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Dealing with drought: livelihood options for drought risk reduction

Recent development in South Asia has led to a rapid increase in exploitation of rivers and groundwater, causing considerable stress on these water sources. This paper outlines the threat that drought poses to vulnerable communities in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and looks at how governments, other agencies and people themselves deal with drought.  It also summarises a case study of community-led drought risk reduction project in Rajasthan.

 Authors contend that community-based approaches to risk reduction enable more local and self-sustaining solutions that enhance people’s capacities to:

  • assess the situation and examine possibilities for addressing drought more constructively
  • organize themselves into groups to tackle the problem collectively
  • mobilize their strength and capacities to know and demand what is due to them from the government and other development actors
  • prepare for drought more effectively
  • move away from a ‘dependency’ frame of mind
  • make government and other actors aware and be a part of coordinated efforts towards preparedness

The paper describes community initiatives in the village of Lalwadi in Rajistan to respond to a situation of recurrent droughts and depleting water table. The community formed a "Drought Mitigation Group" that  prepared a plan with the objective of achieving ‘long- term self-reliance among the community to face the recurrent phenomenon of drought. The plan included:

  • formation of the disaster management group
  • community management skills training
  • social mobilization for collective action
  • measures to improve production; livestock management, and crop production, through better management practices

People also received training from government institutions, which allowed them to gain a better understanding of, and competence in the following areas:

  • dry land farming suitable for arid and semi arid zones linked with efficient water use
  • animal husbandry techniques and fodder management
  • farm forestry for medium and long term water management
  • improved agricultural practices including organic methods demanding less external inputs