top of page

Climate Adaptation and Mitigation in Agriculture

Updated: May 6

Why focus on climate and agriculture?

The last decade has been the warmest the Earth has ever been in recorded history¹. Most of the past half-century warming has been caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, which cause the atmosphere to retain heat. Left unchecked, this shift in the Earth’s temperature and weather patterns would lead to untenable heatwaves, droughts, and floods, affecting both urban and rural societies.

Agriculture is both a victim of and a contributor to climate change. Extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, reduce yield, causing serious threats to food security and fluctuations in food pricing. Smallholder farmers in countries such as India bear the brunt of it due to limited infrastructure and heavy dependence on climatic conditions such as rainfall and temperatures. At the same time, agriculture, forestry, and other land use are responsible for about 23% of greenhouse gas emissions². So, the agriculture sector is central to addressing the climate challenge.

Malisa Ghosh, our resident editor, puts together an analytical piece in the given context, with the state of West Bengal being the subject.


The case of West Bengal:

West Bengal is among the top 25% of most climatically vulnerable states of India — with 15 districts, home to nearly 72 million people, exposed to extreme climate events such as cyclones, droughts, rising sea levels and projected flood risk. Districts like Howrah, Kolkata, North 24 Parganas, Paschim Medinipur, and South 24 Parganas are hotspots for cyclones, which have increased five-fold in the state between 1970 and 2019³. Extreme flood events have risen sevenfold. The Sundarbans is pegged to be the cyclone capital of India, with supercyclones such as Bulbul, Amphan, Yaas, and Jawad affecting the region in successive years, leaving trails of devastation in their wake and imperilling lives and livelihoods. Though almost every sector (roads, irrigation canals, drinking water facilities, education, health and urban infrastructure) has been affected by these climatic factors, the most severe effect has been on the agriculture sector.

Source: Climate Vulnerability Assessment for Adaptation Planning in India Using a Common Framework
Vulnerability profile of Indian states (quartile based)

More than 8% of India's food production comes from West Bengal, which has just 2.7% of the total land area but accommodates 7.6% of the population. 17.4% of the total Net State Domestic Product (NSDP, 2012-13) and 70% of its total population, mainly the rural population, depend on agri-allied sectors. With sea levels rising three times faster in Sundarbans than the global average, a total of 170 square kilometres (the size of Kolkata city) has surrendered to the sea in the 37 years between 1973 and 2010 alone. The surging seas advancing by 200 m/year, have turned fertile agricultural lands and groundwater increasingly saline. The state has been experiencing increasingly erratic rainfall patterns in the past decades, leading to droughts and floods nearly every year.

Source: RBI Handbook of Statistics

The groundwater of the city and elsewhere in Bengal is dangerously depleted. The highly concentrated rainfall causes more run-offs and less infiltration of water. A delayed monsoon is also jeopardizing the crop calendar. As per the State government, the quantum of damage caused by Amphan is estimated to be ₹1.02 lakh crore, with 28.6 lakh houses and 17 lakh hectares of agricultural crops estimated to have been destroyed.

Climate-adaptive policy in Bengal: Challenges and measures

In the hazard-prone villages of the Eastern Himalayan foothills of West Bengal, only 11.41% of farming households show a high capacity to adapt to changing climatic conditions, with 60.40% and 28.19% having moderate and low adaptive capacity, respectively. Though the numbers seem daunting, the measures available for climate adaptation in agriculture are also increasing, at both policy-based and technical levels.

Farmers recognize the importance of diversifying their crops according to the weather conditions every year and have adopted it as one of the climate adaptation strategies in the past few decades. The indigenous or traditional variety of seeds of agricultural crops is proven to be more climate change resilient i.e. less affected during a flood, saline contamination and drought etc. Switching back and/or opting for traditional indigenous seeds would certainly ensure a secure food supply and help build community resilience against future climate change-induced impacts.

Introducing the Integrated Farming System with the combination of crops, fisheries and livestock, would ensure self-sustainability and livelihood alternatives. West Bengal's climate adaptation plans have also included a Multi-tier Cropping System to ensure more returns in terms of per unit area of land and time, which assists in increasing food and nutrition security as well as marketability of crops produced by small and marginal farmers¹⁰.


There needs to be a concerted effort to understand the root problems agriculture will face with the changing weather patterns, and work towards its mitigation. Sustainable agriculture, besides ensuring food security to the community, will be a major step towards responding to the changing forms of soil, water and temperature. Towards this goal, assessing the region-wise adaptive capacities and vulnerabilities of the farming households, along with the factors affecting them, would help in formulating appropriate adaptation options for the state.



  1. 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record (World Meteorological Organization, 2021)

  2. IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.- O. Pörtner, D. C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M. Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)].

  3. 15 Districts in West Bengal Vulnerable to Extreme Climate Events: CEEW (Council on Energy, Environment and Water, 2021)

  4. Bidur Paria, Pulak Mishra, Bhagirath Behera. (2022) Climate change and transition in cropping patterns: District level evidence from West Bengal, India.

  5. Abdullah F. Rahman, Danilo Dragoni, Bassil El-Masri. (2011). Response of the Sundarbans coastline to sea level rise and decreased sediment flow: A remote sensing assessment.

  6. Cornforth WA, Fatoyinbo TE, Freemantle TP, Pettorelli N. (2013). Advanced Land Observing Satellite Phased Array Type L-Band SAR (ALOS PALSAR) to Inform the Conservation of Mangroves: Sundarbans as a Case Study.

  7. Bengal pegs cyclone Amphan damage at ₹1.02 lakh crore1 (The Hindu, 2020)

  8. Pritha Datta, Bhagirath Behera. (2022). Assessment of adaptive capacity and adaptation to climate change in the farming households of Eastern Himalayan foothills of West Bengal, India.

  9. Dey, Sunita & Ghosh, Asish & Hazra, Somnath. (2017). Review of West Bengal State Adaptation Policies, Indian Bengal Delta.

  10. Dey, Sunita & Ghosh, Asish & Hazra, Somnath. (2017). Review of West Bengal State Adaptation Policies, Indian Bengal Delta.


Bengal Policy Hackathon: Round I Problem Statements

Participating team can attempt any of the two problem statements

With new and innovative possibilities opening up for agricultural practices, the state's policies need to be evaluated and directed towards the best outcomes for climate resilience. West Bengal faces the situation of being both heavily dependent on agriculture, and extremely vulnerable to climate change, so the need to Fastrack climate adaptation is even more urgent in its case. We call for research articles on any of the following topics:

Topic I - Improving state's climate resilience with respect to agriculture

Analyze the current state's adaptation plans and provide detailed and evidence-based policy recommendations to improve the state’s climate resilience with respect to agriculture

Topic II - Examing state's agricultural policies and identifying best sustainability practices

Examine agricultural policies adopted in other climate-vulnerable regions, and identify the best practices for sustainability with an analytical view of the unique context of West Bengal

Top Submissions (from Bengal Policy Hackathon):

Nichomacheans - Policy Brief
Download • 388KB

Rational Sapiens - Policy Brief
Download • 103KB

466 views0 comments
bottom of page