Adapting to climate change
Poverty is most prevalent in rural areas where communities depend on agriculture to earn a meagre living. Poor women and men are not powerless to reduce the impact that our changing climate will have on their families’ lives.
Practical Action is working around the world to help people either tackle or adapt to the effects of climate change.
By using a practical approach, Practical Action can work with poor communities to build their resilience and demonstrate what they can do to make an immediate difference to their lives, as well as helping them cope with future changes.
Identifying communities’ own priorities and needs, and valuing their knowledge and experience, is key to developing effective adaptation strategies for which each community will feel a genuine sense of ownership.
Saline-tolerant rice in Sri Lanka
For rice farmers in Dehigahalanda, in the Hambantota district of southern Sri Lanka, increased salinity in their water-logged fields was a grave problem, with yields dropping steeply. Some were getting less than half the expected yield. The farmers could not find a viable solution for the creeping salinity - aggravated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and a lack of fresh irrigation water - and feared that eventually their fields would be left barren.
40-year old S. Ranjith was one such farmer. Nearing desperation, his local farmers' organisation tried to appeal to various government institutions about their plight, but with little success.
Today Ranjith has managed to reverse his destiny. He is even producing seed paddy out of his one and a half acre field. The secret of his success does not lie in complicated engineering feats or advanced science, but in long-forgotten traditional rice varieties that have age-old ability to resist high salinity in soil and water.
Together with 16 other local farmers, Ranjith trialled ten different varieties of traditional rice through a programme of the National Federation of Traditional Seeds and Agri Resources and supported by Practical Action. For the first time, the farmers were given the choice of 'variety selection' and asked to score the different rice types according to duration of crop, plant height, grain quality and yield. Out of the ten, four varieties scored highest and were then promoted through farmer organisations as hardy, saline tolerant and high quality rice that were suited for coastal rice paddies.
Ranjith has cultivated his field for the third time with traditional varieties, shunning the hybrids promoted by the country's agricultural departments. His inputs are low-organic manure and less chemical pest control. Although traditional rice does not produce the yields of hybrid varieties, his profits remain high. Traditional rice is purchased at a higher price by the Federation and there is high consumer demand today for these rare rice types.
What's more, the application of organic fertilizer has begun to ease the soil salinity problem as well. "We were on the verge of abandoning our fields. The introduction of traditional rice has given a new lease of life to us and these fields," said Ranjith who is now a certified traditional rice grower and seed producer.
With your help, we could work with more communities around the world to develop simple solutions to poverty like this. Thank you.