Innovation Through Climate Smart Panchayats
By: Sunandini Seth & Aishwarya Das Pattnaik
With inputs from: Ratul Saha & Soma Saha
The lush mangrove forests of the Sundarbans are disappearing at an alarming rate. The only mangrove tiger habitat in the world is threatened by dire impacts of climate change, risking the entire region’s ecosystem. This precious and rare ecosystem could become a distant memory in a matter of a few years. If this comes to pass, the 0.27 million people, for whom these forests are home, will lose their habitat and livelihoods.
WWF India’s Climate Smart Panchayat programme intends to not only improve the lives of community members in the region, but also preserve the critical ecological balance of these vulnerable islands. It does so by assisting village panchayats and local communities to adopt climate resilience into their development planning.
Working with government agencies, civil society partners and science-based institutions, WWF India aims to engage village panchayats and community members to play a defining role towards ensuring local economic development at scale in a sustainable manner.
Given the vulnerability of the islands, an effective approach combining policy, advocacy and community participation was designed. Modelled on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Climate Hubs, this holistic model helps to build the capacity of communities in adopting climate-friendly agricultural practices for improved livelihood options. Through this integrated initiative, WWF India focuses on helping farmers adapt crop production systems, leverage science-based technologies and manage risks.
Climate Smart Agriculture Rapid Appraisal (CSA-RA)
With a majority of the locals being farmers, who have experienced yield losses due to extreme and varied weather events, the CSA-RA has helped them adopt resilient and sustainable farming patterns.
An assessment of key barriers and opportunities for Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) adoption across the landscape is based on data collected from each household. This appraisal combines participatory workshops, expert interviews and household/farmer interviews to capture the challenges faced by this diverse farming community.
This assessment helps communities chart a seasonal cropping calendar, enhance farmland productivity through low-cost scientific measures and building income opportunities from existing resources. This is the first time local self-governance is undertaking science-driven development solutions to tackle climate vulnerability.
Lakshmirani belongs to one of the families who were approached through the course of this initiative. Families in the region are being familiarised with innovative farming methods to increase production through optimal use of local resources. Communities are given training on effective recycling of farm waste, organic farming, productive management of dairy, poultry, fishery and vermicomposting, among others. Likewise, these integrated and simple methods help in maintaining healthy crops and livestock, and thriving fisheries, thereby, increasing income level of communities.
"After being associated with this project, I am slowly beginning to see the scope of on-farm livelihood activities. This is just the beginning and for future, I want to multiply my production from vegetables, poultry and goats. To continue with the best practices, I often get in touch with the team of expert trainers who gave us training on agriculture, pisciculture and livestock”.
- Lakshmirani Sardar (40), a beneficiary from Deulbai village, under Deulbari Debipur Gram Panchayat
This initiative is part of WWF India and Discovery India’s long-term partnership. Reaching out to over 200 households during the course of the partnership, the project prioritises building resilient communities, who in turn will play a key role in preserving the ecosystem of the Sundarbans islands.