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Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

Collaborative adaptation pathways for agricultural water management in the Bhavani Basin, India (Co-Adapt)

PI: Geethalakshmi Vellingiri (, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University
U.S. Partner: Venkataramana Sridhar, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Project dates: December 2019 - May 2022

Project Overview:

8-79 Village Discussion
The project team holds a discussion with local villagers (photo courtesy of Dr. Geethalakshmi).
Agricultural development in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is constrained by water availability due to recurring droughts, which are increasingly being attributed to climate change and variability. This research study is designed to recommend adaptation strategies that will help manage the risks due to climate change in the agricultural sector of the Bhavani River basin in Tamil Nadu. The study will use a bottom-up approach to identify the vulnerability of the system to climate change, based on which suitable interventions will be proposed. The study will employ CRIDA (Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis), a new approach that implements decision scaling and bottom-up vulnerability approaches through collaborative stepwise planning procedures and adaptation pathways. Using CRIDA, the PI Dr. Geethalakshmi and her team will identify the “breaking point” of the agricultural system (when the system fails), the magnitude of climate change that will cause the system to cross that threshold, and the plausibility of reaching that state in the future. Several adaptation options will be proposed to address the range of plausible future climate scenarios. A key aspect of this study is the stakeholder consultation process to be included throughout the course of the project. The project will also develop a set of adaptation pathways that will inform policy makers on when to act. Both short- and long-term adaptation plans will be recommended. These can be translated to preferred policies and strategies while formulating sectoral policies and investment planning in agriculture and water resources sectors.

This study is intended to deliver results that will have positive impacts on food security. By giving inputs to adaptation actions suited to the needs of the farmers and other stakeholders, in consultation with them, this project increases the likelihood of those actions to be taken up for implementation. Such evidence-based policies in agriculture and water related sectors should promote increased agricultural productivity and improve the livelihoods of the population directly and indirectly dependent on agriculture. Because the adaptation options developed will be robust, they will work for a range of plausible climate scenarios, thereby ensuring that the system will continue to provide benefits even when the conditions change in terms of climate and other stressors. Increasing the resilience of agriculture to climate change would imply that food production will not be compromised, thereby ensuring food and nutrition security in the study area. The approach that will be used in this study has the potential to be replicated at other river basins and sectors, which will compound the positive impacts. It will also add to the efforts towards the target of “Doubling the Farmers’ Income by 2022,” proposed by the Government of India in its 2016-17 budget.

Summary of Recent Activities:

Dr. Vellingiri and her team continued to perform stress testing of the Bhavani irrigation system for the climate stressors identified during the third quarter of 2021. In consultation with the local stakeholders and from relevant literature, performance metrics relevant to the Lower Bhavani basin were identified, and the testing is being continued with different increments for sensitivity testing. Preliminary results suggest that the system is vulnerable to climate change, as it cannot meet the performance with respect to the demand ratio. The irrigation supply in some years is insufficient to meet the crop water demand, considering that the cropped area remains the same. The researchers are cross-checking the plausibility conditions of future climate variables with different methods of bias correction. System dynamics modelling is also being initiated, and the hydrologic, agricultural, and socioeconomic components of the system are being identified. The team is setting up a qualitative conceptual model considering the feedback, and they will further refine the model after conducting a planned stakeholder workshop for collaborative system dynamics model development. Statistical analysis of the questionnaire responses are underway to analyze the adaptation measures.

The researchers have completed a level of concern analysis to determine the strategic course to be taken for adaptation planning. Since there is high variability in the projection of climate variables by all the models considered, the analytical uncertainty level is high. The risk matrix also shows high climatic risk to the system. Considering both these factors, the adaptation plans that must be developed need to be both robust and flexible. Further analysis will also consider dynamic thresholds for the performance metrics to understand the sensitivity of the stressors to the performance thresholds. The PI and her team held a progress meeting and discussion on August 25, 2021, and accompanied the U.S. partner on a field visit to the study area on August 26. In the remaining months of 2021, they will complete the stress testing of adaptation actions and develop the adaptation pathways. A qualitative system dynamics model will also be developed by December. The team is preparing a manuscript on vulnerability assessment and expects to submit it in November. A no-cost extension has been issued through May 2022 to allow time for completion of student theses and preparation of articles for publications.

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