Knowing Climate Change: Local Social Institutions and Adaptation in Indian Groundwater Irrigation

Trevor Birkenholtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do farmers understand and predict weather variability; in what ways are local weather prediction techniques institutionalized (e.g., in new agricultural practices or cropping decisions) to meet the agricultural challenges of climate change-induced socioecological variability; and how do these vary across space, according to socioecological difference? This article examines these questions through a case study examination of local weather prediction methods and adaptive strategies to ongoing weather-related variability by groundwater-dependent, irrigating farmers in Rajasthan, India. Conducted in 2009 and 2011, the work finds, first, that farmers rely on multiple local methods of weather prediction, which, along with multiple and often conflicting social and ecological factors, inform their cropping decisions. Second, these prediction methods and associated cropping strategies interact with a number of strategies to mitigate weather and agrarian variability more generally, such as new cropping strategies, seasonal migration, and market articulations. The article advances our thinking about what climate change, as yet another (but perhaps unique) agrarian perturbation, means for farmers' livelihoods. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of the analysis for formal climate change adaptation strategies and related ongoing groundwater policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-362
Number of pages9
JournalProfessional Geographer
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • India
  • climate change
  • groundwater
  • irrigation
  • local knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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