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Observing adaptive capacity in Indian rice production systems

1 UWA School of Agriculture and Environment, University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, 6009, Australia
2 Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hants, UK, SO171BJ

Special Editions: Elucidating the Specifics of Food Security: Diverse Challenges, Differing Perspectives and Ranges of Solutions

Theoretically we understand the dimensions of both generic and specific adaptive capacity, however, there are few studies which document actual observed adaptive capacity. This study aims to address this gap by documenting the adaptive capacity of Indian rice production systems, an agro-socio-ecological system. We explore how Indian rice production systems have responded to historical climate shocks in order to assess their likely capacity to respond to current and future climate changes. Using a panel dataset of both Indian rice crop yield and extreme heat and drought shocks measured at the district level from 1980 to 2009, we sought to detect evidence of farmers: (i) adapting through reduced rice crop yield sensitivity to climate shocks over time, and (ii) responding to climate shocks by altering farming practices. We found that changes in average climate shock exposure over time was not linked to changes in average rice crop yields over time at a location. We also observed that rice crop yield sensitivity to year-to-year fluctuations in climate shocks has not decreased over time; this implies that over time the Indian rice production system has not increased its capacity to buffer inter-annual variation in shock exposure. We did not detect the presence of learning from exposure to climate shocks; in fact, greater exposure to extreme heat shocks eroded farmers’ capacity to respond to current heat events. There was no clear pattern of farmers in districts that experienced worsening average climate shock exposure responding with the uptake of plausible adaptive practices. In summary, there was not a clear signal of adaptive capacity being present in Indian rice production systems.
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Keywords adaptive capacity; extreme heat; drought; rice; agriculture

Citation: J.M.A. Duncan, J. Dash, E.L. Tompkins. Observing adaptive capacity in Indian rice production systems. AIMS Agriculture and Food, 2017, 2(2): 165-182. doi: 10.3934/agrfood.2017.2.165

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