A multi-dimensional approach toward poverty alleviation, livelihoods and agriculture
India has made carbon reduction commitments which will cost $4.5 trillion approx. to implement, yet only a fraction of philanthropic giving in the country (2% of a $9 billion market in 2019) is directed at climate action. While government budgets and priorities are beginning to align with the climate imperative, they are not doing so at the pace or scale needed to address the needs of a country where most people earn less than $5 a day.
Over 100 million households in India depend on farming, and the vast majority own small or no plots of land. Farmers are facing key impacts of global warming, with crop failure due to extreme weather, and rising input costs and debt bearing ripple effects through local economies. Many of the large businesses that depend on these economies are also seeing the interrelated effects of warming.
Nearly 60% of Indians depend on farming and related activities for survival, and their livelihoods must be prioritised for a just transition to a low carbon economy – it is only by taking the interests of the intersectionality between poverty alleviations, livelihoods, and agriculture that the opportunities offered by India’s climate transition can be realised fully.
Climate solutions must also improve outcomes for farmers.
Subsistence farmers are at the frontlines of climate change. At the same time, farming is a significant source of emissions, with 74% of its carbon emissions attributable to methane from livestock and cultivation. The global agricultural sector is also contributing to the extinction of 86% of species, resulting in irreversible biodiversity harm. As such, effective climate solutions must address the livelihoods and climate impacts, while building climate resilience in marginalised and rural communities.
Philanthropy has a unique role to play in climate action.
The scale of the challenge and the breadth of opportunity create a unique role for climate philanthropists. Philanthropists are able to drive partnerships between the public and private sectors, incubate and accelerate market solutions, enable increased market access locally and abroad, and can drive impact led development. The trends in giving outlined here show the potential of the climate sector to transform land use, production, distribution and consumption habits and economies, while enhancing livelihoods, to catalyse the transition to a climate safe economy.
Trend 1: Mentor and equip frontline communities
Climate philanthropists are focusing on projects where the affected communities are informed and willing participants in change. This ensures the support of local communities and sustained returns. In the Himalayas, inputs from orchardists and farmers helped design a watershed development programme implemented by local residents who were alarmed by the changing weather and loss of cultivable land, forest cover and biodiversity. In the plains, paid and volunteer workers spread technical skills and training in climate smart agriculture practices among local communities, while support for vulnerable households (from clean drinking water to entrepreneurial training) eases the climate transition for frontline communities.
Trend 2: Help women farmers access freshwater
A number of climate projects are reviving natural ecosystems in India, recharging aquifers, building natural protections against contaminated water and erratic rainfall. With the support of public universities, these include research on natural pesticides and fertilisers that reduce toxic runoff and groundwater leaching while improving crop yields. In households and village communities, changing habits of water use led by community members are showing ways to prevent water conflict and preempt food insecurity. As it is women who ensure the supply of water in most households, such interventions have a gendered impact, with downstream benefits for the nutrition, health and education of rural communities. And in the cities, a low-water portable farming system for rooftops is seen to reduce air conditioning costs, urban heat islands, resource use and transport costs, and is used to teach children the practice of farming.
Trend 3: Organise and support farmer collectives
Farmer collectives are being helped to adapt to climate and market volatility. Most farmers in India own less than 3 acres of land, and climate action has focused on creating farmer producer organisations and enabling them to invest collectively in shared assets or gain access to more profitable markets, building economic resilience among farming communities. The collectives are also mentored in liaising with government departments so they can benefit from public schemes, starting small businesses with capital support, and using safe alternatives to nitrogen and phosphorous fertilisers. Other collectives have been equipped with nurseries to diversify their produce, pumps and cold storage systems powered by decentralised renewable energy, and sowing and irrigation techniques shown to significantly cut greenhouse emissions. These projects also harvest data from the farmers with their informed consent, to help design further interventions, while others help farmers access technology-enabled data such as drone-based crop and pest advisories.
Trend 4: Preempt emissions through waste management
Nearly half all fruits and vegetables spoil on the way from farm to table in India. The management of food and farm waste can preempt emissions and resource use significantly. Climate projects in several regions of India are focusing on waste management in urban centres, and decentralised waste processing in farms. In Tamil Nadu, fruit leaves, crushed fruit and vegetables are processed for use by dairy farmers who cannot afford high protein cattle feed, while farmers in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh are rearing their poultry and fish on insect meal. Trials are underway here to farm soldier flies to process municipal waste as animal feed, preempting methane emissions from landfills. Other projects in waste management address the health and climate hazards of burning crop residue by incentivising farmers to recycle it safely, or transform waste from processed chicken meat into synthetic apparel. They offer scalable ways to reduce resource use without disrupting lifestyles.
In efforts to create a repository of information that can be referenced by others to galvanize more awareness and participation in climate action and intersectional areas, AVPN will feature stories from various organizations that have successfully amalgamated a climate lens into their work.
Learn more about their success stories here.
 Niti Aayog, from avpn.asia/blog/scaling-domestic-climate-philanthropy-in-india
 India Climate Collaborative, from avpn.asia/insights/climate-philanthropy-in-asia
 World Economic Forum, weforum.org/agenda/2022/05/carbon-credits-could-help-india-reach-net-zero-2070