Risks and Responses in Rural India: Implications for Local Climate Change Adaptation Action

Chandni Singh, Andaleeb Rahman, Arjun Srinivas, Amir Bazaz  | 21 June 2018


People in drylands face multiple climatic and non-climatic risks and subsequently engage in various response strategies to manage these risks. Research on risk management has typically focussed on a static, location-specific understanding of risk and response. However, empirical evidence suggests that risks and vulnerability vary across space and time. Increasingly, responses traverse multiple locations e.g. people move across rural and urban areas, women move beyond the household/community to earn additional incomes. To highlight this dynamic reality of risks and responses, we study livelihood transitions in South India. We unpack risk and response portfolios across scales – household, community, and sub-national (district) levels – and classify them as coping, adaptive and maladaptive. Our findings emphasise that present responses do not necessarily qualify as climate change adaptation strategies. While certain strategies do improve household wellbeing in the short run, there is relatively lower evidence to suggest an increase in adaptive capacity to deal with climatic risks in the future. These findings point to critical gaps in understanding current risk management and how it can contribute to local adaptation policy making and implementation.