The paper identifies the current coping strategies for climate variability by the chronically poor in India and highlights some of the barriers to and opportunities for successful adaptation. The author follows the principles of the ‘bottom-up’ approach to adaptation where the starting point for action is the analysis of present vulnerability and not predictions of future scenarios.Existing responses to climate variability that could be improved include livelihood diversification through migration, employment generated by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the potential to improve agriculture. These responses are described in more detail below.
In some areas, such as those where pressures on natural resources are already high and their quality is likely to change as a result of climate change, facilitating migration and incorporating it in rural development programmes could improve non natural-resource based livelihoods
Facilitation of migration should be accompanied by mechanisms to improve both the rights and living conditions of migrants by simplifying and enforcing the rights of workers to decent working conditions and wages
The existing employment guarantee schemes (that give rural people the right to at least 100 days employment per year) could be improved by issuing job cards per individual and not per household because the chronically poor have high number of dependants. The process should also be more transparent by publicising the existing opportunities for jobs
Agriculture could be improved through water efficient irrigation methods and a refocus on the neglected area of productivity of rainfed agriculture where irrigation is not feasible and or cannot be improved
For the dryland areas with limited opportunities for setting up large scale agricultural infrastructure, one option is bio-prospecting, using the gene pool for crop and animal improvements and then adopting the varieties with the support of communities
Existing watershed development programmes that are implemented by Watershed Associations should be complimented with pro poor activities such as horticulture and dairy farming that make use of the improved moisture conditions resulting from the promoted soil and water conservation techniques.
The paper concludes by recommending that the above opportunities and others should be explored in more detail at scales that allow for action.