Over April 17-19, India hosted a summit of agricultural experts from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The agenda of the event was to discuss ways and means of addressing the impact of climate change on agricultural activities and adaptation measures for climate resilient agrarian practices and technologies. The SAARC regional Conference was themed around “Climate Resilient Agricultural Policies, Strategies and Programmes”. The regional consultation was jointly organized by the SAARC Agriculture Centre (SAC), Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the governments of Bangladesh and Japan and the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN). The event was jointly hosted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the National Academy of Agricultural Research Management (NAARM) in Hyderabad.
More than 80 senior officials and agricultural experts from the SAARC countries attended the inaugural session of the conference. The event created a platform for improved partnership between SAARC countries on sustainable agricultural practices, research, economics, technologies, innovations and policies for South Asia. A discussion on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on agriculture was also held at the event. This is of critical importance for India, which is a major global supplier of agricultural products, resultantly a considerable portion of the national economy and employment generation relies on farming. These attributes, along with agricultural practices and general diet, are largely common between the SAARC nations. Hence, joining forces can help resolve a variety of agricultural challenges jointly faced in the region, leading with climate change. Changing weather patterns arising out of climate change has affected agricultural practices in the region.
SAARC accounts for 25 per cent of the global population and around 67 per cent of the region’s population lives in rural areas. Almost half of the workforce is employed in the agriculture sector and around 42 per cent of South Asia’s landmass is under agricultural operation. Much of the agricultural production in the region is undertaken by small land holders and an average range of landholding in SAARC countries varies between 0.3 to 1.4 hectares. Agriculture plays a pivotal role in South Asian economies, lives and livelihoods. Crops grown in the region are important, both for regional and global food security. The regional consultation provides a common platform for South Asian countries to learn, share and reflect on the impact of climate change on agriculture. The summit was also opportune because parties to the UNFCCC at the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference had put in place for the first time a joint work programme on climate change and agriculture- the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.