Maharashtra, India : The severe threat of drought on agriculture and human livelihood

Maharashtra is India’s largest area of drought-prone agricultural land. It is also the country’s second most populous state. As such, the region presented an ideal location for an in-depth study of the potential negative consequences of drought up to the year 2030, including the definition of effective measures to either avoid or mitigate these. For many inhabitants, the crippling droughts of 2000 to 2004 are very recent and frightening memories. These caused terrible hardship for the two thirds of the population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Against this backcloth, the findings of the new report double as significant alarm bells to decision-makers.

The scale of the problem

Researchers have calculated that a major drought in the near future could affect up to 30 million people in Maharashtra, one third of the population. Half of these are highly vulnerable, small or marginal farmers.  The current figure for expected annual loss from drought amounts to almost US$ 24 billion. In the event of a severe climate change scenario, this could rise a staggering 139% by 2030. Accompanying the threat of reduced rainfall to agricultural assets are more frequent heat waves, plus a shift towards higher value horticultural crops and sugar cane.

Solutions on the horizon

For Maharashtra, extensive implementation of a broad spectrum of measures would offer valuable protection. These include expanded drip and sprinkler irrigation, drainage construction, improved soil management, integrated pest control and crop engineering. Insurance to protect farmers’ incomes would also be extremely constructive, intelligently transferring the risk of severe drought. Along with micro-irrigation measures and watershed management, insurance addresses up to 70% of expected losses, the equivalent of US$ 40 billion based on the annual figure projected to 2030.

GDP, %1

1 Based upon select regions analyzed within the countries (e.g., Mopti, Mali; Georgetown, Guyana Hull, UK; North and Northeast China; Maharashtra, India; Central regions of Tanzania; Southeast Florida, U.S.)

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