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Title: Understanding water scarcity and climate variability : an exploration of farmer vulnerability and response strategies in northwest India
Author: Singh, Chandni
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 7671
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2014
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Rainfed farming in semi-arid India is marked by its vulnerability to climate variability, accelerating resource degradation, and asset constrained populations. With climate change poised to exacerbate existing stresses on smallholder farming, there is a need to understand the factors constraining and enabling farmer adaptation. Integrated watershed development has emerged as a policy instrument to encourage and institutionalise sustainable natural resource use, to diversify rural livelihoods, and to build local capacity and propel rural development. Against this backdrop, this study had three main objectives: to examine farmers ' perceptions of water scarcity and climate variability in a semi-arid rainfed region of India and see whether these perceptions are reflected in meteorological records; to understand why some farmers are more vulnerable than others to these stressors; and to examine what strategies farmers undertake in response to perceived risk, and understand the decisionmaking process behind their choice of certain strategies. The study draws from the actorcentric vulnerability framework, which places the human system (here, the farming household) at the centre and explores vulnerability through its three determinants: exposure to a stressor (water scarcity and climate variability), system sensitivity, and adaptive capacity of the system. Situating the fieldwork in Pratapgarh, a predominantly tribal district in the semiarid state of Rajasthan, data was collected over one agricultural year (2011 to 2012) covering the monsoon (kharif) and winter (rabi) seasons. Differential vulnerability was explored between villages, between households within a village, and within households to develop a clear picture of local vulnerability. Towards this, data was collected in two sites: one with a watershed intervention operational for five years and the other with no intervention except for State-run public welfare schemes. A blend of household surveys (semi-structured interviews), focus group discussions, direct observation, open-ended key informant interviews, and in-depth case histories were used to collect data. Farmer narratives demonstrated that households interpret, experience and respond to climatic and non-climatic changes concurrently. The drivers of household vulnerability were an ensemble of highly localised and individual factors (intra-household dynamics and local socio-cultural norms) and macro-scale forces (global market demand, national policies, regional climate variability). These drivers were experienced together to inform farmer response decisions and livelihood strategies. This study found that tribal farmers in Pratapgarh were far removed from the caricature of passive victims of climate change and made proactive and reactive responses to changes in their environment. However, household-level response decisions were constrained by local and cross-scale factors, as well as factors perceived as beyond the decision maker's control. The thesis demonstrates how an understanding of livelihood trajectories and dynamic vulnerability pathways that incorporates views from the vulnerable, can allow agricultural and development policy to incorporate differential vulnerability, especially in the context of increasingly interdependent and multiple-scale drivers.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available