Coping Options, India

In India, the coping options curve is an overly-simple model. Indian society is made considerably more complex by the prevalence of the caste system and by the existence of certain strong religious taboos. For example: Drought and flood-prone regions in India are inhabited by people who use diversified resource strategies to deal with risk. The sources of the risks may be environmental, institutional, social, cultural, political, or induced by market failure. The sources of assistance may arrive from intra- or inter-household, group, communal, or state entities, the last of which is much stronger in India than in most of Africa.

Household Risk Adjustment Strategies

Asset disposal, migration, reduction or modification of consumption, reallocation of resources among different enterprises.
Labor, credit, land-related bilateral or multilateral contracts, informal sharing, gift-giving.
Group or Communal
Reliance on common property resources; group plowing, sowing, or other farm operations like plant protection, drainage, purity of animal breeds, etc.; group-level grain, fuelwood, and resource reserves.
Public Interventions
Drought or flood relief, aerial spraying for plant protection, distribution of seed or seedlings, infrastructural assistance.
Cultural Artifacts
Myths, folklore, religious, or other sanctions against private profit from community deprivation.

Technological Adjustments

Dry sowing, early sowing to break synchrony in the vulnerable stage of a crop or the virulent stage of a pest, summer plowing.
Mid-course corrections, such as relay cropping, thinning, devegetation, mulching.
Salvage Treatments
Harvesting the crop as fodder.
Preventive Treatments
Indigenous knowledge relating to seed treatments that minimize drought or pest damage, pest elimination, and livestock veterinary services.

Cultural Risk Adjustment

Collective action was mostly a markedly absent component in the Sahelian villages I surveyed in 1995, in sharp contrast to India.
Collective Action
Group-based management of resources such as water, plant protection, watershed management, grazing land, other common property. Rotating savings and credit associations, and use of funds from these fro common property assets such as temples, schools, pesticide sprayers, etc. Group norms for, e.g., collecting firewood or thatching material.
Folk Ritual
Folk songs, myths, stories, and proverbs are used to generate psychological and social resilience.
Institution Building
Generation of norms and values relating to common property, as well as participative decisionmaking, aid risk adjustments through, e.g., the pooling of bullocks, farming implements, or other resources, and strengthen indigenous institution-building processes.


I wish to thank Professor Anil K. Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, for sharing with me his more than 20 years of insights into Indian coping options.

The correct citation for this page is:
Milich, L., 1997. Coping Options, India .

The Table of Contents of my work on Sahelian food security is available.

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This site last updated July 18, 1997.