Preparing Rice Farmers for Climate Change: Dissemination of Submergence Tolerant Rice in India

By Takashi Yamano, Maria Luz Malabayabas & Manzoor H. Dar

Due to climate change, the frequency of floods and droughts is expected to increase. To reduce crop losses due to such abiotic stresses, stress-tolerant rice varieties have been developed and distributed to farmers in developing countries, including Eastern India. Benefits of stress-tolerant rice varieties, however, become observable to farmers only when they suffer from stresses. Below, Takashi Yamano, Maria Luz Malabayabas, and Manzoor H. Dar take an example of a submergence tolerant rice variety, called Swarna-Sub 1, and show how adoption of Swarna-Sub 1 increases significantly one year after farmers experienced floods in Eastern India. 

Climate Change is expected to increase the number and severity of flood events in the future in India1. Approximately 80% of the rice-growing area in Eastern India is rainfed and exposed to abiotic stresses, such as floods. According to the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT), approximately 20 million people in India were annually affected by floods between 2001 and 2011. Because farmers are mostly poor in rainfed areas, crop losses caused by floods can have a devastating impact, potentially exacerbating poverty in the region. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and its collaborators have developed rice varieties that are tolerant to various abiotic stresses. Recent advancements in conventional and molecular breeding techniques have facilitated the breeding of rice varieties with desirable traits in a relatively short period2. Swarna-Sub1 is a submergence-tolerant rice variety, which can survive up to 14 days of full submergence, and has been distributed in Eastern India since 2008 by Stress-tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project and its collaborators.

The benefits of stress-tolerant rice varieties, however, become visible only under stresses, and farmers may not observe benefits of stress-tolerant rice varieties under normal conditions. The limited visibility of the benefits may hinder diffusion of stress-tolerant rice varieties. The issue is essentially similar to the demand for insurance against extreme events. In the insurance literature, it is well documented that insurance purchases against extreme events remain low, leaving the majority of the people uninsured, until corresponding extreme events occur3. Thus, it is important for the public sector to intervene and increase awareness of possible extreme events induced by Climate Change and prepare them against such extreme events. In this article, we discuss preliminary results from our recent study about adoption of Swarna-Sub1.

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