" Roy said: Since HGs are not managed systematically this does not guarantee its sustenance. Interventions at the level of policy making is a major necessity in India, which can strengthen our country's nationally appropriate climate action plan and strengthen negotiation position in global deals."
By Sahana Ghosh

Kolkata, Dec 8 - Can gardens fight climate change in India? Actually, home gardens (HGs) in rural areas can be strategically managed to tackle poverty, build resilience to climate change and ensure food security, say Indian scientists.

But lack of higher education, science-driven planning and modern approach is hindering home-garden owners from deriving proper benefits.

A form of agroforestry practised in lands adjoining residences in villages, HGs consist of multiple-farming components, such as crops, trees, shrubs, livestock and fishery, which to their keepers are crucial for livelihood, food security and ecosystem services. It is said home gardening is presumably the oldest land use activity next only to shifting cultivation.

Though HGs have been discussed and studied internationally since the 1950s, the concept has not been widely researched especially in the context of rural India, said Joyashree Roy, a contributor to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

These complex sustainable land use systems are quite prominent in India's neighbourhood, particularly in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. In fact, in the island nation, HGs cover about 14 percent of the total area of the country.

Indian agriculture is plagued by low productivity and this is more so in the dry zones where there is a water shortage and/or poor irrigation facilities, like in West Bengal's West Midnapore district, Roy, coordinator of the Global Change Programme, Jadavpur University here, told IANS about the conclusions ahead of publication.

In these areas of the country, HGs are important environmentally and economically. They can have a cushioning effect from adverse effects of climate change and improve food security of households, she said.

Roy and Sebak Jana, a researcher from Midnapore's Vidyasagar University, studied the vulnerability of HG systems to climate change and its impacts on food security in two villages (Ledagamar and Keshia) of the district, as part of an international project involving Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

During 2010 to 2012, as many as 368 HGs in five locations in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka were surveyed. The results shed light on how villagers perceive climate change and adapt to changes in terms of technology or traditional methods.

Adaptation becomes critical in the context of tackling climate change as all study sites in the three countries experienced increased variability of seasonal rains over the past five decades (1961-2010) and changes in onset of rains, said Roy.

Jana, associate professor of economics, department of economics with rural development, of the Vidyasagar University, said: The meteorological data also coincided with the HG owners' perceptions about alterations. For example, they noted an increase in minimum and maximum temperatures which affected the productivity of the crops (annual and tree crops) and animal species.

It was discovered that HGs are more commercially oriented in Bangladesh than in the other two study countries, whereas Sri Lanka topped in terms of biodiversity. Because of the diversity observed, they are more resilient to climate change, Jana said.As for their contribution to food security, Jana pointed out that in the Indian sites (Bengal villages) HG owners sourced around 30 to 40 percent of their nutrition from these systems through vegetables, mango, jackfruit, coconut and guava, eggs and meat.

Most importantly, this is something they do as part of their normal existence. There is no extra effort involved, observed Jana, adding that states like Kerala have caught-on to the idea.

Despite these advantages, in Bengal as well as in other parts of India, people and policymakers are yet to view home gardening as a serious method to deal with the changes.

The take-away from the survey is that owners with higher level of education and those in favour of applying modern inputs are better equipped to realise the immense mitigation and adaptation potential of HGs and in turn, combating climate change, said the researchers.

Roy said: Since HGs are not managed systematically this does not guarantee its sustenance. Interventions at the level of policy making is a major necessity in India, which can strengthen our country's nationally appropriate climate action plan and strengthen negotiation position in global deals.

(Sahana Ghosh can be contacted at [email protected])


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