Climate change is creating a marriage crisis for farmers across India

Climate change is having negative effects on the marriage prospects of farmers in India, a new study in the region of Andhra Pradesh showed. Farmers are no longer getting married because they’re seen as unstable financially by would-be brides due to the effects of climate change.

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As part of a larger project running from 2018 to 2021, an international group of researchers interviewed over 1,000 farmers from India to learn about the “increasing vulnerability of agriculture” in the region of Andhra Pradesh. What they found was, in the own words of the researchers, “unexpected.”

“The focus on climate change hitherto has mostly focused on the impacts on the natural environment. This research highlights for the first time that social and cultural changes are also occurring as a consequence of environmental damage,” the researchers wrote. “The climate crisis is linked to a marriage crisis, in a place where over a billion of the world’s population still have arranged marriages.”

In India, the majority of marriages are arranged. However, due to the increasing uncertainty of farmers’ incomes, many parents no longer want farmers as their son-in-law, the study found. Increasingly the eligible women instead prefer to marry employees, particularly government ones as they earn a stable monthly income.

The researchers estimate that “just over half” of the farmers in Andhra Pradesh are experiencing a barrier to marriage. Already, the state, which is the tenth-largest state in India in terms of population, is feeling the impact of both climate change and the resulting marriage crisis.

One of the young farmers from Guntur district told the researchers: “I am searching for a suitable bride for eight years and still not yet married”. Meanwhile, another one, now is in his early 40s, said that: “I did not get a bride even though I offered a financial incentive” (the traditional custom of a gift to the future bride).

Agriculture is still the major source of employment around the world. That’s especially applicable in low- and middle-income countries, where nearly three billion people live in rural areas and of those, 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture for their livelihood. In India, more than 70% of the rural population relies on agriculture as the main source of income.

A significant amount of these farmers relies on the rain and other natural resources for their agriculture needs. Increasing temperatures, changes in rainfall trends, and more extreme natural hazards are negatively affecting incomes from agriculture. Climate change is leading to loss of crops, reductions in productivity, depletion of biodiversity, even the complete devastation of entire crops.

For the researchers, the long-term consequences of the marriage crisis are worrying. Not only wellbeing and happiness are being negatively impacted but also the population of farming communities will be reduced. They estimate this will lead to a reduced farming capacity, at the loss of agricultural experience and knowledge.

The study also showed that a significant number of farmers are being forced to migrate to other regions or other states to cope with the marriage crisis. “If the impact of climate change is not minimized in the near future, agriculture will be significantly affected, as well as harming many traditional cultural practices,” the researchers wrote.

The study made a number of policy recommendations to be adopted in India that both address agricultural precarity and prepare farmers to “cope up with the risks” of climate change. This included the identification of sustainable and resilient farming practices, crop diversification, and expanding irrigation.

Implementing these policies would help “support adaptation and a household level,” allowing for farmers’ livelihoods to be less vulnerable to climate change, the researchers argued. The measures would need to be in conjunction with other widespread changes, as the temperature in India is on track to increase 4.4℃ (or 39.92℉) by 2100.

The study was published in the journal Sustainability.

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