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Farmers’ voices for Copenhagen climate summit

india Updated: Nov 27, 2009 16:22 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal

Sixty-year-old Uttar Pradesh farmer, Baliram says he literally witnessed the climate change slowly and steadily over the years. He describes in detail about his experience in the testimony that he has given for compilation in ‘farmers’ voices’ to go to the Climate Change summit at Copenhagen, Denmark next month.

He is among four other farmers from the state whose testimonies have been collected by the Oxfam India for compilation in the ‘farmers’ voices’ part of the report that Oxfam would submit at the summit. Oxfam has collected such testimonies from farming community from across India and also from all across the world.

Baliram, who is from Ninawali village in Jalaun, said: “25 years ago things were fine. Lot of rain used to happen and on schedule. I have an acre of land that fed my family and animals. We all (farmers) used to have both Rabi and Kharif crops. But I notice that from last about 18 years things have started changing.

"Earlier it used to rain here for three to four months. Now, we have just about 10-15 good rain days in a year. Of the last fifteen years, ten years were drought years. Now, rain does not occur at right time. Earlier, there used to be four intense months of winters. Now, we have intense winters only for two months (December-January). All this has left crop cycle disturbed. Climate change has badly affected agriculture and allied activites. With livelihood crisis coming in, large number of people now migrate to other places as labourers. Sixty per cent youth of my village have become migrant labour. So many houses have locks dangling on them.”

Baliram gave this testimony in a public hearing held at Jaipur early this month. Farmers from twelve states gathered at the hearing and presented their views.

CEO, Oxfam India, Nisha Agarwal says, “Effects of climate change spare none and worst hit are the poor who have limited resources and capacity to respond or adapt to the change weather patterns. Oxfam organised hearings in six contrastingly different climatic zones– floods plains, arid regions, forest, coastal areas, Himalayan regions and urban areas, from where the testimonies have been collected.

Chotelal Gujar, 32, of village Bandhawa of Haliya block of Mirzapur district, said that climate change has affected agriculture and in turn affected animal rearing.

“Just as the agriculture got disturbed, animal population dwindled. Earlier agriculture and cattle rearing were virtually synonymous. Animal had served as beast of burden, transport, fuel, food and bio-fertilzers. But with the change in the climate and ways of agriculture that is chemical intensive, animal rearing got affected."

He said that excessive use of chemicals repulse animals from eating fodder that came out as by product from crops (because the fodder had heavy chemical residue). Animal used to be good back up livelihood support. But now this back up system has collapsed.

Another young farmer, Ajaan Singh, 40, of Tajpura village in Jalaun, highlighted that old ways of farming of his grandfather-great grandfather, were most appropriate. A knowledgeable farmer, Singh said that those were more suited and in tandem with nature.

Talking about the objectives of these hearings, Nisha Agarwal said: “The objective was to bring forward evidence in the form of testimonies of people to influence the decision makers on the urgency of taking action on the issue of climate change. Also, the final report to be submitted at Copenhagen would highlight the perspective of the developing nations in front of the world leaders which would help them keep the link between climate change and poverty in mind while framing the way ahead on this issue.”

She said that Oxfam was organising these hearings in many countries globally and the voices of people from the grassroots would be mainstreamed at the Copenhagen summit to put forth the argument that more funds were needed in developing countries for adaptation work and rich countries need to reduce their carbon emissions because there are limits to how much poor people can adapt to changing climatic conditions.