New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) The central government, the Himachal Pradesh government and the World Bank on Wednesday signed an $80 million loan agreement to improve water management practices and increase agricultural productivity in selected gram panchayats in the hill state.
The Integrated Project for Source Sustainability and Climate Resilient Rain-Fed Agriculture in Himachal Pradesh will be implemented in 428 gram panchayats in 10 districts, benefiting over 400,000 small-holder farmers, including women, and pastoral communities.
"As we encourage climate-smart agricultural practices in India, farmers will need both technical and financial support to adapt agricultural practices relevant to their geography and climate. As a mountainous state, Himachal Pradesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change and associated risks," said Sameer Kumar Khare, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, government of India.
"Sustainable water management practices under this project can play a big role in doubling farmers'' incomes, a goal set by the government of India. It is, therefore, critical that the best use is made of all available technologies and resources to increase water-use efficiency," he added.
The loan agreement was signed by Khare on behalf of the government of India; Ram Subhag Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Forest), on behalf of the Himachal Pradesh government and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, India, on behalf of the World Bank.
"Climate change is a global issue. But addressing its impact requires building resilience at the local level," said Ahmad.
"Not surprisingly, Himachal Pradesh''s history of devolving greater responsibility to gram panchayats offers the state a great advantage. Through gram panchayats, Himachal Pradesh supports farmers and pastoral communities in securing their livelihoods in the face of climate variability and challenging agro-ecological conditions," he added.
In Himachal Pradesh, many of the lowland areas lack access to irrigation water, and farmers depend on decreasing amounts of rainfall during the critical monsoon season.
Agricultural production and snowlines have already shifted to higher altitudes, impacting the production of fruits, including the state''s iconic apples.
Climate change is also expected to increase average temperatures and decrease rainfall in the lowlands, while both temperatures and rainfall are expected to increase in the highlands, which could lead to more extreme flooding events.
The project will improve upstream water sources in forests, pastures, and grasslands and ensure sufficient water is available for sustainable agriculture both in Himachal Pradesh and in downstream states.