Agri data to help tackle climate challenges: Gates

Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates addresses at the 8th International Conference on Agricultural Statistics (ICAS-VIII), in New Delhi. PTI

Better statistical information and innovative tools will help minimise the damage of climate change on the farm sector, billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Monday said.

As the effects of climate change on smallholder farmers will increase in the future, there is an opportunity for engaging with the private sector in the field of agriculture and play an important role in boosting the crop yields, he said.

"At a time when we have to increase productivity, climate change is making it far difficult. Understanding how the changing weather is affecting our crops and productivity and how we can adapt to that -- requires best work in agriculture statistics including use of new tools," Gates said in his keynote address at the 8th global conference on agri-statistics here.

Referring to India's soil health card, he said the soil quality data helps farmers determine what fertilisers to use. However, there are opportunities to add additional data to the existing one and make a detailed soil mapping.

"Better soil, better information and better statistics will help minimise the damage of climate change," he added.

Gates, who is also co-chair in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, further said since the issue of climate change is "complicated", different interventions are required to be taken including developing new variety of seeds and their distribution to farmers.

There is an opportunity to engage with the private sector in agriculture, as there is a need to make available the innovative models and products to the farmers for tackling the challenge of climate change, he added.

Noting that smallholder farmers are most affected by climate change across the world, Gates said these farmers are very poor and their children suffer from malnutrition, especially stunting issues.

"One drought and one flood is enough to wipe out any savings of their family. The intensity and frequency of both drought and flood is going to change. The effects of climate change will increase," he said adding that this is also an issue in India.

Inaugurating the event, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said, "India is an agriculture-based economy. The government depends on data for policymaking."

He also said the subject of statistics and probabilistic ideas in India seem to be of ancient origin in India.

The treatise Arthashastra by Kautilya during the Mauryan period had a detailed description of the system of data collection related to agricultural, population and economic censuses in villages and towns during the period, he said.

A four-day global conference is being organised by the agriculture ministry in partnership with the United Nations' FAO, the US Department of Agriculture, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other agencies.

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