Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Quantifying Vulnerability of Agricultural Systems in India to Weather Extremes

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  • Extreme weather events are expected to increase globally due to climate change thereby posing substantial risks to agricultural communities. The implications are especially high for tropical countries like India as the heavy dependence of agricultural sector to uncertain monsoons makes its agriculture highly vulnerable to weather variability and extremes. In this dissertation, we examine the vulnerability of agricultural systems in India to extreme weather events. To this end, we first develop an indicator of vulnerability using the partial moments model which captures two important dimensions of vulnerability - the likelihood of an agricultural system falling below some critical threshold as well as the extent of the loss below the threshold. We then demonstrate the usefulness of this indicator for policymakers with an empirical application to India by examining both the vulnerability of crop yields to weather extremes as well as the household vulnerability to poverty. The estimation results using a panel data of rice yields from thirty Indian villages indicate that extreme and severe dry events have a positive and significant effect on vulnerability in rainfed farms but not in irrigated farms. These results provide evidence of irrigation as an adaptive mechanism for farmers. When examining agricultural household’s vulnerability to poverty, we find similar effects of weather extremes with the household most vulnerable to poverty when exposed to an extreme dry event. We also find statistical evidence that crop diversification has a negative effect on vulnerability and is an important risk-mitigating tool employed by farm households. We next examine the vulnerability of Indian agriculture at a more aggregated level by exploiting a district-level panel data for forty years. Similar to the farm-level analysis, we find extreme and severe dry events to be the main drivers of vulnerability whereas irrigation and high-yield variety (HYV) seeds are found to increase resilience. We discuss the implications of our results for policymakers by examining the impacts under various hypothetical climate and technological scenarios.
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