Understanding the causes and consequences of differential decision-making in adaptation research: Adapting to a delayed monsoon onset in Gujarat, India


Jain, Meha; Naeem, Shahid; Orlove, Ben; Modi, Vijay; and DeFries, Ruth

Journal or Book Title: Global Environmental Change

Keywords: Adaptation; Monsoon variability; India; Agriculture; Vulnerability; Decision-making

Volume/Issue: 31

Year Published: 98-109


Weather variability poses numerous risks to agricultural communities, yet farmers may be able to reduce some of these risks by adapting their cropping practices to better suit changes in weather. However, not all farmers respond to weather variability in the same way. To better identify the causes and consequences of this heterogeneous decision-making, we develop a framework that identifies (1) which socio-economic and biophysical factors are associated with heterogeneous cropping decisions in response to weather variability and (2) which cropping strategies are the most adaptive, considering economic outcomes (e.g., yields and profits). This framework aims to understand how, why, and how effectively farmers adapt to current weather variability; these findings, in turn, may contribute to a more mechanistic and predictive understanding of individual-level adaptation to future climate variability and change. To illustrate this framework, we assessed how 779 farmers responded to delayed monsoon onset in fifteen villages in Gujarat, India during the 2011 growing season, when the monsoon onset was delayed by three weeks. We found that farmers adopted a variety of strategies to cope with delayed monsoon onset, including increasing irrigation use, switching to more drought-tolerant crops, and/or delaying sowing. We found that farmers’ access to and choice of strategies varied with their assets, irrigation access, perceptions of weather, and risk aversion. Richer farmers with more irrigation access used high levels of irrigation, and this strategy was associated with the highest yields in our survey sample. Poorer farmers with less secure access to irrigation were more likely to push back planting dates or switch crop type, and economic data suggest that these strategies were beneficial for those who did not have secure access to irrigation. Interestingly, after controlling for assets and irrigation access, we found that cognitive factors, such as beliefs that the monsoon onset date had changed over the last 20 years or risk aversion, were associated with increased adaptation. Our framework illustrates the importance of considering the complexity and heterogeneity of individual decision-making when conducting climate impact assessments or when developing policies to enhance the adaptive capacity of local communities to future climate variability and change.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.12.008

Type of Publication: Journal Article

Publisher: Elsevier