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Climate change adaptation

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Sri Lanka has received $125 million credit from the World Bank to improve the climate resilience and productivity of agriculture for more than 470,000 small farmers in six provinces in the dry zone of the country. 

Since Sri Lanka has been categorised as one of the top 10 countries for climate vulnerability, there is an increased need to make the economy climate resilient. Sri Lanka is particularly vulnerable to climate-related natural disasters such as floods and droughts, which affects the poor disproportionately. The agriculture sector, which contributes approximately 7.7% to the country’s economy nonetheless employs 27% of the population – more than 38% of whom are women – is especially affected.

Innovation, including the introduction of improved crop varieties, cropping patterns, water resources management, amongst others, can help farmers adapt to a changing climate and improve their incomes and livelihoods. But this process has been slow in Sri Lanka with different Government departments still struggling to formulate and efficiently implement policy. Government efforts are largely reactive and only focused on compensation and not capacity building. 

This project is aimed at ensuring all farmers get adequate access to training and research. Currently, only 10% of women benefit, and there is a strong need to have a gendered response to climate change adaptation as well. 

Farmers living in climate ‘hotspot’ areas have to increase their access to irrigation and better manage water resources. They also need support to adopt climate smart technologies that will increase agricultural productivity and improve access to markets. Most farmers in Sri Lanka are smallholders and lack the capacity to self-educate, adapt technology and tap into to new market trends. Much of this is predicated on access to information.   

There is increasing evidence from across many African and South Asian countries that contextual, timely climate information, helps farmers manage the risks they face. This is particularly true when it is integrated with other information such as disease outbreaks or market prices and demand. The information can guide decisions on which crops to grow, when to plant them, what seeds to use, how to market the produce, and how to divide resources between farming and other livelihoods.

But there’s less demand for long-term climate information. This is primarily because it tends to be highly uncertain and the scale of long-term climate projections tends to be too coarse. Also, policymakers find it difficult to justify investment and action based on what might happen far into the future. And there is typically a lack of institutional capacity to deal with long-term climate risks.

Other barriers to the use of climate information include: mismatches between personal or traditional beliefs and what climate information suggests, the availability of useful information at the right time, how it’s communicated and to whom, and inadequate capacity to interpret provided information.

To overcome these problems, climate information providers must develop services tailored for different needs. This requires local, national, regional and international institutions to work together. They must also work closely with vulnerable communities so that relevant climate information can be co-developed. It also builds trust between farmers and different levels of stakeholders and provides more impetus for long term engagement.

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