Biological Sciences

Climate change adaptation of smallholder farmers in Northwest India


Meha Jain, Ph.D. Candidate
Columbia University


My research examines if smallholder farmers in rural India are able to adapt and cope with current climate variability. Specifically, I aim to identify which socio-economic (e.g. access to capital), biophysical (e.g. soil type), perceptional (e.g. risk aversion), and demographic (e.g. family size) factors are associated with farmers who are able to adapt to current climate variability. This will help identify which farmers will be able to adapt to future changes in climate and which farmers will be the most vulnerable to impending climate change.


I conduct my research using multiple methods. By analyzing satellite data, I map the cropping patterns of smallholder farmers across Gujarat, India and identify how cropping patterns have changed through time (2000 to the present). I couple these analyses with structured household surveys where I interview 750 farmers about how and why they adapt their cropping practices to currently climate variability. By coupling these approaches, I gain both a landscape-level understand of how farmers change cropping patterns based on climate variability as well as a detailed household-level understanding of who is able to adapt and why.


My research shows that farmers who have less access to resources like irrigation and capital are more likely to be negatively impacted by climate variability. Furthermore, we find that farmers who have more accurate climate perceptions are also more likely to adapt to short-term climate variability. Future work will identify how social networks and climate information influence whether farmers adapt to current climate variability.

My work is following the same farmers through time (2011 – 2013) to see how individual farmers make decisions under climate variable years. This will help elucidate which factors most strongly influence farmers’ cropping decisions as well as which farmers make the best decisions through time during climate variable years. By collecting this multi-year dataset, I will be able to identify which farmers are the best able to cope with short-term climate variability and thus may be the most able to adapt to future longer-term changes in climate.

Comments are closed.