Global Warming: Blessing in Disguise?

A careful observation at the local Sabzi mandi followed by little research shows you the churning that Indian agriculture has going through. The Indian farmer like the Indian society is unnoticibly going through a transformation. The largely neglected is undergoing a revival of sorts. Not for progress but rather for survival. Helping him are the Gods. Yes the Gods themselves as every government has failed to deliver. Global warming, climate change maybe mundane terms for us, but for our ‘kisaan’ they are the new deities.

From a much generalized perspective, Indian agriculture is increasingly getting influenced more and more by economic factors. The weather conditions have largely contributed in fuelling this change. While farm sizes shrink and consumption patterns change, cropping patterns have undergone a drastic change.

The most notable amongst the shift, is the change from cereals to non cereals. Post the green revolution their areas have gradually declined. In the past 15 years 2% less land is has been used to grow cereals and 4% less for pulses. The demand for the coarse grains has remarkably fallen. Wheat and rice have replaced them in the Indian diet. The perfect example would be of Punjab, the granary of India is now dealing with soil fertility and water logging problems. This has forced the farmers to cultivate new crops. The modernization or rather westernization of society has altered the Indian diet remarkably. Wheat has now penetrated even the remotest village of the country.
In Himachal, changing temperatures and failing crops have brought about the change in harvest. Low temperatures and little rainfall in monsoon with lucrative markets are reason for change. Iceberg lettuce, broccoli and Spanish cabbage have taken over potatoes and peas. This not only signifies the changing tastes but assures an end to economic distress as well. Farmers earn 4 times as much from traditional crops, which yield a maximum of Rs 20,000 per hectare.

Global warming has resulted in uneven snowfall, drought in summer bringing down the annual production of apples from 6.46 to 4.31 tonnes this year in Kullu valley. In 30 years, there may no apples from the snow valley. But the story has a silver lining. Today the main cash crop is tomato which brings in added revenue.

While the scenario is Rajasthan has improved considerably, the staple diet and culture is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Dates, olives once unknown identities to the farming community have now become the major crops. With large Israeli firms investing in the state agriculture the economic status of farmers has improved. Labor charges and strenuous manual work is taken care of. Ready markets and competitive prices have brought about a revival of sorts. Drought and scanty rainfall do no play a spoilsport anymore.

Deforestation, loss of agricultural land to industries has compelled farmers to opt for viable crops. Fruits and vegetables are being grown on nearly twice the land as in 1900-1991. With globalization and rapid growth of cities vegetables such as broccoli, celery, spinach, cabbage, and iceberg lettuce are in great demand. All these veggies are used in international cuisines. Fruit cultivation on the other hand has increased by 27%. Spices and condiments and cotton are other highly preferred crops. Spices need less water and bring in immediate returns.

Climate change has definitely brought disastrous effects to agriculture but farmers are happy. Their lifestyles have changed but hunger welcomes this change. Traditional crops are done with as the new world grips them. Cultures and institutions have changed, fragmented land holdings now assure them of nano earnings.  Change for the betterment is always a welcome step.

So the next time you munch on a burger or bite a pizza know that you are a part of a transformation. Global warming isn’t all that bad after all is it?

Sana Memon

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