Journal Article

Climate smart agriculture, farm household typologies and food security An ex-ante assessment from Eastern India

One of the great challenges in agricultural development and sustainable intensification is the assurance of social equity in food security oriented interventions. Development practitioners, researchers, and policy makers alike could benefit from prior insight into what interventions or environmental shocks might differentially affect farmers' food security status, in order to move towards more informed and equitable development. We examined the food security status and livelihood activities of 269 smallholder farm households (HHs) in Bihar, India. Proceeding with a four-step analysis, we first applied a multivariate statistical methodology to differentiate five primary farming system types. We next applied an indicator of food security in the form of HH potential food availability (PFA), and examined the contribution of crop, livestock, and on- and off-farm income generation to PFA within each farm HH type. Lastly, we applied scenario analysis to examine the potential impact of the adoption of ‘climate smart’ agricultural (CSA) practices in the form of conservation agriculture (CA) and improved livestock husbandry, and environmental shocks on HH PFA. Our results indicate that compared to livestock interventions, CA may hold considerable potential to boost HH PFA, though primarily for wealthier and medium-scale cereal farmers. These farm HH types were however considerably more vulnerable to food insecurity risks resulting from simulated drought, while part-time farmers and resource-poor agricultural laborers generating income from off-farm pursuits were comparatively less vulnerable, due in part to their more diversified income sources and potential to migrate in search of work. Our results underscore the importance of prior planning for development initiatives aimed at increasing smallholder food security while maintaining social equity, while providing a robust methodology to vet the implications of agricultural interventions on an ex ante basis.