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Household Drought Coping, Food Insecurity and Women in Odisha

In recent years, many parts of India have experienced increasingly frequent droughts, which have pushed the poor, women, and other weaker sections into vulnerable conditions. As the capacity of households to cope with droughts and other weather-based risks varies widely across groups and regions, the impact of droughts on households can be different, depending on local socio-economic conditions, geographic settings, and other factors.

It is difficult to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) for food security and sustainable agriculture, and gender equality, without reducing the adverse impacts of weather-based shocks like droughts on agriculture and other land-based activities that accommodate a sizeable proportion of the rural poor, women, and other weaker sections. As the capacity of women and men to cope with climate change varies widely across settings, local resources and uses, production conditions, and geographic situations do matter in assessing the impact of climate change at the community and household levels. Since food insecurity is a multidimensional socio-­economic issue, it has different implications for different segments of society. Regions and social groups dependent on farming are more likely to be affected by weather-based adversities in terms of production, income, employment, consumption and risk coping. However, sufficient evidence is not available for region and group-specific understanding and policy analysis. Therefore, understanding the challenges of food insecurity and gender inequality1 in drought-affected areas, which pose serious threats to the household economy andsustainable development, is important from a development policy perspective.

The household, as a decision-making unit, has to undertake various arrangements to manage resource use, basicentitlements and conflicts among the interests of its members (Sen 1981, 1983). In this context, the labour of women, and its use, is crucial for household security, particularly in areas that are susceptible to different weather-based adversities like drought. This is in spite of women’s inadequate and unequal access to and use of resources, such as water, land, credit, and farm inputs. As drought-induced shortfalls in household income and employment often force male workers to migrate, women are left to manage farming together with the usual household activities, with little access to andcontrol over resources.

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Updated On : 27th Apr, 2018

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