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Ground Level Panel: Agrarian Communities’s Action Plan on Climate Change

Praxis conducted it’s second Ground Level Panel from May 29-31, with a presentation of the findings in consultation with community members on June 1 at the Constitution Club, New Delhi.

The Ground Level Panel consisted of 13 farmers and agricultural workers from six districts across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand who came together to evolve an action plan on climate change. The expertise of the panellists lay in their lived experience and not as researchers, policymakers or academicians. Over three days from May 29-31, the panelists collectively explored their local realities, experiences, perspectives and strategies they employed to cope with the effects of climate change. This process aimed to lead to policy formation through the members of the farming community and their informed responses to how Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCC) affects them. The ground level panel process enabled the community members to transition from being carriers of knowledge to the owners and users of knowledge.

Background:

Climate change has become a significant global issue at the turn of the century. With the ride of temperatures, there are warning reports from the World Bank that there will be severe impacts in the next 10-20 years. While this has prompted climate change’s visibility in global policy debates, there is a lack of community participation. This is of real and immediate concern, especially in a country like India, where 70% of India’s population is still dependent on climate sensitive sectors like agriculture, fishing and forests. People at the margins – the landless, small and marginal farmers, Dalit and indigenous people, rural women and children and other such relatively voiceless communities, are pushed further away from policy debates.

Taking lessons from a Ground Level Panel organised by Praxis in 2013, where a group of 13 people living in poverty and marginalisation came together to respond to the UN High Level Panel’s recommendations on what should replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), this second Ground Level Panel on agriculture and climate change was facilitated by Praxis, with support from Oxfam India, Dialectics and Partners in Change (PiC). The 13 farmers belonged to thirteen habitations located in 6 districts across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand to discuss the impact of climate change on their lives and the need to examine the state level action plans on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Among them, they represented several identies – there were seven women and six men in the team, of whom one was less than 25, four were in the 26-40 age group and eight were above 40. Three of the panellists were landless, while the others owned some amount of land. The group had religious diversity, with one following the tenets of Dr Ambedkar, two Muslims and the rest Hindus. There were eight farmers, five who worked as agricultural labour and five who engaged in daily wage work along with working on the fields. There were eight Dalit panellist and five from the OBC community. There were also three who migrated on work to supplement their income.

The Process:

The Ground-Level Panel employed a deliberative and participative dialogue process, during which the 13 participants discussed how climate change had impacted their lives and shared their inputs on the State Action Plans on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals. The panellists derived their expertise from their day-to-day experience. The aim of the panel was to ground policies and global agendas in knowledge from the margins.

The Findings:

The panelists deliberated on key questions, which relate to the impact of climate change on their agricultural practices, livelihoods, environment and life styles. They also reflected on state and global policies and made recommendations, giving reasons for their recommendations, which were shared with civil society, government agencies and the media.

For the community, climate change has a multitude of variables which range from climate to agricultural production and from agricultural practices and other vulnerabilities which result from this to their coping mechanism for the same. It would be inappropriate to simplify this complexity as climate change.

The panellists felt they were trapped in a maze of changes in climates that led to changes in agricultural production to changes in agricultural practices which then impacted their lives. This maze was difficult to get out because it perpetuated itself constantly. One of the examples that the farmers mentioned is that they were encouraged by the State to use fertilisers to improve yield. These were supplied widely and while it did serve the purpose initially, they had to keep increasing the quantity of fertiliser and water as years went by. What has happened is a complete depletion of soil quality and a situation that farmers are contributing to climate change with the use of fertilisers.

Read the consolidated report here. The three state reports can be read on following the links below:

Bihar
Uttarakhand
Uttar Pradesh

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