Gender and Climate Change addressed for the first time at the XV National Conference on Women’s Studies, India

Inaugural session of the conference

Inaugural session of the conference

Gender and women’s rights are being increasingly addressed worldwide through movements and media, which are inspired by the realm of women’s studies. While this change is a welcome one, it also has to be kept in mind that the challenges and disparities still remain and a long way has to be traversed. At this juxtaposition of phenomenon, the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) organised the XV National Conference on Women’s Studies at the University of Madras, Chennai from 22 – 25 January 2017 with a theme “Women in a Changing World: Restructured inequalities, counter currents and Sites of Resistance”.

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The conference had a number of sessions focussing on themes related to women’s issues however the theme on “Gender and Climate Change” was introduced for the first time in an IAWS conference. Dr Amrita Patel (DECCMA) and Prof Nitya Rao (ASSAR) were the convenors of this sub-theme. Dr Patel chaired General Sessions, Prof Rao chaired sessions on Energy and Adaptation and Prof Asha Hans (DECCMA) also chaired a session on Flood and Deltas.

With two members from Sansristi as Session-chairs and four researchers as paper-presenters, DECCMA objectives and research undertaken were disseminated well. Brief summaries of the presentations are as follows:

Farha Naaz (Centre for Environment and Development) presented a paper titled “Climate Change and Adaptation: Strategy and coping mechanism – Role of women Self Help Groups in Indian Bengal Delta”. The presentation was based on the work done earlier by CED but the study area is a part of the DECCMA Study Area. DECCMA research studies the impacts of climate change on deltaic populations and involves having baseline knowledge on migration and adaptation initiatives taking place in the study areas and this study corroborates that. The presentation discussed the post-2009 Cyclone Aila scenario in IBD where male migration is on the rise as the delta in becoming increasingly vulnerable and the women who are left behind are tasked to take on more responsibility of the household looking after both the elderly and the children. In such a situation, Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) started acting as powerful means of social development and an important tool of micro financing. The scheme of micro financing through SHGs has given significant economic power to the hands of women thereby elevating the economic status of their families.

Gender and climate change session in progress

Gender and climate change session in progress

Jasmine Giri (Sansristi) presented a paper titled “Climate change effects on women: a case study of Odisha”. DECCMA has a strong focus on gender in its research components and this presentation based on secondary analysis examined the impact of disasters on women’s livelihood in Jagatsingpur district of Odisha. The paper relied on secondary data to identify the impact of disasters in the district and its effect on women’s livelihood, particularly after the super cyclone Kalinga in 1999. The dominant livelihood in Jagatsingpur area is agriculture and fisheries and thus the community, specifically the women are vulnerable to the slightest changes in the availability or access to these natural resources. The coping mechanisms adopted by women in such a situation were also shared.

Sukanya Banerjee (Centre for Environment and Development) presented a paper titled “Climate Change and Male Migration: Role of Women in the Changed Environ”. During the presentation, DECCMA’s overview was shared followed by the adverse impacts of Climate Change on the vulnerable Indian Bengal Delta (IBD) and its people. This presentation was also based on work done earlier by CED but the study area is a part of the DECCMA Study Area and the study was adapted to this presentation to throw light on DECCMA’s research questions pertaining to migration. The paper primarily focused on the fact that cyclone Aila wreaked havoc in IBD in 2009 as a result of which many people lost their livelihoods and 50% of able bodied males were compelled to migrate out of their homes to as many as 10 different states in India to work as unskilled labour in the real estate sector. The regular remittances which they send to their families as a result of this ‘climate induced’ migration has brought about a significant change in the social construct of the area. The women of the households were suddenly burdened with a new sense of responsibility in the form of being the new household heads in the absence of the male members of their families. The need for empowerment of women was also focused on to adapt to climate change.

Sumanta Banerjee (Chilika Development Authority) presented a paper titled “Linking Women Empowerment, Resilience in the context of Climate change: A case study of Bhusandapur in the shore of Chilika lake of Odisha” which aimed to conceptualize and understand the links of women’s empowerment and resilience in the context of the climate change. This presentation was based on Focus Group Discussions conducted in Bhusandapur village of Tangi block in Khordha district of Odisha. The environmental fragility of the study area was explained in the context of indicators of climate variability and then with the help of women’s empowerment framework by Longwe (1995), the paper looked at resilience as the result of absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities. The absorptive and adaptive capacities responses were captured and subsequently with the help of an example the transition phase of the Bhusandapur village was explained. Then, the successful case study of tent-house and Dry-fish business led by women’s organization in the context of climate change adaptation was linked with the primary objective of the study.

All the researchers felt that interactions with other researchers and attending relevant lectures helped them to gain a deeper understanding on the issues plaguing women in a changing world, be it employment, inequalities, discrimination, violence or women farmers (labour, livelihoods and resource rights). Case studies as shared by the speakers helped to bring together instances from across the country to one platform. In the theme Session 10 on Climate Change, discussions focussed on the impacts of climate change on health, socio economic conditions, particularly on women, and the risks and vulnerabilities that women face in the context of climate change. Adaptation strategies, coping mechanisms and approaches of mitigation were also discussed. This theme did not have as many presentations as compared to the other themes which may throw some light on the need to bring attention to the emerging issue of how a changing climate can have differential impacts based on gender. However, akin to a baby’s first step where the effort has to be continued to make sure the wobbliness disappears, this effort of addressing gender and climate change has to be continued to make our concerns visible.

This post was written with contributions from reports written by Dr Amrita Patel, Prof Nitya Rao, Ms Farha Naaz, Ms Jasmine Giri, Ms Sukanya Banerjee and Mr Sumanta Banerjee.

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Training opportunities availed by Indian researchers

Besides creating learning opportunities for its members, the DECCMA project also encourages them to make use of opportunities provided by institutes external to the project. Training opportunities help researchers to garner new knowledge and implement the lessons in their ongoing research.

Two researchers from the DECCMA-Indian Team, Dr Somnath Hazra & Subhajit Ghosh attended two trainings each during the past two months. While attending the trainings organized by the DECCMA consortium, the researchers were aware where in the project the knowledge will be utilised. For the trainings organized by other institutes, the knowledge provided a foundation for further learning and it helped them think about the applicability of the training in their DECCMA research areas. Continue reading

Interview with #DECCMA5th Poster Winner – Gregory Cooper

Poster Greg Cooper

Greg Cooper poster

Gregory Cooper, PhD student at the University of Southampton, won the Poster Competition at DECCMA’s 5th Consortium Workshop in Kolkata (Aug 2016). Here he is interviewed.

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1. Why did you choose the topic for the poster?

This poster relates to the wider topic of my PhD, which focuses on exploring social-ecological tipping points and nonlinearities in delta systems. The Chilika lagoon of the Mahanadi delta, India, captured my interest due to its historical productivity collapse from 7200 tonnes/year (1980s average) to 3100 tonnes/year (1990s average), triggering declined fisher wellbeing, livelihood opportunities and the first recorded instances of economic migration from the region. Therefore, this poster communicates progress (September 2016) on the development of a systems dynamics model of Chilika’s fishery, to assess the causes and probabilities of future productivity collapses. The model’s structure and parameters show how the different components of the system fit together. The small section on model performance analysis argues that the model is capable of reproducing historical fishery trends. Thirdly, initial findings show that the model is producing realistic and policy relevant outputs, which may eventually inform the future governance of Chilika’s fishery.

2. What data sources have you used for the analysis?

The construction of the model has relied on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, from a mix of primary and secondary sources:

  • The rainfall-runoff models of the Lower Mahanadi and Chilika’s western catchments are built from daily resolution rainfall and temperature datasets from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD). Daily river discharge from Tikarapara on the Lower Mahanadi catchment is obtained from the Indian Central Water Commission’s ‘Water Resource Information System of India’.
  • Ecohydrological monitoring datasets of the Chilika Development Authority (CDA) parameterise interactions between freshwater inflows to Chilika and lagoonal salinity, dissolved oxygen, temperature and aquatic vegetation coverage.
  • CDA datasets also inform the model’s socioeconomic components, including estimations of fisher populations, boat numbers, fish price, fishing costs, catch per unit effort and so on.
  • Interviews were conducted with Chilika’s stakeholders and experts to understand any qualitative feedbacks driving Chilika’s fishery catch. For example, Chilika’s fishers spoke of how they adapt fishing efforts to their perceptions of fish stock abundance, in an attempt to protect against overexploitation of Chilika’s resource. Moreover, interviews with Chilika’s scientists and governors have helped consider feasible management approaches to model, such as the necessity of continued sediment dredging and the difficulties of implementing productivity quotas.
  • With the exception of the hydroclimatic datasets, all data was obtained during the field visit of February-April 2016. I express gratitude to the CDA, Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project of Odisha and Jadavpur University for their kind assistance during my visit.

3. What’s the significance of your conclusions?

The model’s outputs have two main significances:

  • Although known since the lagoon’s ecorestoration in 2000, outputs support the argument that Chilika’s sediment requires periodic flushing to sustain fish catches. Without reopening, the lagoon’s main tidal outlet effectively closes by 2040, inhibiting the seasonal migration of 70% of Chilika’s marine and brackish species.
  • Outputs also show that higher annual catches do not necessarily mean higher income for Chilika’s fishers. Fish catch may decline beyond 2060 as fishers pursue alternative livelihoods, but per capita income is higher than it would otherwise be under a future without alternative livelihoods. By guarding against anthropogenic overexploitation, such falling catches promote the multidecadal sustainability of Chilika’s fish stock for future generations of fishers.
    Further work aims to assess how alternative governance approaches can enhance Chilika’s sustainability under a spectrum of plausible futures, before investigating critical driver thresholds leading to collapse, to design a “regional safe and just operating space” for Chilika.

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DECCMA India’s Household Survey in Mahanadi Delta

The DECCMA Household Survey went live on May 31 2016 and was completed on July 19 2016. A survey company was appointed (according to our survey protocol) and representatives from Jadavpur University, Chilika Development Authority, and Sansristi were present from the project.

Prior to this, training of enumerators, field testing of the questionnaire with the use of tablets, were done.

Households from fifty locations within our study area were selected for this survey based on migrant and non-migrant as emerged from our household listing activity. The survey team travelled to four locations in Bhadrak district, eight locations in Jagatsinghpur district, five locations in Kendrapara district, twelve locations in Khordha district, and twenty one locations in Puri district to complete this survey.

A total of 1427 households were surveyed which included both migrant and non-migrant households, and male and female respondents. DECCMA’s gender sensitive approach ensured that male enumerators interviewed male respondents and female enumerators interviewed female respondents.

The biggest challenge faced by the team during this activity was the heat wave. Odisha was suffering heat wave conditions since April and temperatures almost touched 50 degree Celsius during the survey. Necessary precautions were taken by carrying sufficient water and glucose. The afternoons were the worst and we had members from the survey team suffering blackouts due to the extreme heat. Some had to be hospitalised as well. Under such conditions, the survey had to be paused for a few days.

During the data collection phase, some locations were revisited to maximise the response percentage. This was done since during the main data collection phase, there were some households where members were not present or unavailable to give responses at our time of visit.

Simultaneously with the data collection, continued the data checking processes. The research team put in hard efforts to ensure that checking was done meticulously. The data from this survey will be guiding most of our research work.

Since the DECCMA Indian team works in two deltas (Indian Bengal Delta and Mahanadi Delta), learning from this survey in Mahanadi Delta will help us in implementing it in the survey for the Indian Bengal Delta.

The DECCMA-India team thanks all who have participated, guided, contributed, and helped in this Mahanadi Household Survey activity.

Out-migration and effects on women in the Mahanadi delta

DECCMA is committed to providing policy support to develop sustainable, gender-sensitive adaptations within deltaic environments. Taking a gender-sensitive approach to the research process, and ensuring that data can be analysed with a gender lens, are integral to achieving this aim.

Awareness of the importance of gender has increased as a result of global commitments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action. The recently-announced Sustainable Development Goals includes one where the aim is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Gender equality and empowerment of women also features in the text of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At local level, however, gender differences are pervasive. Understanding context-specific differences in the roles of men and women, and the relations between them, is essential. Only when these are known is it possible to ensure that planned adaptations are equitable and contribute to gender equality.

In this clip, University of Southampton PhD researcher Giorgia Prati explains how she is investigating the effects of out-migration on women left behind in the Mahanadi delta, India.

Examples of adaptation to climate change in deltas

examples of adaptation

Examples of adaptation

The DECCMA WP6 partners have been recording examples of adaptation that are in practice across our study sites. These examples, from literature and observation, are being collated into Adaptation Inventories for each area – a database of current adaptation practices that are being utilised to combat climate change in deltas.

For a sneak peak at some of the types of adaptation that have been recorded, see these illustrated examples:
Mahanadi Delta, India
Volta Delta, Ghana
Ganges Brahamputra Meghna Delta, Bangladesh
Indian Bengal Delta, India

The full Adaptation Inventories will be completed later in 2016.

A Tale of two Cities

2015 saw an acceleration of DECCMA with extensive work on the development of Household Surveys across four study deltas in India, Bangladesh and Ghana, looking at the component role climatic change might play in migration and adaptation. This work has been substantially supported by the outcomes of a sister project to DECCMA in the form of ESPA Deltas. Both of these projects were represented at the AGU December 2015 in San Francisco at a specific session relating to Delta research, called Sustainable Deltas: Multidisciplinary Analyses of Complex Systems II, Global Environmental Change (Primary Convener Irina Overeem CSDMS/INSTAAR on behalf of Belmont Deltas), with cross-referencing between the talks demonstrating a continuity of learning and development. The following were presented:

Hutton C.W., & Nicholls, R.J. & Allan, A. (2015), Migration in Vulnerable Deltas: A Research Strategy. AGU, 2015, San Francisco, 14-18th December

Nicholls, et. al. (Hutton, C.W) (2015). Ecosystem services and livelihoods in deltaic environments (Invited). AGU 2015, San Francisco, 14-18th December

Lazar, A. et. al. (Hutton, C.W) (2015). An integrated framework to assess plausible future livelihood and poverty changes in deltas: an application to coastal Bangladesh. AGU 2015, San Francisco, 14-18th December

Payo Garcia, A. & Hutton, C.W. (2015). Assessing the time scale response of Health, Livelihoods, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation in Populous Deltas. AAG, Chicago 2015

The presentations within the session were wide ranging and thought provoking with examples of papers and posters from highly developed contexts to regions of the developing world under extraordinary stress from environmental degradation and climatic changes. One common thematic approach that might be drawn from the session was the diversity and complexity of the social interaction across these landscape scale features with competing requirements for industry and food production as well as the socio-economic and cultural needs of the people who occupy the lands including the complex drivers of migration and urbanisation. The meeting was followed by a meal in down town San Francisco where, Profs Overeem and Nicholls lead a discussion on possible collaborative efforts that have continued from this meeting.

Drawing on a specific component of this discussion, namely that of land and water and the relation to food security, The DECCMA project was also presented as a case study at the Land and Water Days, November 2015 in Rome where a conference was jointly convened by FAO, IFAD and WFP as part of efforts aimed at reaching effective and lasting impacts for land and water actions on the ground. The event is presented as an opportunity to review policies, technologies and approaches to secure sustained improvements in support to activities on the ground; and foster exchanges of experience between countries and regions. The University of Southampton presented a detailed study of DECCMA in the “Land and Water assessment for identifying vulnerabilities and sustaining rural livelihoods” session entitled; Deltas, Vulnerability & Climate Change: Migration & Adaptation: Assessing vulnerability of populations to land and water shocks, with elements of the lessons learned in ESPA Deltas as an example of how remote sensing can be used to extract both social and biophysical data of relevance to planning in food security and livelihoods. The talk was well received and as well as ongoing established links with FAO (specifically John Latham NRL) has spawned some discussions and potential collaboration with WFP.

Migration: A complex phenomena which defies simplification

Climate change, poverty and the nexus of socio-environmental drivers that drive or influence migration has emerged as a challenging issue to a wide group of researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Recognised in Paris and the Sustainable Development Goals alike (SDG 10, which sets out a target for “facilitating orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies) the issue has made it in where it had not in the MDGs 15 years earlier. However, when we drill deeper into these phenomena it becomes clear that unlike say poverty, social injustice or the disease burden, migration describes a social phenomenon to which it is disputed as to whether it poses a threat or an opportunity to society, or as seems more likely, sits as some complex connective tissue between the two.

What is responsible migration and who is the beneficiary? Within the experience of the DECCMA project, the universal tacit response has been that Migration is generally a bad thing, a port of last call, a sign of decline. However, discussions with communities and local policy makers nuance this picture and mark the requirement for a far more subtle understanding of this multi-stranded process. Whilst It is clear this is a complex process with many different sub-phenomena occurring we perhaps need to ask ourselves whether it might be helpful to explicitly differentiate between types of migration in our common lexicon (as is common in the literature). Could we use the word commute for shorter periods of activity with migration reserved for more extensive periods only? Or introduce a typology of migration with type 1, 2 and 3 where type 1 represents weekly migration and type 3 permanent. The reason this might be suggested is that migration is sometimes handled, particularly by decision makers, as a single phenomenon requiring a single policy response.

Perhaps even more pressing is the need to recognise that there really is no consensus on, if and when different types of migration might be a benefit and to whom. It seems reasonable to say that as a component of livelihood diversification it provides input to the overall resilience of a society, allowing communities to respond to shocks and stresses by offering an alternative income (the classic example being the temporary rickshaw puller dispatched by a family to supplement income), but what of more permanent migratory behaviour? On the one hand this can pick at the fabric of a community with the generation of women headed households where the burden of work and family care falls to women alone and migrators being isolated from family and community. However, it is also apparent that such migratory behaviour underpins elements of developing and emerging economies. Indeed, we might ask ourselves where the West would be if migration to industrial centres had not occurred?

In a development context we often conflate economic growth with a decline in poverty (although the relationship is in fact more complex) but are we then, de facto, really saying cheap labour from the rural areas is often the fuel of competitive industry. A thought inducing example of this that has been recognised in the ESPA Deltas project ( is that salinity ingress to the delta is associated with shrimp production. Plausibly this might be seen as a reasonable adaptation to a climate related phenomena, however the process induces large-scale loss of livelihood which can be associated with migration. This in turn generates cheap labour forces with supressed wages in urban environments. In both cases, GDP will be benefited but the distribution of that wealth is of grave concern. Further to this, it is possible to see that policy perspectives in this area can also be rather simplistic with economic investments designed to retain people in their region of origin potentially mobilising people to move. It is perfectly plausible to see investment in agriculture providing better incomes, which in turn allow for migration, which is a costly business in itself. These subtleties became substantial phenomena when considered across the populations for which migration is a potential option. As such we need to work towards an understanding of this phenomena, before establishing policy strategies.

Contributions of migration to household resilience among rural rice farmers in the Mahanadi delta

Landscape in the delta

Landscape in the delta

DECCMA researcher, Dr Ellie Tighe (University of Southampton), spent six months in the Mahanadi Delta, Odisha, India undertaking qualitative research on the impact of migration in helping households in the delta cope with various shocks and stresses. Dr Tighe was accompanied by fellow University of Southampton research, Dr John Duncan who was conducting research as part of the Leverhulme Trust funded PREFUS project researching the impacts of natural disasters on the resilience of small-scale rice farmers.

Dr Tighe conducted over 50 in-depth, qualitative interviews with selected rice farming households across 10 villages in the Mahanadi Delta (35 of these households had a member migrating). These interviews explored the livelihood strategies employed by the households, the major shocks and stresses to their livelihoods, their coping strategies in general, and how migration enabled the household to cope and avoid such shocks and stresses. Themes were identified highlighting contributions of migration to household asset profiles, and subsequent resilience to climate shocks and stresses.

The findings identified four core types of migration:

  • Seasonal and cyclic migration of unskilled labour into low-value, precarious and irregular employment within minimal contribution to household resilience;
  • Long term and semi-permanent migration of low or semi-skilled labour into formal, low-wage employment with varied contribution to household resilience;
  • Permanent migration of high-skilled labour, high-value salaried employment contributing to household resilience.

The relationship between migration and household resilience to climatic shocks and stresses were embedded within the local institutional context (e.g. the effectiveness of local government institutions, quality of local social networks, availability and quality of local employment opportunities and existing household social and material asset profiles). These factors therefore have impacts on the effectiveness on migration as an adaptation strategy

Dr Tighe and her colleague’s findings will be submitted to a peer-review journal for publication shortly.

Projecting fish production under climate change: A comparative analysis across three vulnerable deltas

projecting fish production

Work flow between Step 1 (data collection and comparative analysis) and Step 2 (modelling).

Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) will be conducting a comparative analysis on the importance of fisheries for food security in the three deltas/regions: Volta (Ghana), Mahanadi (India) and Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (Bangladesh) and how climate change could potentially influence marine ecosystems productivity. Deltas communities are strongly dependent on coastal fisheries including shallow wetlands and other semi-enclosed bodies of water. In these three countries fishery is a very important sector and contributes between 4-5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Despite its importance for the local economy there are marked differences amongst countries, for example, the average per capita consumption (per year) of fish products varies with Ghana consuming the highest amount (25kg) followed by Bangladesh (14kg) and India (8.2kg). Delta communities are ranked amongst the poorest in the world and as a consequence potential impacts of global and regional climate change on the marine ecosystem productivity could have dramatic impacts on their economy and food security.

For the DECCMA project data will be collected from available database and literature to give information about fisheries (e.g. commercial species, time series data of catches, fishing and natural mortality, division between subsistence, artisanal and commercial fisheries) and socio-economic structure (e.g. number of fishermen, type of vessels, incomes/trades, consumption, livelihoods) in Ghana, Bangladesh and India. This part of the work will be conducted in liaison with local partners who will supply PML with local data whenever possible. This information will be summarised for the project report(s) and in published paper(s). The data collected and the information gained from the comparative analysis will support ecosystem modelling also carried out by PML. A model of water circulation and energy transfer (Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory Coastal Ocean Modelling System – POLCOMS) will be coupled with a model of the low trophic levels (the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model – ERSEM) and fisheries models (size-spectrum and species based). The output from this framework will be fish production potential under climate change scenarios across the three delta/regions. Finally these results will inform other work packages in the DECCMA project (migration, integration, economics and adaptation).