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Current Scenario of Agriculture under Climate Change | An Overview

Agriculture provides basic raw material which assures the development and advancement of humanity. The survival of humans depends upon agriculture. Even a possibility of disturbance in agricultural systems puts the race of humans in danger. But climate change is a real danger to agriculture. Rising temperatures, heavy rains, flash floods, and unending droughts interfere with agricultural variables like the sowing date of crops, water availability for crops, pest and disease prevalence etc. Thus, human needs to amend their ways to mitigate the effects of climate change and agriculture needs to adapt the climate change for sustainable agriculture and secure the future of our generations.

Pakistan Agriculture and Economy

Pakistan is an agricultural country. Agriculture contributes 22.7 % to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Pakistan and provides employment to 37.4% of the labour force of the country as per the recent Pakistan Economic Survey (PES 2021-22). The share of major crops like Wheat, Cotton, Rice, Sugarcane, and Maize in value addition of the agricultural sector is 19.44% and in GDP, it is 4.41%.  The livestock sector has a share of 61.89% in agriculture and contributes 14.04 to GDP. But Pakistan is facing the most daunting challenge of climate change that will affect the agricultural sector.

Effects of Climate Change

This change in climate is real as per Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The temperature has risen 1℃ since the Industrial Age. Standing trees in Britain cached fire due to record-breaking high temperatures in July 2022. Heavy rains and the intensity of flash floods are rising. Even Europe saw flash floods in 2021 which has been popular for the soothing weather and one of the popular sites for tourists. The current spell of the monsoon of 2022 in South Asia is devastating. Pakistan has already been ranked the 5th most vulnerable country in the world due to climate change as per the recent Global Climate Risk Index. This changing weather pattern has serious implications for agriculture especially for major agricultural crops and livestock sectors. 

Climate Change Effects on Agriculture Maps of CMIP5 multi-model results for the scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 in 2081–2100 IPPC 2014
Maps of CMIP5 multi-model results for the scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 in 2081–2100 IPPC 2014

Climate Change Effects on Agriculture

The climate is a key factor that determines the sowing dates of crops, crop management practices, production of crops, the intensity of pest attacks, and harvesting of crops. Temperature determines the emergence of seedlings and the ripening of crops. High temperatures can reduce the time of grain filling like in wheat crops and thus, the production of crops reduces. Similarly, heavy rainfalls can inundate fields and crop plants will die due to the attack of fungal diseases and the rise in the intensity of pest attacks. Though the increase in the concentration of CO2 up to 550 parts per million (ppm) can increase the production of C3 plants like wheat, rice, and soybean by 10-25% and the production of C4 plants like sugarcane, maize, and sorghum will increase by 0-10% as per IPCC yet extreme weather due to rise in temperature will badly impact the arid and semi-arid regions and the period of drought will decrease the production of crops. As per recent reports, the production of agriculture will decrease by 8-10% by 2040.

Climate change is a serious threat to the agricultural systems of major crops like wheat, maize, cotton, rice, and sugarcane. According to the predictions, an increase in temperature up to 3℃ by 2040 and 5-6℃ by the end of the century will reduce the production of wheat by 50%. Some other studies predict a 6% decrease in the yield of wheat and in basmati rice there will be a reduction of 15-18% in yield. Moreover, climate change will indirectly impact the major crops by affecting the prices and availability of inputs like pesticides, fertilizers, and labour.

The livestock sector is also under the threat of climate change. Rising temperature causes severe droughts which impact the availability of water for livestock. Death of animals in Tharparkar is a typical example of drought causing damage to livestock. Moreover, heavy rains and flash floods force the people of flooded areas to migrate. It is difficult for the migrator to protect their animals from the wrath of floods. According to the Global Food Policy Report 2022, the floods of 2010 in Pakistan caused an economic loss of US $4.5 billion which includes the damage done by the flood to livestock.

Food insecurity is the direct result of climate change and the reduction in the production of agriculture. Globally, about 0.707 billion population are food insecure. As per the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 0.793 billion people do have not sufficient available food. Although Pakistan cherishes the status of being an agricultural state, the population of Pakistan is facing food insecurity and malnutrition. Global Hunger Index of 2021 categorises Pakistan as “serious” in terms of malnutrition. Similarly, the overview of Food Security and Nutrition of Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) 2021 places Pakistan among the countries with a high level of malnutrition. So, climate change needs to be tackled seriously and sincerely to assure food security and the well-being of humans.

Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture
Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture

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Solutions for climate change

The solution to climate change is two-dimensional. The first is mitigation and the other is adaptation. In the mitigation aspect, deforestation should be reduced, and afforestation generally and urban forestation especially should be promoted. Pakistan has taken commendable steps in this regard. Pakistan has designed and implemented the Climate Change Policy 2015. The successful experience of the Billion Tree Tsunami in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been replicated in the form of a 10 Billion Tree Tsunami in the whole country with updated targets. Moreover, awareness campaigns have also been started to promote the Clean and Green Pakistan agenda of Pakistan to mitigate the impacts of climate Change.

In the adaptation aspect, there should be more focus on research and development. Drought-resistant varieties of crops should be developed. Information and Communication Technology should be integrated with agricultural practices. Climate Smart Agriculture should be adopted. Ba Khabar Kissan is a good initiative which keeps farmers updated about the weather condition, and market values of inputs and outputs, and provides farm advisory. Further, management of land and water resources should be practised. Viable copping patterns should be adopted as per the changing climate and weather patterns. Social protection should be insured. Small farmers should be given economic support for sustainable agriculture. The Prime Minister Agricultural Programme is an encouraging initiative in this regard in which small farmers have been given subsidies on agricultural inputs and machinery. 

The process of climate change cannot be reversed but it can be managed through mitigation and the adaptation strategy. So, these steps should be taken as soon as possible to maintain the integrity of agricultural systems and the health and survival of humans.

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Muhammad Luqman

Hafiz Muhammad Arslan

Dr. Muhammad Waqas

Muhammad Hamza Athar

Muhammad Umair

Faisal Rehman

Govt. Seed Farm, Dhakkar, Pakpattan.

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