After the Drought: The 2012 drought, Russian farmers, and the challenges of adapting to extreme weather events

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Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common in Russia, and the 2012 drought confirmed this trend. However, Russia still has only a small number of specific agricultural adaptation measures in place. This case study analyses the key difficulties that small-scale farmers faced as a result of the 2012 drought and discusses possible adaptation measures, which could be used to confront these. It argues that climate change and the absence of adaptation policies are creating food security problems and a livelihood crisis for small-scale farmers. Specific and well-designed adaptation policies could significantly ameliorate the problems faced by the Russian agricultural sector, and must be introduced as soon as possible.
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  OXFAM CASE STUDY SEPTEMBER 2013 www.oxfam.org   Combine harvester operator, Shiunovo village, Altay Krai, Eastern Siberia (one of Russia’s major grain producing regions), Ma y 2011. Oxfam / Lyubov Shchanova AFTER THE DROUGHT The 2012 drought, Russian farmers, and the challenges of adapting to extreme weather events  Extreme weather events are becoming increasingly common in Russia, and the 2012 drought confirmed this trend. However, Russia still has only a small number of specific agricultural adaptation measures in place. This case study analyses the key difficulties that small-scale farmers faced as a result of the 2012 drought and discusses possible adaptation measures, which could be used to confront these. It argues that climate change and the absence of adaptation policies are creating food security problems and a livelihood crisis for small-scale farmers. Specific and well-designed adaptation policies could significantly ameliorate the problems faced by the Russian agricultural sector, and must be introduced as soon as possible.  2 1 INTRODUCTION Extreme weather events are becoming more and more common in Russia.  The 2012 summer drought, which came so soon after the devastating drought of 2010, is just one confirmation of this trend.  According to the 2012 annual report of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet), 1  2012 saw a record number of extreme weather events (Figure 1). In the period May to June 2012, the number of extreme weather events increased by 65 per cent compared with the same period in 2011, and were roughly on par with the number of events that occurred in the same period in 2010. 2   Figure 1: Number of extreme weather events by year, 1996  – 2012 3   Blue: predicted events; red: unpredicted events.   What is especially worrying about this trend is how vulnerable and unprepared for such extreme weather conditions the Russian agricultural sector appears to be.   In 2012, officially, 22 regions suffered crop losses, with a state of emergency declared in 20 of these. 4  The losses incurred were very signi ficant: the year’s gross grain harvest was 70.9m tonnes, 24.7 per cent lower than in 2011 (94.2m tonnes). 5  As well as grain, there were decreases in production volumes for sugar beet, sunflowers, potatoes, and vegetables. 6  These crop losses had at least two negative socio-economic effects that are already known about. First, the domestic price of grain and, consequently, of bread skyrocketed (Figures 2 and 3). The results of Oxfam’s qualitative monitoring of the social impacts of food price volatility indicate that this has already had negative effects on poor people in Russia. 7     3 Figure 2: Wholesale grain prices, 2011  – 13 8   Vertical axis: RUR/tonne; horizontal axis: months January  – December Figure 3: Rye bread and wheat bread prices, 2012  – 13 9   Second, these losses have caused significant direct and indirect economic damage to farmers in the affected regions, making more farms unprofitable and pushing some to the verge of bankruptcy. 10  Learning about the experiences of affected farmers is key to designing and implementing effective policies that could better enable the Russian agricultural sector to prepare for, and adapt to, extreme weather events  –  including droughts, which, unfortunately, are increasingly becoming the ‘norm’ in Russia.    4 Box 1: Policy context  –  agricultural adaptation policies in the Russian Federation Currently, Russia’s adaptation policy framework is based on just two documents  –  the Climate Doctrine of the Russia Federation, adopted in 2009, 11  and the Implementation Plan of the Climate Doctrine, adopted in 2011. 12  The Doctrine recognizes the impact of climate change and extreme weather events on different sectors of Russia’s economy, including agriculture, and sets out a general framework for adaptation and mitigation policies. The Implementation Plan outlines key activities, responsible executive authorities, and implementation timelines for those activities. Two of the 31 activities listed in the Implementation Plan concern adaptation for the agricultural sector: 1) ‘Mitigation o f risk of agricultural production decreases (including decreases in livestock productivity, and in productivity and yield of crops) through the development of a method of calculation of risks and damages from climate change; and development and implementation of a system of agricultural adaptation measures’; 2) ‘Optimi zation of operations in the forestry and agricultural sectors, including stimulating activities related to implementation of agricultural adaptation measures’. The Implementation Plan does not go any further in describing the nature of the activities. According to the timeline outlined in the Plan, the development of a system of agricultural adaptation measures is currently in its initial stages, and this system is expected to be in place by 2020.  As a result there, at present, very few agricultural adaptation measures in place. Moreover, as a number of experts have pointed out, ‘ the lack of financial and human resources support for the implementation of the Climate Doctrine [...] reflects a low sense of urgency over adaptation to climate change .’ 13   The aims of this case study are to analyse the key difficulties that small-scale farms faced during and after the 2012 drought, and to discuss possible adaptation measures that could mitigate the negative effects of such weather events on the Russian agricultural sector in future. The focus on small-scale farms has been chosen intentionally. As shown in Oxfam’s report ‘ The Adaptation Challenge: Key issues for crop production and agricultural livelihoods under climate change in the Russian Federation’, 14   these farms find climate change adaptation particularly challenging due to a lack of human and financial resources, and a lack of support from regional and federal governments. Small-scale farms also contribute significantly to Russia’s food security, accounting for more than 53 per cent of gross agricultural product and 57 per cent of all crops, while occupying just 27 per cent of all cultivated land. 15  
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