Hydro-climatic Risk Assessment and Communication for Smallholder Farmers in Maharashtra

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Abstract: Smallholder farmers often have great entrepreneurial qualities that build on generations of experience. However, many farm management practices are poorly adapted to current climate change conditions. In order for farmers to understand the risks they are undertaking by following certain farming practices and to adapt accordingly, a decision support tool is being developed by researchers at TU Delft. The tool runs a socio-hydrological model, created in Python, in the back-end and provides farmer specific investment and profit data for different crops in the front-end. The aim of this study is to develop a risk assessment process that integrates hydro-climatic variability in the decision support tool, and to identify ways of communicating risk to smallholder farmers in Maharashtra, India. Two sources of variability were characterised based on a literature review of Indian farmers’ own risk perceptions; the untimely onset of the Indian Summer Monsoon and the frequency of dry spells. A sensitivity analysis was then carried out to investigate their respective effects on the farmers’ crop yields. The method proposed to evaluate these risks used a single variable, precipitation data, and a two-dimensional risk matrix to compound the two risk factors, over a time span of 14 years (2003-2016). However, the results indicate that it might be more beneficial to define dry spells in terms of crop water stress, instead of a precipitation threshold. This study also proposed a method for translating a cumulative distribution curve into a risk representation that is adapted for low-literacy users by combining numbers and text with graphics, color and voice descriptions. Ultimately, however, the usability of the tool cannot be determined solely through literature, but must involve the end-users in its design. 

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