The fishery sector in Odisha has experienced a significant growth rate in recent years.
Photo: © F. Moder/giz

A climate change knowledge network for Indian fish farmers

With its high information and communications technologies (ICT) expertise and strong ICT penetration in rural areas, India provides optimum conditions for effective local knowledge dissemination. Now, aquaculture farmers can obtain first-hand information on localised and climate-smart solutions.

For over a decade, the state of Odisha in India has experienced severe impacts of climate change in the form of frequent and extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and cyclones. While the droughts affected livelihoods in Western Odisha, cyclones had detrimental impacts in the regions close to the coast. In 1999, Odisha was hit by two super cyclones in quick succession, followed by another cyclone in 2013.

More than 60 per cent of the population depend on agriculture and allied sectors for their livelihoods in Odisha, with fisheries playing a major role. Odisha has both, inland freshwater as well as marine and brackish water fisheries. The fishery sector has experienced a significant growth rate in recent years thanks to an increased number of fresh water aquaculture practices, whereas marine fisheries and brackish water aquaculture have stagnated.

The aquaculture fishery sector leaves farmers highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, especially to erratic rainfall. There are concentrations of rainfalls in only a few weeks, resulting in unprecedented drought and floods. Other abiotic stress factors are increased salinity and increased variations in temperatures. These stress factors are combined with the emergence of new diseases caused most likely by changing weather factors.

Limited awareness among farmers

While there are efforts and initiatives to provide alerts, catch prediction (GPS based) and others for marine fisheries, attempts to provide timely and quality advisories on freshwater inland fisheries have been modest. Farmer-level awareness on the impacts of climate change and related adaptation strategies is very limited. Best practices related to adaptations by farmers to cope with climate change impacts such as water exchange, adapted feeding practices, lime application, adjusted harvest and delayed stocking to counteract irregular seasons, high temperatures and uneven rainfall distribution are mostly not yet practised, especially among the small-scale and marginal farmers, leaving them highly vulnerable.

Ganjam in Odisha is one of those districts which heavily depends on fisheries as a main income source, and it is strongly affected by the impacts of climate change. This district forms one of the three pilot areas of the project “Establishment of Climate Change Knowledge Network in Indian Agriculture” (CCKN-IA), conducted on behalf of the Indian Ministry of Agriculture and implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). The objective of the CCKN-IA programme is to develop a robust network of knowledge to increase farmers adaptation capacities in response to climate change and to provide localised and climate-smart solutions. This multi-institutional network of National, State and District level consortia facilitates a two-way flow of communication enabling sharing of data, information and climate-smart knowledge for agriculture and allied sectors to different stakeholders at various levels.

To provide localised quality, relevant and timely advisories to farmers involved in inland fisheries, the knowledge networking has to be decentralised. The CCKN-IA project has developed a platform that is an open source web solution called ‘NICE’, which stands for Network for Information on Climate (Ex)change. It is developed, tested and institutionalised under the project, applying semantic web technologies covering various climate change relevant domains. NICE allows existing knowledge nodes (knowledge producing organisations such as the Indian Metrologic Department and scientific institutions like the Indian Council of Agricultural Research [ICAR], local universities, etc.) and other agencies working on agriculture development and climate change to interact and collaborate with each other. This tool is implemented and institutionalised along with existing knowledge hubs. In addition and most importantly, it links with block-level delivery agencies and farmers.

The objective hereby is to provide hyper-localised, relevant and valid content on climate change adaptation that can be used by different stakeholders to develop agro-advisories and strategise extension efforts catering to the localised needs and agro-climatic situations of small and marginal farmers. This is only possible if comprehensive farmers’ profiles are combined with dynamic data such as short, medium and long-term weather forecasts. NICE itself is capable of combining these parameters and provides content creators of the network and the necessary tools to generate individualised advisories on adapting to the impacts of climate change. The quality protocols, both system-based and offline, ensure that the advisories are local, relevant, timely and comprehensible for the clients, i.e. the farmers. The system has been made to be iterative. Extension cadres and farmers can post queries and feedback and ask for urgent support by the advisors. This process further enhances the quality of the advisories.

Agriculture extension cadres play a key role

For effective dissemination of the advisories thus created, CCKN-IA applies a multimodal approach, i.e. using SMS for urgent and highly dynamic information. Out bound calls, village notice boards, illustrative posters and videos are used for static information. During the course of the project, it became clear that the most efficient mode of dissemination is by strengthening the existing agriculture extension cadres, who are the final mile through personal interface with the farmers. As a consequence, these extension cadres were equipped and trained with low-cost Android Tablets to access and provide information coming to the farmers. In addition, the system connects the private sector, like input dealers, with the farmers and also with experts identifying adaptation measures as well as policy-makers. This is to bridge the gap between the demand generated through quality advisories and the supply of input. As far as it is possible, existing community platforms like farmer groups, Farmer Field Schools, farmer information centres and others are integrated into this process, to communitise the information network

Looking at knowledge management programmes, its main purpose, learning across the gamut of stakeholders, should not be forgotten. Hence the project provides extensive capacity building programmes in partnership with national and state-level agencies responsible for training of extension cadres like the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE) and State Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institutes (SAMETI). In cooperation with the project, these agencies provide highly customised capacity building programmes targeting on the use of modern communication technologies as well as climate change adaptation strategies.

The project has shown how important cross sectorial knowledge management is in particular in the field of adaption options for the impacts of climate change. With its high level of information and communications technologies (ICT) expertise and strong ICT penetration in rural areas, India provides a very unique and suitable location for using technology to leverage information for the benefit of those who are in most need, the farmers. Building on the expertise and growth in the ICT sector (supported by various programmes and policies of the Government, such as ‘Digital India’), this could be effectively used and scaled to other thematic domains and regions.

Further information can be found at: GIZ  and cckn-ia

Florian Moder
Climate Change Knowledge Network in Indian Agriculture Deutsche Gesellschaft für
Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
New Delhi, India