In the grasslands of Nepal’s Chitwan Valley, local farmers depend on the production of rice and other grains to generate family income. But their livelihoods are at risk, as Nepal is feeling the effects of climate change at a rate much faster than the global average.
As these effects worsen, it is unclear what smallholder farmers will do in Nepal and other countries in South Asia. They may choose to migrate or, due to a lack of resources, may be forced to live in seemingly inhospitable areas.
Researchers at Princeton and IIASA studied how different climate scenarios and policy interventions might impact these small farmers or farmers who maintain less than five acres of land. Today, more than 500 million households fall into this category.
They found that without any policy intervention, crop yields would suffer and farmers would lose about a quarter of their income on average by 2050 due to the effects of climate change. This will likely prevent some farm households from engaging in labor migration, which is a crucial economic tool for many households in the region. Ultimately, these impacts will push more households into poverty and increase economic inequalities.
Policy interventions such as providing farmers with financial tools such as cash transfers and access to insurance would help them resist the effects of climate change, giving them the ability to migrate or grow more cash crops. . In turn, this could improve community incomes and reduce inequalities, say the researchers in the latest issue of Nature Climate Change.
“People often talk about migration as if it’s a bad thing, but it really depends on the type of migration you’re talking about,” said lead author Nicolas Choquette-Levy, a graduate student at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. “If it’s after a disaster, it’s an incredibly difficult situation to overcome, but in many cases, like in Nepal, it’s common for households to send a family member to work in another city or country. in order to diversify their sources. of income. This means that households can still meet their basic needs without depending entirely on agricultural crops vulnerable to droughts, high temperatures and other climatic effects. In fact, more than a quarter of the gross domestic product of the entire country comes from the migration of remittances or money that is returned home by Nepalese who have migrated abroad. “
Many studies examine the interaction between climate change and migration, although the novelty of this study lies in the approach, Choquette-Levy said. He and his co-authors used an agent-based model that can simulate how individual decision-making and interactions between households, such as sharing information about economic opportunities, would be affected by different policies and environmental conditions. The model allowed researchers to examine multiple livelihood outcomes, policy approaches and climate effects relevant to smallholder agriculture in South Asia.
“The aim was to assess the shortcomings of the previous methodology by answering three questions: How will climate change affect small farmers? What decisions will they make because of this? And how could policy interventions change that? »Says Choquette-Lévy.
Choquette-Levy led the study with Matthias Wildemeersch of the Exploratory Modeling of Human-Natural Systems Research Group at IIASA, as well as Princeton co-authors Michael Oppenheimer, Professor Albert G. Milbank of Geosciences and Business International and the High Meadows Environmental Institute; and Simon Levin, James S. McDonnell University Emeritus Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
The research team chose South Asia because it is particularly threatened by climate change, which means farmers and policymakers will have to make tough decisions over the coming decades. The team used real-world social, economic and climatic data from the Chitwan Valley in Nepal to develop a case study and compared their findings with recent trends in the livelihood decisions of farmers in the region to test their validity.
In a scenario of a global temperature rise to 1.5 ° C above pre-industrial levels by 2050, the research team found that South Asian farmers would see a 28% drop in household income. compared to a stable climate. The reductions will largely be the result of increased droughts and crop losses. Climate stress will also limit the ability of farmers to travel to work, preventing them from generating more income. In turn, there will likely be an increase in inequality overall.
When political interventions are added to the model, the picture becomes a little less gloomy. Cash transfers to farmers, even small amounts, can improve household incomes and reduce inequalities, the researchers found. However, they may not be sufficient for the prosperity of some households, especially if migration or cash crop cultivation seems too risky.
Two other options include index insurance – which pays out benefits in the event of lost investments – and remittance banks, which alleviate income uncertainty for migrants by pooling the remittances they send back to them. the farming community. Both could motivate farmers to diversify their livelihoods, but may not fully solve the problem.
Combining all of these policies, the researchers say, could be the best way to increase community income and reduce inequalities beyond the capacity of a single policy approach in and of itself.
“Such a package would combine the advantages of a cash transfer, which alleviates the financial constraints that climate change will place on farmers, with those of insurance and a remittance bank, which reduce the risk for farmers. to try other livelihoods to balance their incomes. If implemented together, these policies would give farmers the most options in determining how to respond to climate change, “said Wildemeersch.
“It’s time to start paying attention to this before it’s too late,” Oppenheimer said. “The stakes are too high for small farmers in South Asia and elsewhere. If we act now with progressive and robust policy interventions, these communities can improve their livelihoods as the world continues to grapple with climate adaptation. “
While the model focused on South Asia, it could be used by other researchers and policymakers to study other regions, different crop choices, and other migration patterns under various climate scenarios.
Coffee and the effects of climate change
Nicolas Choquette-Levy et al, Risk transfer policies and climate-induced immobility among small farmers, Nature Climate Change (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41558-021-01205-4
Roman Hoffmann, Risk transfers support adaptation, Nature Climate Change (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41558-021-01231-2
Quote: A Set of Policies Can Help Small Farmers Adapt to Climate Change (2021, December 2) Retrieved December 2, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-12-package-policies-smallholder-farmers -climate.html
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