In India 53.4% of the geographical area comprises of arid and semi arid regions. These regions receive limited rainfall and agriculture based livelihoods are limited to productive lands. Ensuring livelihood security in these areas is critical to developing them, while ensuring that dependant natural resources are used judiciously. With scientific assessments indicating direct impacts of climate change on sectors of agriculture, its allied activities and water, building adaptive capacities of such climate sensitive sectors and livelihoods dependant on them is essential to help them cope better and improve their disaster preparedness. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supported an innovative project titled “Vulnerability Assessment and Enhancing Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change in Semi-Arid Regions of India (V&A)”. The project implemented in Mahabubnagar district, Andhra Pradesh and Udaipur district, Rajasthan comprised of a consortium of partners including M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, MANAGE (National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management) and AFPRO. The advisory role in the project was provided by an international consortium consisting of INFRAS and Inter Cooperation (IC). We were involved in grounding the programme activities at the grassroots or community level, connecting people and research, bringing their perspectives into research and cooperating and coordinating with grassroots NGOs, Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) and State Level Organizations. Three crucial areas considered under the project were Water (Availability and Quality), Agriculture (Food Security) and Rural Energy.
V&A is a bold attempt at presenting a scientific argument for grassroots level empowerment on Climate Change, especially among resource poor communities in remote villages. The key messages for policy consideration included the establishment of Water-seed-grain-fodder bank continuums and their maintenance, strategic investments in small scale infrastructure such as the establishment of mini agro-meteorology facilities at local level and training of ‘Climate Risk Managers, effective leveraging of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) for inclusion of climate strategies in district plans and sensitizing National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) to take up work related to natural resource management, national estimation of adaptation cost for leveraging external funds etc. Interestingly, V & A aimed at climate-resilient development as distinguished from development interventions that adapt livelihood systems to climate impacts. It represented our policy dialogue with both national and state governments on climate change.