Geospatial information for sustainable food systems

Green-Agriculture: Transforming Indian agriculture for global environmental benefits and the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes (FSP)

India is the world’s highest producer of rain-fed agricultural products and the world’s second-highest producer of farm outputs. Agriculture accounts for 17% of the nation’s GDP and about 12% of its exports (2016-17). Agriculture is India’s dominant land use, with almost 46% of land under agriculture. The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) has projected  that by  the  end  of the 21st century temperature in India is likely to increase by 3-4°C, leading to a loss of 3-26%  in net agricultural revenues. Aggravated climatic factors will ultimately decline plant productivity, increasing prices and unaffordable rates for the standard population. More than half of India’s 1.3 billion population is engaged in agriculture, and 80% of these are small and marginal farmers with less than one hectare of farmland per family, making their livelihoods highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.  

The challenges faced by India to feed a rapidly growing and increasingly prosperous population have been met by expanding agriculture production through the rapid adoption of intensive “modern” production systems. However, there exist two spectrums of approaches to address productivity issues. One is the ‘interventionist’ approach, in which the production is controlled by technological interventions, including soil tilling, application of mineral fertilizers for plant nutrition and the use of agrochemicals for pest and weed control, and the other approach is production systems that are considered more sustainable with low environmental impact predominantly in line with ecosystem approaches that are both productive and more sustainable.

In this regard, India’s agriculture sector needs to fully integrate environmental concerns in its policies, plans and programmes to ensure that its negative environmental impacts are mitigated, and positive contributions are enhanced. Mainstreaming environmental concerns into the agriculture sector is crucial to fulfilling the country’s commitment to environmental targets and meeting India’s broader obligations under international conventions, such as the UNCDB, UNFCCC, and UNCCD, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. Furthermore, it is critical to ensure that investments in other sectors, such as the country’s protected area system, are not undermined by agricultural sector policies, plans and investments, causing net economic loss to the country. 

The project Green-Agriculture: Transforming Indian agriculture for global environmental benefits and the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes (GCP/IND/183/GFF) aims to mainstream biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable land management objectives and practices into the Indian agricultural sector. Its objective is to “catalyse a transformative change of India’s agricultural sector to support the achievement of national and global environmental benefits and conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes”. The project seeks to harmonize priorities and investments between India’s agricultural and environmental sectors so that national and global environmental benefits can be fully realized without compromising India’s ability to provide and develop rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security and social (particularly gender) goals. The project will support greater coherence between the national policies, investments, and institutions concerned with conservation and agricultural production at the landscape level so that they are mutually compatible and, simultaneously, resilient to the impacts of climate change. 

 This GEF-funded project will be delivered under two project components:

Component one aims at strengthening and enabling the framework and institutional structures to mainstream biodiversity, sustainable land management, climate change mitigation and sustainable forest management policies, priorities and practices in India’s agricultural sector.

Component two aims at improving agricultural and conservation practices demonstrating sustainable production, resilient livelihood advancements, habitat improvements, and delivery of tangible biodiversity, land degradation, climate change mitigation and sustainable forest management.

The project will achieve multiple global environmental benefits (including biodiversity, sustainable land management, high conservation value forest management, and greenhouse gas emission reduction) in Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand landscapes with mixed land use systems totalling 1 800 000 hectares and is expected to be completed by March 2026.