Climate change impacts increasingly undermine progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and overcoming poverty reduction in vulnerable developing countries while measures to build resilience (and approaches to finance them) brings various benefits to the people who are highly vulnerable to those climate impacts. The project on Multi-actor Partnership on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Finance mainly focuses on the national-level engagement, capacity development and the establishment of multi-actor partnerships on the climate risk finance in countries like Laos, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Madagascar, Senegal, Philippines, and the Caribbean.
As a part of the project on InsuResilience, SLYCAN Trust began its data collection in the Pudikandikulama (Gomarankadawala Divisional Secretariat (DS) division) and Maylakudawewa (Morawewa DS division), in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. The study involved the collection of primary data using the interview method in order to answer questions regarding awareness of agriculture insurance, adaptation strategies to climate hazards etc.
A few challenges that were identified during the interviews were the farmers not being open to providing detailed answers with regard to land ownership and income levels. It was also slightly challenging establishing contact with authorised persons, farmer societies etc.
Sri Lanka is as a highly vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change and related hazards. Climate related hazards have become a major risk factor in Sri Lanka’s agricultural sector and the most common hazards are seasonal floods and droughts. According to the records, severe droughts have affected communities mainly in the Anuradhapura, Trincomalee, Kurunegala, Puttalam, Hambantota and Moneragala districts during the last decade.
Throughout the discussions, it was observed that drought/water scarcity has occurred to a large extent in the past few years in the Morawewa and Gomrankadawala DS divisions (Trincomalee district) and it has impacted most sectors including agriculture, livestock, fisheries etc. The shortage of water has affected the daily wellbeing of people as well. Some of the farmers in both DS divisions made attempts to adapt using practices including crop diversification, shifting planting and/or harvesting cycles, soil and water conservation and management, integrating crop with livestock etc. However, those practice strategies were insufficient and did not bring about anticipated results.
It’s important to recognise that effective warning is just one of the critical parts of a comprehensive risk management system that includes mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The risk of floods and droughts have grown each year, therefore the necessity of early warning systems have also increased. The areas in which the research is conducted does not have an adequate early warning system. In Sri Lanka, the Disaster Management Centre is the main focal point responsible for coordinating early warning, along with the relevant technical agencies and Technical Committees. Even though Sri Lanka has established early warning mechanism and evacuation procedures for communities affected by natural disasters and slow onset related disasters, there are gaps that hinder effective mechanisms in the operation of disaster management practices. These gaps affect both the vulnerable communities and relevant authorities involved in the Disaster Management sector. And also the lack of early warning systems, make farmers more vulnerable to disasters.
The execution of the crop insurance scheme was another observation made during the field visit. Existing crop insurance schemes have a number of serious problems including the lack of awareness, a lack of transparency in loss assessments, underestimation of indemnity payments, and the general indemnity-based nature of the insurance schemes that lead to overall low confidence and trust among farmers.
In addition to these problems, farmers do not have sufficient information about different insurance schemes (most are aware only of the Agrarian and Agricultural Insurance) and how it would be of use to them. Furthermore, with insured-farmers not receiving any or adequate compensation for crop losses (some even up to 70-100% of the total crop) combined with the lack of awareness on the insurance scheme also causes farmer communities to place less trust in the insurance schemes.
To minimise the impacts of climate hazards a long-term resilience mechanism with the short term/quick actions targeting highly vulnerable communities in affected areas should be implemented. It is necessary to generate awareness to practice adaptation strategies among vulnerable communities through active involvement at the national, regional and global levels with committed stakeholders including civil societies, governments, private sector etc. In that regard, the InsuResilience Global Partnership (IGP) aims to provide a sustainable platform to enhance the discussion on climate resilience by offering effective, poverty-focused, gender-responsive and human rights-based implementation of climate and disaster risk finance and insurance (CDRFI) measures.
Sri Lanka needs a proper crop insurance mechanism to render its agricultural economy less volatile. Crop insurance is among the solutions to minimise risks and uncertainties by providing financial protection against losses and damages. It is a risk transfer instrument that can contribute to minimising the short-term and long-term economic impacts of extreme weather events, reducing vulnerability, and making rural communities more resilient. Even though Sri Lanka was the first developing country in Asia that launched an all-risk insurance of paddy crop, the survey shows that agriculture insurance should be promoted by enhancing the awareness of the benefits to assure the farmers.
The early warning system of a country plays an important role in disaster risk management. Effective early warning system saves lives, reduces economic loss, reduces trauma and disruption in society and instils confidence and a sense of security in the public. Along with strengthening the national Disaster Management Centre, there are plenty of actions/decisions that can be taken to improve early warning systems for agricultural resilience in Sri Lanka including:
Most women interviewed during the visit reported that their main activities included household chores and work related to agriculture production. As a solution to establish gender equality, efforts should be made to mainstream gender into policies related to agriculture, livestock, fisheries etc. This includes commitments connected to a number of issues: adequate resources for sectorial budgets for gender mainstreaming; equal access for women and men to training in agricultural production and value addition; equal access for women and men to technology and machinery, credit, subsidies; gender equality in accessing state land and holding land titles; and an increase in the number of women holding office in producer organizations.
The majority of farmers have perceived changes in rainfall and experienced the effects of a changing climate over a period of two decades. That is, extended dry periods and declining precipitation are more frequent across the agro-ecologies in the Trincomalee district. In developing countries, the adaptation of the agricultural sector to the changing climate is important for ensuring the livelihoods of the poor communities. In this case, the involvement of multiple stakeholders, including policymakers, extension agents, NGOs, researchers, communities, and farmers is imperative. As an immediate outcome of InsuResilience Global Partnership (IGP) project, in the focus countries, multi-actor partnerships and alliances will be enhanced/established on climate and disaster risk finance, providing sustainable platforms that address the issue beyond the project’s lifetime and bringing together interested and committed stakeholders from civil society, governments, private sector, academia with a view to enhancing climate resilience especially of particularly vulnerable segments of the population.
As the rainy seasons are recently becoming more and more unpredictable and uncertain, depending on rainfed agriculture in the area is less unlikely and hence policy driven actions to provide irrigation facilities based on both ground and surface water are vital. Moreover, creating opportunities for non-farm income sources is important as this helps them to engage in those activities that are less sensitive to climate change. Furthermore, providing climate change information, extension services, and creating access to markets are crucial. Therefore, including these activities in the existing formal extension channels of the Ministry of Agriculture and other line ministries will be useful to farmers.
Nipun is a research assistant at SLYCAN Trust, and works on thematic areas of climate change, agriculture insurance, disasters, and disaster risk transfer. His areas of interest include environmental engineering, water and water resources, and coastal reservations. Nipun has a second class (upper division) in his Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Civil Engineering from Sri Lanka Technological Campus, Padukka. His undergraduate research focused mainly on urban stormwater management and he has two international conference publications on ‘Permeable and Porous Pavements in Urban Landscape’.