveling, and crop insurance. On the other hand, the study found that older farmers were less likely to prefer rainwater harvesting.
Gender also appears to play a role in farmers’ preferences. Female farmers were more likely to prefer integrated pest management, weather-based crop advisory services, and contingent crop planting than male farmers; however, women were less likely to prefer rainwater harvesting and climate-smart crop/livestock housing.
The results also indicate that low-income farmers are more likely to prefer site-specific nutrient management, integrated pest management, and laser land leveling than rainwater harvesting, contingent crop planting, and crop insurance. The authors suggest that low-income farmers may be more able to afford these lower cost technologies.
Overall, the study concludes that farmers’ preference for and willingness to adopt climate-smart agricultural technologies depends on a variety of factors, including agro-ecological location and socio-economic characteristics. Thus, policies for promoting the adoption of CSA must take into account local contexts in order to select appropriate site-specific technologies. State and national government agencies and development partners should also emphasize education in order to properly inform farmers of the benefits of CSA technologies. Finally, financial assistance to help farmers afford beneficial technologies is crucial, as results indicate that farmers are more likely to adopt technologies for which they receive financial support.