India is using soil protection practices to fight climate change

Well-protected soils are producing high yields in India and rich harvests are providing more food for families. Land productivity is being sustainably improved and is safeguarding the livelihoods of the 80,000 smallholders involved.

To produce a good harvest, soil has to be rich in nutrients and able to withstand the influence of wind and water. But in India, population growth and intensive use mean that almost half of agricultural land is affected by erosion, salinisation or acidification. The effects of climate change in the form of drought and irregular rainfall are making the soil degradation worse and Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are two of the states affected. Most farmers do not know about or use the practices needed to maintain soil fertility.

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH works in conjunction with NGOs to train farmers on how to improve soil fertility and adapt to climate change. They start by taking soil samples and analysing them. Based on these analyses, measures are identified and passed on in the training courses. As a result of the scheme commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), over 16,000 farmers have learned about better, adapted cultivation methods, such as sowing at right angles to the slope instead of up and down it. This prevents water from running unused down the slope and washing the soil away during the rainy season. They also learn about appropriate use of compost, making fertiliser and ways of storing rainwater, such as building new retaining walls, to capture precipitation during the rainy season

All these methods have resulted in 49,000 acres of land – which is equivalent to about five times the size of Paris – in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh being protected and made more fertile. The project also creates seasonal jobs in the form of community work implementing the erosion protection measures for around 5,000 people, including 4,000 women. Their work included deepening natural water run-off channels so that they store water temporarily and building stone walls. The idea is that the experience gained will be incorporated into implementation guidelines for water basin management projects run by NABARD, the Indian development bank.