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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:

In the final quarter of 2021, Dr. Vellingiri and her team completed most of their planned stress testing and adaptation study of the Lower Bhavani irrigation system. This study employed Climate Risk Informed Decision Analysis (CRIDA) for adaptation planning, which involved assessment of the system to understand its vulnerability through stress testing. In this testing, the researchers analyzed the system performance under various combinations of climate stressors, including the aridity index, which incorporates changes in precipitation and temperature, and climate variability, as indicated by the coefficient of variation of precipitation. Initially, the decision variables of concern to system performance were identified through stakeholder consultation. For understanding the risks to the system due to climate change, a risk matrix was developed by categorizing the risks as low, medium, and high, based on the performance metrics and the plausibility.

On November 16, 2021, the PEER team presented a lecture on risk-informed adaptation in agriculture, with the audience being officers of the Department of Soil Survey and Soil Conservation, Government of Kerala. On January 10, 2022, they also made a presentation on the bottom-up approach to agricultural water management as part of Water Resources Management Training program of the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology, and Environment.

In the first few months of 2022, the PI and her team will be drafting a paper for publication that will outline their vulnerability assessment findings. They are also completing further stress testing incorporating additional factors. In February they will conduct an online workshop with stakeholders, and in March they expect to complete their economic analysis of potential adaptation measures.

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