Farmers In Odisha’s Bolangir Keep Up With Climate Change

By Darpan Bhalla


The phenomenon of climate change has made a profound and multifaceted impact on farming, affecting almost all aspects of agriculture including changing crop yields, altering the availability of water, increase in pests and diseases, and putting a threat on overall food security. Many studies have successfully documented the effects of climate change on crop yields. Schlenker and Roberts (2009) have found that each 1°C increase in temperature can reduce crop yields by 10-17% for wheat, rice, and maize.

Farmers in the villages of Odisha’s Balangir district acknowledge that they have noticed a broad change in weather patterns in the past decade. A newly inaugurated canal has created a positive impact. However, access remains limited, and the canal too is dependent on rainfall levels in the region. The introduction of drought resistant hybrid seeds indicates a silent shift towards climate-resilient farming as it requires less water, as compared to the earlier sown indigenous varieties, and produces a higher yield.

Most farmers migrate to nearby cities during the non-farming season and engage in construction work as the income drawn from agriculture remains meagre to sustain their families. Data reflects that schemes like PMKISAN and PMFBY have reached intended beneficiaries. However, much needs to be done in this regard. In all, it is important to accept that the focus of policymaking should be to take steps to tackle the root cause of the problem i.e., climate change.

Silent shift to hybrids

Around 8-10 years back, an indigenous variety of seeds in special regards to paddy was being used. However, it took a greater amount of water and the yield remained less too. With the introduction of hybrid variety yield seeds and the encouraged use of pesticides and fertilizers, there has already been a shift to farming, which is adaptable to the changing weather patterns i.e., which is less dependent on rainfall and produces more yield in a lesser number of days. However, a consensus was broadly identified among the respondents wherein they concurred on the indigenous variety possessing a “good amount of taste” as compared to the hybrid variety of seeds being made available by the government. In addition, the adoption of a hybrid variety of seeds has made farmers incur more expenditure owing to the additional cost of buying fertilizers, which were earlier produced within the home in the form of organic manure.

Presence of canal

43 per cent of farmers, who had access to canal water reflected a certain kind of broad pattern regarding the perception of rain wherein they majorly had no significant problem with the delay in rainfall timelines. The lower Indra Dam project, inaugurated in 2019, has been a major irrigation push for the farmers of the region. However, the farmers have pointed to irregular water supply. The canal is expected to be fully operational from next year this year and farmers hope to have two crops in a year.

Canal irrigation raises agricultural productivity and especially returns from the land. An exceptional feature of canals is that they create unique spatial changes in agricultural productivity that can last decades after canals are built in any region. Decades after the building of a canal, landowners in those areas remain better off, presumably benefiting from the higher land rents due to the increased access to irrigation in that area.

The presence of the canal in the region notwithstanding, on a micro level, not all fields get water from the canal due to an upland topography. Thus, farmers owning an upland field are still majorly dependent on rainfall. Those with a borewell or a well present on their field still stressed the importance of rain as they cannot solely depend on this method of irrigation. Not only because it’s not sufficient for irrigating their fields but also because of the concern about depleting groundwater table. It is pertinent to mention here that even the water in the canal is directly dependent on rainfall levels in the region, bringing us to the conclusion that farmers are still directly depend on rain for their crops.

Keeping up with the change

Farmers spoke of a slump in agricultural incomes and the inability of rural households to sustain on farming alone. The Odisha countryside is witnessing an emergence of what one can be termed as “migrarian” livelihoods – where migration and agriculture form the major providers, accounting for over half the annual incomes of farming families. Our discourse touched on the decline in income and the resultant search for work mostly by migrating to nearby cities (like Raipur, Bangalore and Mumbai) where the majority work as labourers in the non-farming season. Many inter-state migrants from Western Odisha (about 26 per cent) find employment in the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh; Raipur and Durg districts being the primary destinations.

The government needs to create opportunities within the region aiming for fewer people migrating to cities by incentivising crop diversification in the region which should help farmers combat the variations they have been experiencing in terms of climatic changes in the recent past. The impact of climate variability on agriculture would be on several variables such as quantity and quality of crops in terms of productivity, growth rates, the process of photosynthesis and transpiration rates, moisture availability in the soil etc. Food production is to be directly impacted by the changing weather patterns across the globe.

An increase in the mean seasonal temperature reduces the duration of many crops thereby reducing the yield of the crop. The consequences of agriculture’s contribution to climate change, and mainly of climate change’s negative impact on agriculture remain severe and can have a great impact on food production threatening food security.

(By arrangement with



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