Climate change adaptation in the Western Ghats

Adaptation trajectories and challenges in the Western Ghats: A case study of Attappady, south India


  • Tribal people in the south Indian area of Attappady have become progressively marginalised over the past decades.
  • Planned adaptation is important for coping but did not succeed in creating capacities that incentivise autonomous adaptation.
  • Prevalent adaptation strategies are ill-attuned to the complex socio-ecological and cultural matrix of Attappady.
  • Root causes of vulnerability remain persistent, posing challenges for future adaptation trajectories.

Abstract: Climate change adaptation has become an important aspect of research and policy agendas at different scales – globally, nationally and locally. One stream of thought relates to the thematic area of barriers or challenges that adaptation faces. This article explores local adaptation trajectories and challenges in a tribal development block in south India. Through the lens of key livelihood strategies pursued in the block – namely income from development interventions, migration and on-farm strategies – it explores the challenges and factors that contribute or have contributed, to impeding successful adaptation outcomes in Attappady. The article argues that development interventions (i.e planned adaptations) have not succeeded in addressing structural causes of vulnerability; they have, however, provided an important coping mechanism. Migration is a socially and culturally differentiated phenomenon and is not a viable diversification option for the most vulnerable population segments in Attappady. Finally, it is found that recent on-farm adaptation strategies present a case of maladaptation that promote marginalisation and are ill-suited to the local ecological and cultural landscape.

Keywords: Adaptation; Vulnerability; Rural development; India

Read the article

Published 24. May 2018 - 8:59 - Updated 24. May 2018 - 9:07