Enormity of Manipur’s food security challenges due to climate change
By Babie Shirin
It is a fact that Manipur has been affected by climate change. This changing climate will affect food security through its impacts on all components of global, national and local food systems. Food security is the outcome of foods system processes all along the food chain. Climate change will affect all four dimensions of food security: food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food systems stability.
Rising temperature, erratic rainfall, droughts, floods will not only reduce yields of stable foods but also diminish their nutritional value, putting people of Manipur at risk of hunger and malnutrition. It will have an impact on human health, livelihood assets, food production and distribution channels, as well as changing purchasing power and market flows.
According to Food and Agricultural Organization of UN, India is home to nearly 195 million hunger people and the problem of hunger seems to be only getting worse and Manipur is also state of India facing climate change, giving worse production last year 2018. Upon this ICAR Manipur has vision that Manipur will be deficit of 2218 thousand tonnes of food grain by 2050. Due to extreme precipitation events will cause crop yield variation. Increase in pest and disease incidence as well as erosion and degradation of soil is also expected. Projected increase in evaporation and runoff will decrease the soil moisture recharge. Fresh drinking water could also become scare. With rise in surface temperature, the plant species are expected to move upward. Decrease in microbial population is projected with increase in altitudes. Loss of vegetation could cause top soil erosion. Loss of bio-diversity and extinction of rare/threatened flora and fauna are also projected. Food grain production and requirement of the state have been estimated to be 77105 and 79323 thousand tonnes by 2050.
According to department of Agriculture, government of Manipur, area and production of major agriculture crops in 2014-15 are about 80 percent of the state population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Hence, agriculture plays an important role in the social and economic life of people in Manipur, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. The gross cropped area is ~350,290 ha, which account for ~15.24 percent of the total land areas according to area of production, productivity in Manipur. About 65.93 percent of the gross cropped area is under rice cultivation. The tribal population of the hills practices jhum cultivation. The mean cropping intensity of the state is 145.66 percent. The annual seed replacement ratio varies from 0.75 percent to 1.0 percent only. However, fertilizer consumption during 2014–15 was 31.75 thousand tonnes. The total food grain production in Manipur during 2014–15 was 594.28 thousand tonnes from an area of 292,950 hactres. Paddy is the major crop with a productivity of 2.23 tonne/hactres.
According to horticulture and soil conservation, govt. of Manipur, horticulture plays an important role in subsistence farming which is practised by majority of the small and marginal farmers, especially in hilly districts.
The state is bestowed with several pre-requisites for successful cultivation of horticultural crops. The major fruit crops are pineapple (Ananas, comosus), banana (Musa spp.), passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), khasi mandarin (Citrus reticulate) and kachai lemon (Citrus jambhiri). Recently temperate fruit crops like kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) and plum (Actinidia deliciosa) have gained popularity. Almost all kinds of vegetables can be grown, however, cole crops, legumes (broad bean (Vicia faba) and rice bean (Vigna umbellate) and cucurbitaceous crops are mostly preferred. Some indigenous vegetables like tree bean (Parkia roxburghii), water momosa (Neptunia ole-racea), leek (Allium porrum) and Chinese chive (Allium tuberosum) are popular among people. The major spices are turmeric (Curcuma longa), ginger (Zingiber offici-nale) and chilli (Capsicum spp.). Manipur is known for king chilli (Capsicum chinense), one of the hottest chillies in the world. Moreover, Manipur is a treasure trove of many underutilized and indigenous horticultural crops, some of them are rich in bioactive properties and are used in traditional and ethnic medicines. But, horticulture sector remains unexploited commercially.
The total area under horticultural crops was 100.01 thousand hectares in 2014–15 with a production value of 1159.03 thousand tones according to horticulture department Manipur in 2014-15. Animal husbandry and poultry rearing are integral al-lied agricultural enterprises in addition to agri-horti production systems. The small and marginal farmers of the state, in general, earn their gainful employment from this sector with cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, mithun, pig, etc. representing the main categories of the animals being reared. Rearing of pigs and poultry are important sources of income, especially in the hills. There was a decrease in livestock population over 2007 to 2012 from 0.78 million to 0.69 million registering a decline of 11.76 percent in the total number of animals of various species3. During 2013–14, the state produced 81.70 thousand tonnes of milk, 1165.31 lakh number of eggs and 18.22 thousand tonnes of meat.
Fish is one of the major food items consumed by the people of Manipur. The largest source of fish is Loktak lake(230 sq. km surface area) in Bishnupur district. Presence of water bodies like ponds, natural lakes, rivers, reservoirs, low lying paddy fields, etc. signify the vast and untapped potential of this sector. The total water area in Manipur shrunk from around 1 lakh hectares in 1990 to around 56.46 thousand hectares in 2009–10. The state produced 28.54 thousand tonnes of fish and more than 125 million fish seed in 2013–14, according to fisheries department Manipur.
Manipur has a rich genepool of primitive cultivars and land races of various agri-horticultural crops. There are enormous genepool of rice (more than 269 local varieties and land races), maize, cucurbits, legumes, tuber crops, turmeric, ginger and chillies. It has many underutilized fruits and vegetable crops, medicinal plants and flowering plants especially orchids. More than 500 orchid varieties covering 69 genera and 249 species have been reported.
Shirui lily (Lilium mackliniae) is a rare Indian species of terrestrial lily which is found only in the upper reaches of the Shirui hill in Ukhrul district. The biodiversity in medicinal plants is an important floral wealth of the state. More than 1200 species of medicinal plants and the local medicinal uses of about 430 species have been documented. Different species of mushroom are also found in forest areas. More than 50 species of fleshy fungi, 121 algae and a few moses have been reported. According to the India Biodiversity Portal, out of 75 endemic plants of Manipur, 27 native plants have been classified as rare, endangered and threatened.
The impact of climate change on these horticultural crops is of high relevance. Shortening the growing period, decrease in water availability and poor vernalization are expected to decrease potential yields. Vulnerability, rarity and rapid extinction of plant species will be among other consequences. Plants requiring high humidity and water may face challenges for survival. Due to changing climate, high temperature conditions are expected to be prevalent throughout the growing period which will increase temperature stress on the crops. This can disturb the biochemical reactions in plants essential for normal cell function. The photosynthetic functions of higher plants will be affected adversely. Due to rise in temperature, crops tend to develop rapidly and mature early.
Abung Chothe, a farmer from Chandel District of Manipur said since 2010-11, the district has faced drought, decrease production of rice. Again in 2018, it faced infestation of insects on rice plants. Due to heat in summer, many insects started breeding and they feed on crops. Now farmers are depending on cultivation of sugarcane.
Another farmer from Sadangkhul, Bishnupur district, Paoning Thang said that 650 hectares of Sadang, Wanggu and Borayangbi has lost 45 percent out of 400 hectares, 35 percent out of 200 and 50 hectares destroyed by wahik (insects). The villages produce mainly pumpkin, rice and pea. In 2018, 45 percent pumpkin produced, 85 percent rice and production decreased. Villagers are in a dilemma whether to increasing production or change cropping. This shows that the affect of climate change on food security has been started.
In the best interest of a healthy agriculture yield and food security, the authorities must step into improve the productivity of these small farmers, besides encouraging farmers to adopt technology to maximize agricultural outfit and thereby, improve food security.
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