Varanasi: A four-day training programme for SAARC member countries on ‘Climate Smart Agriculture in South Asia: Technologies, Policies, and Digital Innovation’ organized by the Saarc Agriculture Centre (SAC) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) began at the IRRI South Asia Regional Centre in Varanasi on Tuesday.

As many as 28 senior government officials from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka are participating in this training programme. Addressing the inaugural function, SAC director, Md Baktear Hossain said that SAC and IRRI have partnered to organize the Saarc Regional Climate Smart Agriculture and the CGIAR (Consortium of International Agricultural Research) centres’ Initiative on Digital Innovation training programme which are part of the Consortium for Scaling-up Climate Smart Agriculture in South Asia (C-SUCSeS) project.
“At SAC we are continuously striving towards strengthening the knowledge of the agricultural community towards the adoption of climate smart agricultural practices and we are delighted to be partnering with IRRI for realizing these goals,” he said, adding that climate smart agriculture is the need of the hour, especially for South Asian countries where the increasing number of climate stresses are becoming more frequent and are adversely affecting farmers, especially the smallholder and women farmers.

Congratulating IRRI and SAC, Dr Suresh Kumar Chaudhari, DDG – Natural Resource Management, ICAR emphasized on the multitude of climate resilient agricultural practices. He said, “adopting sustainable measures for farming should be a global practice. It is important to prioritize resource optimization in terms of fertilizer use and laying some ground rules for greenhouse gas emission. With the Government of India’s priority to cut down fertilizer consumption by 25 percent by 2030, the development of a bottom-up approach for climate resilient agriculture may prove to be a method to attain success to mitigate different climate related challenges.”
With the objective of the training programme to enhance the capacities of member states and promote regional cooperation among the member states for scaling up climate smart agriculture in the region, the training will comprise of sessions on climate smart agriculture which include discussions on building climate resilient agriculture through adaptation and soil centric mitigation strategies and practicing of conservation agriculture practices and optimizing these techniques for use the by farmers.
The second day of sessions will be dedicated to digital innovation with a focus on digital agriculture, precision agriculture, water stress management related with digital agriculture, use of IRRI’s proprietary app Rice Wheat Crop Manager and measurement of sensor-based soil health management, AgriGIS. Other sessions will include discussions on knowledge management and sharing and development of youth and entrepreneurship with regards to climate smart agriculture. During the training program interactions with progressive farmers are also planned, along with a visit to Indian Institute of Vegetable Research.
Welcoming the guests from different SAARC member countries, the ISARC director, Dr. Sudhanshu Singh, said, “Our farmers are continuously being challenged with more frequent extreme weather conditions like droughts, floods, and cyclones to maintain both productivity and production.
Through programs like these with government officials we hope that we will be able to positively influence governments for policies which are beneficial for yield productivity and the net profitability of the farmers.” The C-SUCSeS project is a four-year joint initiative between the SAC, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and co-funded by SAARC Development Fund. The project fosters partnership and cooperation between SAARC member country governments, National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES), SAARC and IFPRI to further the agenda of climate smart agriculture.
The specific objectives of the project are to accelerate the identification and scaling up of viable climate smart agriculture interventions through national policies and programs in South Asia, set up effective and efficient mechanisms for knowledge sharing, policy dialogue and cooperation and development programs among SAARC countries on climate smart agriculture. The CGIAR initiative on Digital Innovation, which is supporting this training, is generating research-based evidence and solutions to accelerate transformation of agri food-systems, with an emphasis on inclusivity and sustainability. It forms part of CGIAR’s new research portfolio, delivering science and innovation to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis.
Senior soil scientist at IRRI, Dr. Sheetal Sharma, who is leading the CGIAR Digital Innovation Initiative from IRRI said, “Technologies, policies, and digital innovation have a crucial role to play in our collective efforts towards climate smart agriculture. We will explore cutting-edge technological advancements, such as precision farming, remote sensing, and data analytics, that can enhance agricultural productivity while minimizing environmental impacts. Additionally, we will delve into the importance of robust policy frameworks that incentivize sustainable farming practices, facilitate technology transfer, and promote inclusive growth.”



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