LIVING ON THE EDGE

OM ASTHA RAI

One recent sunny afternoon, Krishna Maya Sharma, 42, was hoeing her crop field soaked in winter rain which lashed most parts of north India just a day before. “I used to plant paddy here,” says she, showing her land where the upper layer of soil looks covered with sand. “Now, I can grow just taro roots.”

In 2012, when a flood in the Brahmaputra River, seen as the most devastating since 2004, caused havoc in the north Indian state of Assam, Krishna Maya lost much of her fortune. “I was about to harvest my crops,” she says. “But the flood damaged everything.”

Not only did the flood damage Krishna Maya´s crop but also trigged a chain of effects, rendering her family poorer. When the flood retreated, her land was covered with such a thick layer of sand that she is still unable to grow paddy there. “After the flood, I tried to plant crops but nothing grew,” she says.

Krishna Maya´s family owned about 11 bighas of fertile land before the flood. “The land is still there but it’s just sand. Only a small plot of land is left for growing taro roots,” she says.

The flood, which reportedly killed at least 125 people and displaced thousands of families in Assam and Bangladesh, also damaged a vast area of grassland, adding to difficulty in collecting fodder. With no green pasture to graze on, all her five cattle died.

The severest aftereffect of the flood turned out to be the deaths of two oxen, which her husband, Punya Prasad Sharma, would use to plow the land. “After our oxen died, my husband couldn’t plow the land and now he works as a manual worker at a nearby construction site,” she explains.

Today, even for cultivating whatever land is left, Krishna Maya needs to purchase chemical fertilizers. Earlier, she used to grow plants by using compost fertilizers – mostly made up of cow dung. “As we have no cattle now, we can’t make compost fertilizers,” she says.

Krishna Maya´s is not a unique tale. In Lawpani, a nondescript village in Tinsukia District of Assam, which is mostly inhabited by people of Nepali origin, everyone has similar tales to tell.

Like Krishna Maya, most of people in Laowani, which now has more than 150 households of Nepali origin, are affected by floods, followed by inundation and erosion, every year. They find it very difficult to save their crops and livestock from floods in monsoon months.

To read the full story, please click the link below

http://theweek.myrepublica.com/details.php?news_id=70258

Climate Change- challenge yet opportunity for women

This is about three women from different walks of life, in different level, empowering each other to rise against the hardship caused by Climate Change. We have talked to Nanu Ghatani from Kavre, Phoolbari, Shobha Karki from Sindhuli along with Dibya Gurung from the organisation WOCAN, which is working to empower the women against the impact of climate change.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGEOYuMSSn0

Water scarcity disturbs age old social harmony in Peri Urban Kathmandu-II

Part 2– Change in weather and raining pattern (as experienced by locals of Peri Urban Areas in and near Kathmandu) has affected the traditional ways of farming and also their livestyles.The changes in raining pattern have resulted in the water scarcity which has ignited communal conflicts in the society. New varieties of weeds and pests have emerged challenging the traditional knowhow in the field. Nepal Engineering College has collected many such examples during its research on “Impact of Climate Change on water scarcity in Peri Urban Areas”. Research Associate Anushiya Joshi talks about it.

http://youtu.be/W3shdMgMhoU

Water Scarcity disturbs age old Social Harmony in Peri Urban Kathmandu-I

Part 1– Change in weather and raining pattern (as experienced by locals of Peri Urban Areas in and near Kathmandu) has affected the traditional ways of farming and also their livestyles.The changes in raining pattern have resulted in the water scarcity which has ignited communal conflicts in the society. New varieties of weeds and pests have emerged challenging the traditional knowhow in the field. Nepal Engineering College has collected many such examples during its research on “Impact of Climate Change on water scarcity in Peri Urban Areas”. Research Associate Anushiya Joshi talks about it.

http://youtu.be/O-GE8CW8Czo

Drought parches Sri Lanka’s farms, threatens hydropower

Experts in Sri Lanka fear that despite the increased frequency of extreme dry seasons, the country still lacks measures to ease the impact on vital sectors like agriculture, energy and water resources. Ranjith Punyawardena, chief climatologist at the Department of Agriculture, said that this year’s main paddy rice harvest was likely to shrink by 7-10 percent due to the shortage of rainfall. – http://www.trust.org/item/20140214194424-vmupo/?source=hptop

Which is more likely to drive people from their homes — floods or heat waves?

Floods get a lot of attention in our warming world. They can kill people and livestock, inundate crops, destroy infrastructure and homes — and they make great photo ops. Less attention — and less international aid — is directed to victims of intense heat waves that are also linked to climate change.

But it is these heat waves that are most responsible when Pakistanis leave their villages, new research suggests.

Continue reading at Grist … http://grist.org/news/which-is-more-likely-to-drive-people-from-their-homes-floods-or-heat-waves/

Secret of India’s rising farm output: It’s all in the genes

Secret of India’s rising farm output: It’s all in the genes
Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 14 2014, 01:47 IST

India’s grain output has risen substantially in recent years, taking the country to the league of the world’s largest producers of rice, wheat and horticultural crops thanks to the use of diverse seed varieties, among other things. And productivity at Indian farms could increase further in coming years thanks to a centrally managed gene bank that would help multiply seed variants. For a country that faced persistently high food inflation for over three years in a row, the enhanced supply of key grains and crops by the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) could be a game-changer.

Located in the heart of Delhi, the national gene bank has meticulously conserved more than 4 lakh accessions (a unique identifier given to a protein sequence) of various food and horticultural crops, which are continuously being used by the state-owned breeder for developing new seed varieties that deal with changes in weather patterns. At present, the bank has the capacity to preserve around 7.5 lakh accessions.

The gene bank managed by NBPGR, which operates under ministry of agriculture, is considered the world’s third-largest in terms of genetic wealth, after China and the US. Germplasms or genetic resources of an organism include those of endangered species, traditional seed varieties and parents of hybrids.

KC Bansal, director, NBPGR, told FE that out of total collection of germplasms, about 35% belong to only paddy (close to 1 lakh accessions) and wheat (more than 40,000 accessions) varieties. The balance genes include those of vegetables (24,000), oilseeds (55,000) and pulses (50,000).

“We have collected genes of around 1,500 crop species, including ornamental, oilseed and medicinal plants. But those which are critical to food and nutritional security will be around 15-20 only. Our mandate is not only to conserve genes but also to utilise them for maintaining food security or nutritional security,” Bansal said.

India’s grain production rose from 218 million tonnes in 2009-10 to 255 million tonnes in 2012-13.

For long-term conservation, the germplasm or sample seeds are kept at a temperature of -18 to -20 degrees Celsius. For medium-term storage, the underground gene bank keeps a temperature of -8 to -10 degrees. For conservation of horticultural crops, the gene is saved in the form of tissue culture.

“We monitor the viability of genes after 10 years in the long term and five years in the medium term,” Bansal said.

The bureau has prioritised 15 categories, including rice, wheat, maize, pearl millet, finger millet, chickpea, mustard, okra, brinjal and mango, for gene preservation initiatives.

At present, as per regulations, the germplasms held with the gene bank is only shared with state-owned research institutes.

“Our vast germplasm resources help us in developing new varieties of seeds which have helped millions of farmers in increasing their income,” said KV Prabhu, deputy director, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), a premier institute under the ministry of agriculture.

NBPGR had started the exercise of collecting germplasms since 1976-77 from all over the country. However, in 1996-97, the institute collected the highest number of germplasms (close to 1 lakh) under a mission-mode programme.

Meanwhile, the gene bank has identified core genes out of its stocks of germplasms which would help in development of new varieties of wheat, rice and vegetables which would withstand climatic variations.

Sources said the new wheat varieties developed through identifying around 2,000 core genes from 40,000 accessions are currently being field tested in hotspots such as Gurdaspur (Punjab), Cooch Behar (West Bengal) and Issapur farm (Delhi) prior to transferring them to the state-owned breeder.

India is a signatory to the the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, a global agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity that aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world’s plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.