Article | 29 Avr, 2024

Mainstreaming Nature-based Solutions and Land Health Monitoring for agriculture in India

Between 14 and 15 March 2024, IUCN India organised a knowledge and experience sharing workshop on ‘Mainstreaming Nature/Ecosystem-based solutions and Land Health Monitoring Framework in Agriculture’ in New Delhi. The workshop aimed to introduce IUCN’s Nature-based Solutions (NbS) Agriculture Guidance and Land Health Monitoring Framework to the participants and enable peer-to-peer experience sharing. Shri Faiz Ahmad Kidwai, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, graced the event along with resource persons and participants from eminent research institutions and academia, donor agencies, NGOs as well as the private sector. 

Modern agricultural techniques and processes have helped increase yield and food availability to feed billions of people around the world. Yet, rapid increase in agricultural production over the past half a century has come at a significant environmental cost. Degradation of land and groundwater quality, loss of biodiversity, and deterioration of human health are some of the growing concerns owing to unsustainable agricultural practices.

India's agricultural sector stands as the backbone of the nation's economy. Agriculture and allied sectors employ about 46% of the total workforce in India, catering to the food security needs of its vast population. However, the sector faces multifaceted challenges ranging from fragmented land holdings and inadequate irrigation facilities to unpredictable weather patterns and low productivity. Agricultural intensification to meet the growing demand for food plays a havoc on the land health. Over the years, Government of India has introduced several programmes and schemes to improve the state of agriculture in the country, such as the National Agriculture Policy, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, among several other measures. 

IUCN’s Agriculture and Land Health initiative builds momentum for accelerated action towards sustainable agriculture that secures land health as a Nature-based Solution to address food and water security, climate change and other societal challenges. The initiative strengthens awareness on sustainable agriculture and aims to develop tools and methodologies to support application of NbS in projects and policies. The IKEA Foundation-supported project named ‘Accelerating the global transition to sustainable agriculture’ is aligned to this initiative. The project is successfully operating in India and in five other countries (Burkina Faso, Guatemala, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Viet Nam), wherein the IUCN NbS Agriculture Guidance and Land Health Monitoring Framework are being piloted for further refinement.

The two-day workshop on 14 - 15 March aimed to introduce the two tools and familiarise them among the participants. The workshop also enabled peer-to-peer experience sharing on these themes. The workshop was structured into different sessions, including presentation of findings from the on-ground testing of the tools, case study presentations on the NbS interventions being taken up in agriculture by different agencies in India, a panel discussion among land health and agriculture experts, and open discussions with participants. On an average, about 40 participants attended on each day of the workshop.

The workshop culminated with important recommendations with respect to the two tools. For the NbS Agricultural Guidance, the recommendations included inclusion of traditional knowledge of farmers, incentivising farmers for its uptake and scale-up, ensuring directed and effective communication, collaboration and engagement with relevant institutions for better adoption.

With regard to the Land Health Monitoring framework, recommendations included measuring and communicating the economic benefits of such approaches, ensuring harmonisation among different tools, identifying simple monitorable indicators, making effective use of existing extension network, ensuring scalability of the initiatives, disseminating information in local languages, and involving women in decision making.

The recommendations from the workshop will help refine the Guidance and the Framework further. As Dr Madhu Verma, a renowned environmental economist noted during the workshop, “We must measure what we manage. For that, the tools and the frameworks are critical."