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Farmers’ Perception, Adaptation to Groundwater Salinity, and Climate Change Vulnerability: Insights from North India

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  • 1 a Council for Social Development, New Delhi, India
  • | 2 b Monitoring and Evaluation, Sehgal Foundation, Gurgaon, India
  • | 3 c Department of Civil Engineering, GD Goenka University, Gurgaon, India
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Abstract

Groundwater salinity, caused by overextraction and aggravated by climate change, negatively affects crop productivity and threatens global food security. Poor farmers are vulnerable because of low adaptive capacity. A better understanding of their perceptions and adaptation is important to inform policies for successful adaptation. This paper represents an important study by exploring the same in Mewat, a salinity-affected socioeconomically disadvantaged district of northern India. The study uses a mixed-method approach with both secondary data and a primary survey of 250 farmers. A large number of farmers perceived negative impacts on water, crop, income, and assets, and they adapt in various ways such as water, crop, and land management; livelihood diversification; and a shift toward surface water irrigation. Perceived impacts differed between richer and poorer farmers, whereas adaptation measures varied across the educational, social, and economic backgrounds of farmers. Lack of awareness, education, skill development, and livelihood opportunities are found to be hindrances, whereas institutional and infrastructural support are facilitators of adaptation. In comparing the findings with global experiences, we argued that developed countries intervene more in the policy level and infrastructure, whereas in developing countries, adaptation strategies are local, context specific, and low cost. The insights from our study will be useful for intervention in Mewat and similar areas across the developing world. We further argue that farmers make adaptation decisions on the basis of perceived impacts and cost–benefit analysis. Therefore, future research work on quantifying the negative impacts and cost–benefit analysis of various adaptation measures will be useful to ensure successful adaptation in the region and beyond.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Susmita Mitra, susmita.mitra81@gmail.com

Abstract

Groundwater salinity, caused by overextraction and aggravated by climate change, negatively affects crop productivity and threatens global food security. Poor farmers are vulnerable because of low adaptive capacity. A better understanding of their perceptions and adaptation is important to inform policies for successful adaptation. This paper represents an important study by exploring the same in Mewat, a salinity-affected socioeconomically disadvantaged district of northern India. The study uses a mixed-method approach with both secondary data and a primary survey of 250 farmers. A large number of farmers perceived negative impacts on water, crop, income, and assets, and they adapt in various ways such as water, crop, and land management; livelihood diversification; and a shift toward surface water irrigation. Perceived impacts differed between richer and poorer farmers, whereas adaptation measures varied across the educational, social, and economic backgrounds of farmers. Lack of awareness, education, skill development, and livelihood opportunities are found to be hindrances, whereas institutional and infrastructural support are facilitators of adaptation. In comparing the findings with global experiences, we argued that developed countries intervene more in the policy level and infrastructure, whereas in developing countries, adaptation strategies are local, context specific, and low cost. The insights from our study will be useful for intervention in Mewat and similar areas across the developing world. We further argue that farmers make adaptation decisions on the basis of perceived impacts and cost–benefit analysis. Therefore, future research work on quantifying the negative impacts and cost–benefit analysis of various adaptation measures will be useful to ensure successful adaptation in the region and beyond.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Susmita Mitra, susmita.mitra81@gmail.com
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