Water scarcity is one of the most critical issues facing agriculture today. To understand how people manage the risk of water scarcity and growing pressures of increased climate variability, exploring perceptions of risk and how these perceptions feed into response behaviour and willingness to adapt is critical. This paper revisits existing frameworks that conceptualise perceptions of environmental risk and decision-making, and uses empirical evidence from an in-depth study conducted in Rajasthan, India, to emphasise how individual and collective memories, and experience of past extreme events shape current definitions and future expectations of climatic risks. In doing so, we demonstrate the value of recognising the role of local perceptions of water scarcity (and how they vary between and within households) in constructing social vulnerability. This expanded understanding of risk perception is critical for incentivising individual adaptation and strengthening local adaptation pathways. . . . . . . Keywords Perceptions Water scarcity Adaptation Social vulnerability Memory Climate change India Introduction water-demanding crops, agricultural intensification, misuse and over extraction, population pressures, and the impacts Managing water scarcity has emerged as a growing challenge of climate variability and change, water scarcity remains a globally, particularly for rural livelihoods dependent on crucial limiting factor driving farmer vulnerability. The rainfed agriculture (United Nations 2015; Gosling and Indian state of Rajasthan is an illustrative example of these Arnell 2016; Mekonnen and Hoekstra 2016). In the face of interrelated challenges. Rajasthan has the country’slargest increasing demand from urbanisation, cultivation of new arid and semi-arid area and faces acute water scarcity due to erratic monsoonal rainfall as well as critically overexploited groundwater resources. Editor:Chinwe Ifejika Speranza While science provides the tools to understand and manage Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article water resources, it is also vital to understand how rural people (https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-018-1358-y) contains supplementary perceive local water scarcity and how this is socially differen- material, which is available to authorized users. tiated. A failure to appreciate how people perceive the mag- nitude of environmental and climatic risks or their implica- * Chandni Singh tions for livelihoods has been identified as significant barriers firstname.lastname@example.org to adaptation (Patt and Schröter 2008; Singh et al. 2016). Perceptions shape the responses people undertake (Nguyen Henny Osbahr email@example.com et al. 2016; Sutcliffe et al. 2016) to cope, adapt, not adapt or maladapt. In recent years, there have been an increasing num- Peter Dorward firstname.lastname@example.org ber of studies capturing farmer perceptions of risk. Studies have explored perceptions of climate variability and climate School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of change (Banerjee 2014;Nguyen et al. 2016; Sutcliffe et al. Reading, Whiteknights, P.O. Box 237, Reading, Berkshire RG6 2016) and compared these to meteorological data (Burnham et 6AR, UK al. 2016;Meze-Hausken 2004;Mubaya etal. 2012;Simelton Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore City Campus, No. et al. 2013; Sutcliffe et al. 2016), but they do not always fully 197/36, 2nd Main Road Sadashivanagar, Bangalore, Karnataka 560 interrogate the underlying factors that shape these views. 080, India 2418 C. Singh et al. There has been a geographic concentration of research on the make decisions from multiple choices. Risk perception is fun- African continent, with far fewer studies in Asia examining damental to this process of risk management and behavioural causes and implications of differential perceptions (notable change, and people tend to respond to risks they perceive exceptions include Vedwan 2006;Beckenetal. 2013; (Gbetibouo 2009;Maddison 2007; Murray-Prior 1998). Banerjee 2014; Dhanya and Ramachandran 2016). The impli- While the final decision is driven by multiple factors like asset cations of this gap in examining differential perceptions are availability, time requirements, familiarity, and broader narra- critical to address since insights into risk perception can help tives of climatic change (Mertz et al. 2009), perceptions of risk identify entry points into incentivising adaptive behaviour. have been identified as central in driving human behaviour More recently, researchers have focussed on the implications (Bowditch et al. 2001; Fishbein and Ajzen 2011;Gbetibouo of perceptions on adaptive action (Eakin et al. 2016; 2009; Grothmann and Patt 2005). Grothmann et al. 2013) and demonstrated how socio-cultural Studying farmers’ perceptions of drought in semi-arid central factors, and policy and institutional environments mediate the Tanzania, Slegers (2008b:2108) define perceptions as ‘arange translation of risk perceptions into response behaviour of judgments, beliefs and attitudes from which it can be inferred (Burnham et al. 2016; Eakin et al. 2016; Nguyen et al. that perception is neither universal nor static, but rather a value- 2016). We argue that revisiting frameworks that seek to un- laden, dynamic concept’. These perceptions of risk conform to derstand how and why perceptions of water risk differ and personal value judgements (Ferrier and Haque 2003) and socio- translate into differential behaviour is important to manage cultural norms (Martínez-García et al. 2013; Nguyen et al. or respond to future risk. It is important to capture farmers’ 2016), and are shaped by experience and memory of past events perceptions of water scarcity because it helps explain invest- (Mertz et al. 2009; Meze-Hausken 2004), definitions of risks ment decisions, contributes to scientifically justified adaptive and acceptable thresholds (Grothmann and Patt 2005;Slegers behaviour (Gbetibouo 2009;Maddison 2007;Slegers 2008b), 2008a), and expectations of such events to occur in the future and can motivate better design of projects aimed at natural (Meze-Hausken, 2004). These definitions and expectations are resource management and livelihood adaptation. Such inquiry further based on what is assumed ‘normal’, through short-term has direct implications for improving our approach to climate experiences during the prior five seasons (Coe and Stern 2011) change adaptation, which is, at its core, a behavioural change. and long-held beliefs and cultural norms, such as traditional We use a modified version of Slegers’ (2008) framework of calendars (Burnham et al. 2016; Vedwan and Rhoades 2001). risk perception (detailed in the next section) to highlight how Traditional practice, environmental beliefs or water use within experience, memory, definition, and expectations interact to agriculture can be explained through place attachment, the form people’s notions of risk and response. We build upon this cognitive-emotional bond that forms between individuals and framework because it highlights the role of often-ignored, intan- locations that become meaningful to them (Scannell and Gifford 2017), such as for communities living in one place over gible socio-cognitive factors such as memory and expectations in risk formulation. This paper seeks to demonstrate the value of several generations. recognising the role of local perceptions of water scarcity be- Several frameworks attempt to conceptualise risk cause these perceptions construct local social vulnerability and perception and its role on behaviour. Drawing on examples shape opportunities for effective adaptation behaviour. We ex- of flooding in urban Germany and drought in rural Zimbabwe, plore the factors that shape perceptions of risk and explain these Grothmann and Patt (2005) found that risk perception and socially differentiated views of water scarcity. The paper draws perceived adaptive capacity shape adaptive action. Their on empirical data from India to emphasise how both individual Model of Private Proactive Adaptation to Climate Change and collective memories and experience of past extreme events (MPPACC) builds upon the premise that people do not nec- shape current definitions and future expectations of climatic essarily have objective ability to act as modelling approaches risks. These insights allow reflection on existing conceptual ap- tend to assume, and their adaptation behaviour is mediated by proaches about perceptions and implications for understanding socio-cognitive factors. Feola et al. (2015)also conclude that adaptive action to water scarcity. adaptation is inherently a social process and thus decision- making models must factor in socio-cultural contexts and ac- knowledge how institutional networks interface with biophys- Conceptualising perceptions of risk ical factors such as soil type or farm location. They highlight that farmers respond to multiple cross-scale pressures, such as Rural livelihoods are vulnerable to multiple climatic and non- market price volatility, and that decisions are mostly taken in climatic risks. People in rural areas prepare for, and respond response to short-term immediate risks rather than to meet to, these risks through multiple strategies, such as storing longer-term goals. Studying farmer perceptions of climate food, changing agricultural practices, diversifying livelihoods, change in the Loess Plateau region of China, Burnham et al. leveraging social networks, or migrating. Behavioural chang- (2015:22) find that perceptions are ‘entangled’—shaped con- es, such as those involved in adaptation, require people to currently by socio-cultural practices and biophysical factors so The implications of rural perceptions of water scarcity on differential adaptation behaviour in Rajasthan,... 2419 that these ‘hybrid’ understandings of the climate shape daily remains a crucial element that leads to learning and adjustment practices and responses. (Wilson 2015). Furthermore, not all people intending to change Other frameworks highlight how adaptive behaviour is driv- behaviour are able to do; for example, the cost of action or a en by socio-cultural context (Adger et al. 2013; Arunrat et al. need to conform to social norms may restrict certain adaptation 2017;Feng et al. 2017; Feola et al. 2015;Nguyenetal. 2016), behaviour (Curry et al. 2015). actors external to the decision makers themselves (Feola et al. Taylor et al. (1988) captured these aspects in a framework of 2015), the institutional environment (Eriksen et al. 2015; perception, further developed by Slegers (2008b), which Nguyen et al. 2016), individual cognitive influences focusses on memory, experience, definition, and expectation as (Grothmann et al. 2013; Eakin et al. 2015; Singh et al. 2016), key factors that construct meaning and shape perceptions and notions of identity and place (Marshall et al. 2012; Singh (Fig. 1). We draw on this framework to organise farmer percep- 2014). Social memory also plays a role in community resilience tions of water scarcity and climate variability and understand through individuals (personal life histories) and stakeholder how they are socially differentiated. This framework goes be- groups (collective memory) (Olick and Robbins 1998). Adger yond previous frameworks by capturing socio-cognitive aspects et al. (2005)and Folke (2006) emphasise that social memory of risk perception and highlighting normative perceptions of comes from the diversity of individuals and institutions that environmental risk, both of which are understudied (Arunrat et draw on reservoirs of practices, knowledge, values and world- al. 2017; Elrick-Barr et al. 2016; McDonald et al. 2015). The views, and that it is crucial for preparing a system for building framework also underscores how risk perceptions draw on (1) resilience and for coping with surprises. The ways that experi- the wider institutional regime and biophysical environment, and ences are held in social memory are shaped by, and in turn (2) an individual’s memories, experiences, expectations and def- shape, institutionalised forms of learning, communication, initions of risk, to shape adaptive behaviour. This mapping al- knowledge transfer and institutional thickness. Experiences are lows us to understand the implications of risk perceptions on also shaped by the fact that personal choices can be self- adaptive behaviour, the key focus of this paper. reinforcing and, therefore, often self-fulfilling. These factors col- The framework has four key components: experience, mem- lectively help to explain the pathways that communities take ory, definition, and expectations. Previous experiences of, and when responding to water scarcity. Pathways can be anticipatory interactions with the environment (direct or indirect) provide a and non-deterministic, but social memory of past experience reference against which people compare expectations of future Perceptual Environment Operational environment Resources, technology, institutions, information Intent Behaviour Value Culture Knowledge Geographical environment Biophysical Climatic Beliefs (behavioural, normative, control) Fig. 1 Framework to understand human perceptions of the environment. environment and changes in it) and expectations of future change. The The circle shaded blue (containing memory, expectation, experience, and perceptual environment is also mediated by community-held values and definition) covers scope of this paper. Source: Adapted from Taylor, beliefs as well as the cultural context. The operational and geographical 1988; Slegers 2008b. Note: The operational environment and environments go through the perceptual environment to shape intent (to geographical environment shape the perceptual environment which in act) and finally a behavioural outcome (which can be no action, coping, turn is an outcome of experience, memory, definition (of the adaptation) 2420 C. Singh et al. environment. These experiences affect people’smemoryofan The insights from these frameworks and understandings of event and how they define future occurrences. Definition alludes differential perceptions can be used to assess local adaptation to the criteria people evolve to describe a particular environmen- to water scarcity in dryland India. The paper focusses on con- tal phenomenon (Taylor et al. 1988). For example, people may tributing to the identified gap in understanding of risk percep- use number of days without rain, extent of crop damage, or tion, to consider the role of experience and social memory, severity of food shortages to describe drought. Memory is in- definition and expectation in shaping differential social vul- herently subjective because what is remembered and forgotten nerability and behaviour. These dimensions are usefully differs between people (Ferrier and Haque 2003). Crucially, organised in Slegers’ (2008) framework to highlight the im- memory is not only a collection of impressions of past events portance of socio-cognitive drivers of adaptation behaviour. but also the ability to recall them (Hulme et al. 2009). Studies examining people’s memory of climate variability and rainfall patterns show that the details and accuracy of memory change Methodology based on personal constructs (Mertz et al. 2009;Osbahretal. 2011). Thus, people may exaggerate certain drought events and Site selection and sampling forget others based on how they were affected (Slegers 2008a) or display a tendency to recall recent events more frequently and Rajasthan is a drought-prone state in India supporting 5.5% of with greater clarity that older periods (Ferrier and Haque 2003; India’s population, 10% of its livestock but only 1.15% of the Marx et al. 2007). country’s water resources (Government of Rajasthan 2014). The two-way arrow between memory and definition implies One third of its land is classified as semi-arid, and low rainfall, that one remembers an event based on how one defines it but increasing population, and groundwater exploitation have led also defines it on based on one’smemoriesofit. Criteria usedto to acute water scarcity (Goel et al. 2006). Rajasthan is expect- define environmental phenomena also depend on experiences of ed to face an increase in erratic precipitation (Singh et al. similar events. For example, recurring exposure to a drought 2010), increasing average temperature and evapotranspiration makes people perceive water scarcity as ‘normal’ (Marx et al. (Mall et al. 2006), accelerated desertification, and land degra- 2007) as opposed to areas that receive relatively more rainfall. dation (Ajai Arya et al. 2009), all leading to the state slipping All these elements (experience, memory, and definition) shape into absolute water scarcity in the future (Government of expectations of how the environment will be in the future Rajasthan 2014). (Murray-Prior 1998), and ultimately affect behaviour. Here, be- Water scarcity in Rajasthan has received sustained finan- haviour is understood as an outcome or action with an inherent cial, policy, implementation, and research attention, with more decision-making stage where choice is exercised amongst sev- emphasis on the north-western arid tracts than the relatively eral alternatives. In the context of water scarcity and climate water-rich south-eastern regions. This emphasis has variability, behavioural outcomes can range from no response overlooked the fact that even areas with high average rainfall to coping to adapting (Singh et al. 2016). While Singh et al. often face acute water scarcity (Government of Rajasthan (2016) have already elaborated the links between behaviour 2014; Rathore 2005) and that southern Rajasthan is geograph- and value, culture, knowledge and beliefs for this study location, ically, culturally and economically unique within the rest of they highlight the need to improve insight between these factors the region. There exists a significant gap in bridging scientific and the implications of risk perceptions from other aspects with- and social approaches to understand why this region has in the perceptual environment (Fig. 1). steadily remained low on all development indices (pers. This is important because being mutable and value-laden, comm. State Government Official, June 2012). perceptions may attribute phenomena to wrong causal factors The relative paucity of work in southern Rajasthan, with (Osbahr et al. 2011). However, ‘wrong’ perceptions do not the added complexity of being a tribal district, led us to choose imply good or bad judgement but highlight that perceptions Pratapgarh as the study area. Annual average rainfall in may not necessarily reflect actual data and result in misattri- Pratapgarh is 875 mm (Pratapgarh NIC 2012) but an under- butions (Simelton et al. 2013; Sutcliffe et al. 2016). In fact, in rock of unfractured basalt rock discourages percolation. Poor the ‘perception approach’,White (1966) questions the superi- storage infrastructure and inadequate local institutions for con- ority of the ‘expert viewpoint’ and stresses that each opinion servation compound water scarcity (Foundation for has its own validity, with no one ‘right’ response to a hazard. Ecological Security, 2006; Government of Rajasthan 2014). Furthermore, while individual risk perception is a cognitive Pratapgarh is predominantly tribal, with 72% of the popula- process based upon emotion rather than reason, objective risk tion made up of Meena tribals whose main source of liveli- assessment is based upon observed scientific data, and is thus hood is a combination of agriculture, wage labour, and selling not tempered by individual belief systems or circumstances forest products (Foundation for Ecological Security 2006). (Ferrier and Haque 2003). This can result in mismatches be- Common land for grazing and forests make up 32% of the landscape with villages scattered in between (Pratapgarh tween perceived and observed risk. The implications of rural perceptions of water scarcity on differential adaptation behaviour in Rajasthan,... 2421 NIC 2012). However, unfavourable tenure arrangements, poor interviewed. In the second phase of fieldwork, 14 households management systems, overgrazing, illegal deforestation, and were purposively chosen from each location as case studies inadequate groundwater recharge have led to land degradation to capture a variety of response strategies and follow decision- (De, 2005). Sixty-five per cent of the population falls below making pathways about why certain households choose to the poverty line, and the average literacy rate is 47% adapt or not. (Pratapgarh NIC 2012). Most families are debt-ridden and Semi-structured questionnaires were used to collect demo- face food grain scarcity for 3–6 months per year graphic data and livelihood information followed by open- (Foundation for Ecological Security 2006). Exposure to errat- ended questions on perceptions of water scarcity, vulnerability ic rainfall, inappropriate and often exploitative natural re- to it, and drivers of and responses to scarcity. The term ‘cli- source utilisation, poor representation in local governance in- mate change’ was not explicitly mentioned because such ter- stitutions, and breakdown of traditional social arrangements minology may not be formed in local semantics and people have made local livelihoods more sensitive to climatic and often used different terminology to explain observed weather non-climatic risks. and water changes. The questioning was conversational and probed how external information (e.g. through extension workers, NGO staff) shaped the way people validated their Data collection and analysis knowledge. The questionnaire contained open-ended ques- tions on drivers and constraints to adaptive capacity, actors Understanding and effectively capturing peoples’ perceptions and processes of decision-making between adaptive strate- is difficult (Simelton et al. 2013) since it involves capturing gies, and efficacy of interventions by various actors towards often intangible views, disentangling perceived cause and ef- building adaptive capacity. fect, and adopting the role of an unbiased yet discerning lis- Within a household, questionnaires were administered to tener. We use a constructivist approach, which follows that the household head. If the household head was absent, the reality is constructed in multiple ways based on social context, spouse or next of kin was interviewed. Wherever possible, it location and actions, and perceptions of social actors. was preferred to have more than one respondent from a house- Data were collected over 10 months of fieldwork (October hold, especially ensuring representation from both genders. 2011–July 2012) through focus group discussions (FGD), Since women would often not speak in front their fathers-in- semi-structured questionnaires, in-depth case studies, key in- law or nod in agreement with their husbands, as common in formant interviews (KII), observations, and document reviews rural North India, in such situations women were spoken to (Table 1). The researchers ‘entered’ the site through a local outside their homes (for example, by following them into NGO, the Foundation for Ecological Security (from here on kitchen gardens to pick up on earlier cues). FES), working in Pratapgarh for the past 6 years. NGOs can Quantitative data were analysed in MS Excel and qualita- serve as local area experts, facilitate community acceptance of tive data in NVivo (QSR 2012). Data were coded using rele- the researcher and help access key informants. We were aware vant themes in an iterative manner following an inductive that using an NGO could lead to potential selection bias and approach and then analysed along socio-economic and demo- minimised this by immersion in the research site through a graphic variables. The data was coded by one researcher thus year-long on-site fieldwork, following ethical protocols laid ensuring stability (similar use of a code across the dataset) and out by the home university, and triangulating findings through accuracy. Narratives from case studies were also analysed to multiple methods. uncover intra-household dynamics around risk perception and Within Pratapgarh, two village clusters were chosen based decision-making. on their representativeness of the socio-ecological character- istics of the district and willingness of respondents to partici- pate in the research. Further details of the sampling strategy and representativeness of the surveyed households are Results outlined in Singh et al. (2016). In the first phase of data col- lection, all households within each cluster (n =219) were sur- We first discuss the major perceptions people hold, using veyed to adequately represent farming families from different Taylors and Slegers’ framework (Fig. 1), followed by socio-economic groups. Key informants such as village how perceptions are differentiated. While we focus on di- leaders, members of community-based organisations, agricul- mensions of memory, experience, definitions and ture extension workers, and NGO officials were also The 14 households were chosen based on different economic strata (state- Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) has been working in dryland areas identified categories of above poverty line, below poverty line and poorest of in 6 states of India since 2001 focussing on watershed development, ecological the poor), social group (Meena, Rajput), access to natural resources and phys- restoration, common land regeneration and livelihood enhancement with a ical assets (landholding, well ownership, livestock ownership, access to for- strong element of local institutional building and strengthening local gover- ests, communal water sources), and livelihood types (farmers, traders, nance. [More details at http://www.fes.org.in]. labourers, migrants). 2422 C. Singh et al. Table 1 Details of data collection carried out in both locations Location 1 Location 2 Fieldwork Nov 2011–Jan 2012 March 2012–May 2012 No. of hamlets/villages 6 hamlets 2 villages No. of households interviewed 133 86 Focusgroups(4–5 participants/group) 3 2 In-depth case studies 8 6 Key informants 7 5 Location characteristics Total households 153 92 Average landholding size 1.16 acres 1.26 acres Soil type Black soil, plateaus have rocky surface and less soil fertility (brown soil); valleys have stony red soil Caste Meena (tribals) Meena (40%), Rajput (60%) Public amenities in Panchayat 4 primary schools, 1 high school, 1 primary school, 1 primary health 1 crèche, 2 primary health centres centre, 1 crèche (all > 8 km away) Accessibility and road networks Hamlets are 1–9km away from Hamlets are 5–12 km away from metaled road head metaled road head Presence of NGO Yes No Self-help groups 4 (1 government, 3 NGO-made) 2 (government) Locally elected, village-level governing body, which is part of a three-tier local governance system expectations, we explain these perceptions through a wider un- respondents’ memories were tied with relief work with the derstanding of the perceptual environmental (local values, cul- common understanding of ‘if there was relief work, there must ture, knowledge and beliefs) with recognition also of operational have been a drought’. and geographical environmental influences. Memory was also ‘borrowed’ from elder relatives and neigh- bours. For example, when discussing past drought or famine Memory and experience shape perceptions of water events, most respondents, irrespective of their age, mentioned scarcity ‘chhappan ka kaal’ (the ‘Famine of 1956’) referring to the great famine of 1899–1900, named after dates in the Vikram Era When it comes to memory, the immediate often takes prece- calendar (Rajesh 2000). Thus, memory can be constructed in- dence over the past (Hertwig et al. 2004) because constraints dividually or collectively. This relies on the tradition of oral in human cognition give weightage to more ‘impressionable’ storytelling where elders in a community narrate their memories events (Ferrier and Haque 2003) and the consequences of and experiences of past extreme events or periods of scarcity. those events are perceived closer than those in the distant past. Descriptions included lengthy narrations—from standing in Respondents exhibited a bias for recent events: farmers exag- long queues to receive government rations, to people eating gerated rare, high-impact events and downplayed more com- ‘kodra’ gruel (Paspalum scrobiculatum, a coarse millet) and monly occurring, low-impact ‘background’ events (Table 2). tree bark. Youngsters often joined in enthusiastic and descrip- Memories were also closely tied to important personal or tive narrations of the event that they had obviously not experi- political events. In one hamlet, a respondent spoke of a long enced personally but had heard of from their grandparents. The period of water scarcity around the time she had her first child. youngsters revelled in recounting the memory because they The memory of childbirth (a significant personal event) were young enough to be removed from the discomfort of signposted her memories of having to carry pots of drinking experiencing the drought but old enough to appreciate that it water for household consumption, making the experience of a was an important historic event. water-scarce period easy to retrieve. Marx et al. (2007:54) Farmers also used important festivals and major events in explain this by the ‘availability heuristic’,defined as ‘arule traditional calendars as landmarks to navigate their way and of thumb that allows people to solve problems based on what anchor their impressions of the past. Culturally important pe- they remember and how easily their memory is retrieved’. riods of fasting and prayers were used as signposts to gauge This ease of retrievability is closely linked to significant land- whether rainfall or temperature were ‘normal’ or not. marks in a person’s life. During the interviews, farmers iden- Narratives of experience were sharper when the climatic tified periods of scarcity as times when the Food for Work event had a direct impact on household livelihood through de- programme for famine relief was underway. Many crease in or complete loss of crops (Table 2). Surprisingly, The implications of rural perceptions of water scarcity on differential adaptation behaviour in Rajasthan,... 2423 Table 2 Indirect indicators of water scarcity and drought: definitions, memories, experiences and expectations Indirect indicators of water scarcity Decreased crop production ‘Excessive rains in 2011 caused 50% damage to our kharif crop. We only got 1.5 sacks of soybean/bigha instead of four. In winter, we grew mustard but it dried up because there wasn’tenough soilmoisture.’ Inability to water crops ‘If we were water secure, we could grow vegetables and sell them in the market. We don’t even have enough water for wheat. I can only irrigate it once and that will reflect in the production but there is no option.’ Soil moisture ‘If there is more rain, the soil remains wet, and we can use tractors. Otherwise, we have to use bullocks for all agricultural work.’ Leavinglandfallow ‘I have only grown some wheat and left rest of my land fallow because of insufficient water.’ Shift in sowing times ‘Wheat sowing has shifted a bit early because our wells dry earlier. To get maximum benefit from soil moisture, as soon as the rains get over and soybean is harvested, we sow wheat.’ Food insecurity ‘When less water falls, especially for 2–3 years in a row, we cannot grow wheat and have no food. Some years we have even survived solely on government rations.’ Memories Comparisons with similar past ‘15–20 years ago, it used to rain a lot. Then no maize would ripen and crops would rot. experiences or current occurrences Slowly rainfall decreased and in 2008–2010, we faced a lot of scarcity. Now in 2011, rain has increased again, like old times.’ Bias for the recent ‘This year we had very heavy rain and our entire crop rotted. Yes, other years also have rain but I can’t remember much about them now.’ Memories as linked to impact on ‘There hasn’t been a totally dry year but once (15 years ago) we had a period of water scarcity. livelihoods We relied on labour at that time. Some people went to the towns and did work there.’ Heightened memories of the past ‘When I was small it used to rain for six months but we had no means of capturing and storing it. Now it only rains for 2–2.5 months. We have motors and wells to capture and utilise water but no rain!’ Signposted by festivals ‘Thirty years ago it used to rain till Navratri (October) and often till Diwali (October/November). Now rains stay only till Shraad (September). Winter rains have completely stopped now and it rains for just a few days, if at all.’ Experiences Impact on crop production ‘Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, we get poor yields because rainfall is less, like it was in 2000. Then we rely on labour and the winter crop for food.’ Food insufficiency, dependence on ‘In drought years, the government increases public works like digging ponds. This helps provide government food rations, public works income when crops fail.’ Expectations Hopes for the future ‘I think it will not rain as heavily next year as it did this year (2011). We lost half our soybean crop in the rains this year and suffered big losses.’ people reported that they have not experienced actual drought As Bokil (2000:4171) notes, ‘droughtinaridand semi-aridre- although they were unanimous in their experience of the occur- gions is not a calamity, like an earthquake or a cyclone, but a rence of dry spells every year. This contrasted sharply with past regular climatic feature’ and goes on to observe that irrespective meteorological data which categorises Pratapgarh a ‘frequently of meteorological drought as defined by the Government of drought-prone area’, with a probability of drought occurring India, Rajasthan faces permanent agricultural drought (insuffi- every 5 years (Government of Rajasthan, 2005). Respondents ciency of water to meet crop demands). defined ‘actual drought’ as complete failure of rains and total loss of crops as opposed to ‘regular water scarcity’ which was Definitions and expectations of water scarcity partial crop loss due to monsoonal dry spells and limited water availability in winter. To illustrate: ‘In my opinion, there has To understand drought reporting in Pratapgarh, understanding been no drought here. There has been Famine Relief Work but the language of water scarcity is important. The Hindi word that is not because of drought. That was because crops dried up for drought is ‘sukha’, which implies complete dryness. because of less rain.’ HH_117_J. Dry spells were accepted as a According to farmers, this had not occurred in the past ‘normal’ feature to be tolerated and overcome annually. This 30 years. However, non-farmer key informants drew a differ- tolerance for water scarcity made farmers under-report dry spells ent picture: local government and NGO officials confirmed because of the regularity and commonness of their experiences. low to moderate drought every 4–5years (pers. comm., May 2424 C. Singh et al. 2012). Further discussions revealed that locally, drought is through second-order impacts on household income and food defined by extreme hunger, with the word ‘kaal’ denoting security. Use of indicators like household food insecurity and famine, being used synonymously with ‘akaal’ or drought. inability to pay loans was relatively higher in location 2 where Thus, food security had a crucial role in defining drought fewer non-agricultural sources of income meant that decreases and definitions of an extreme event (drought) affected the in crop production affected household income directly. These experience and hence reporting of it. differences between locations highlight how factors such as Of the total respondents (n = 219), 73% ranked water scar- relative isolation (location 2 is further from the Panchayat city as the most important factor limiting their agriculture, and headquarters, market, and has limited road access), lower soil identified secondary constraints to be unavailability of agri- quality, lesser water access accentuate experiences and per- cultural inputs (seed, fertiliser, and pesticide), and lack of irri- ceptions of stresses such as water scarcity. gation infrastructure and farm implements. People used direct Overall, farmers in both locations described their area as re- and indirect indicators to define water scarcity and risk from ceiving sufficient rainfall, with a trend towards decrease in rain- climate variability (Fig. 2). Direct indicators were typically fall amount and increase in rainfall intensity (more rain falling in understood as tangible, visible indicators while indirect indi- a shorter duration). Mostly, expectations of future climate vari- cators were factors that suggested water scarcity as perceived ability (and hence perceptions of possible risks) were not based by second-order impacts. In both locations, the most common on actual probabilities but on what people desired the future to direct indicator of water scarcity was reduction in rainfall look like (Table 2). In doing so, farmers tended to ‘mentally amount, followed by less water in wells in location 1 (49%) replace ‘rainfall expected’ with ‘rainfall hoped for^ (Coe and and less water in common water bodies in location 2 (33%). Stern 2011:404). Expectations of future climate are also based This difference between locations was because of relatively on past trends, relative to these temporal landmarks. lower well density and thus higher dependence on streams and Box 1 Ecological indicators of water scarcity and erosion of indigenous ponds for irrigation in location 2. knowledge Farmers reported that rainfall amount alone was a poor Local communities interact with their local environment closely and indicator and well-spaced rainfall (moderate rain over four develop perceptions of it through several ecological indicators. These monsoon months) that percolates into the soil was more cru- perceptions form a rich body of knowledge referred to as indigenous or cial for ensuring a good crop. Also, though we segregate in- traditional knowledge systems (Gupta and Singh 2011) and are passed dicators for clarity, in reality, they were interlinked and down generations, most often through oral narratives (Pareek and Trivedi 2011). Apart from phenological indicators, some village elders coproduced an understanding of water scarcity. For example, were reputed ‘cloud readers’ who kept meticulous diaries about the decreased water in wells was perceived by lowered water annual movement and shapes of clouds and could predict the health of availability to irrigate fields during dry spells, lowered drink- the monsoon. Also common were consultations with a ‘Pandit’ or astrologer usually of the Brahmin caste, who predicted rainfall amount ing water availability, and increased reliance on government- and risk of future natural hazards. The Pandit served multiple roles and sponsored tankers for drinking water in summer. also gave information about when people would get married, how a Some farmers (10 and 16% in locations 1 and 2, respectively) crop would do, and whether the coming year held good or bad omens. used soil moisture to indicate water scarcity. These perceptions The four farmers who spoke of ecological indicators, were above were closely tied to soil type in the respondent’sfield. 60 years; respondents below the age of 30 reported being unable to read any indicators. This suggests that traditional knowledge may be Distinctions were made based on soil colour, fertility, and water eroding in the face of modern education systems. People also noted holding capacity. Overall, darker, black soils were considered that ecological indicators were often proving wrong in recent years, more fertile and retained more moisture as compared to lighter, perhaps due to higher climate variability. The following quotes sandy soils, which had more gravel. Soil moisture (and thus illustrate some ecological indicators farmers use: ‘When new leaves come out in the resin giving tree (dhavda) it means water availability) was also perceived through the need for trac- rains are about to come. When hilpi (small herbaceous plant) tors or bullocks for ploughing (Table 2). flowers, it means it has rained somewhere close by and there is Importantly, most indicators of climate variability were moisture in the air. If the fruit of the red cotton silk tree ripen well from seasons that are economically crucial to the farming and cotton flies about, there will be a good rain.’ HH_35_KP ‘Earlier we used to collect mahua (Madhuca longifolia) flowers in system. For example, most perceptions of change were from June but now, because of less rain, the trees have dried.’ HH_14_ the monsoon season (main growing season) and fewer chang- NA es were perceived after April (after crop harvest) and in sum- ‘When ants and termites start coming out, we know that rains are mer (lean period, when land is left fallow). about to come.’ HH_126_J In contrast, some farmers spoke of modern sources of information like The most common indirect indicators revolved around crop televisions and radios to predict rainfall and came up with (self-made) production, food insecurity, and increasing dry spells yet ingenious indicators: (Table 2). Though indirect, these factors are rendered tangible ‘Idon’t believe in that Pandit. He tells you what you want to hear. I listen to my radio. When they say rains have reached Bombay, I know it will rain here in the next 15 days.’ HH_5_NA Throughout the paper, we use the word ‘indicator’ to discuss the factors/ words/proxies farmers used to define water scarcity and climate variability. The implications of rural perceptions of water scarcity on differential adaptation behaviour in Rajasthan,... 2425 Fig. 2 Indicators farmers use to Location 1 (n=133)* Location 2 (n=86) perceive the risk of water scarcity in both locations. Bars indicate percentage of respondents and 70 numbers signify number of respondents 40 28 14 21 Direct, visible indicators Indirect indicators * The total no. of respondents exceeds the sample size of 133 because farmers gave more than one indicator of water scarcity Differential perceptions of risk of water scarcity washing away of top soil, crop destruction, reduced fodder availability, and damage to mud huts. In Hamlets J and K, Perceptions of change in climate variability and water avail- farmers (22 and 31% respectively) reported rainfall amount ability differed based on location, landholding size, income to be same. This could be because farmers here have wells and levels, and to a lesser extent, gender, education level, age, access to the village pond, mitigating impacts of within- and well ownership (Table 3). season dry spells. Farmers in poorer, more isolated hamlets (CP, KP, HK and Kh) reported increased frequency of dry spells and heavy rain- Location fall events more than the relatively well-connected hamlets (Fig. 3, right). Since poorer households are more acutely affect- In the undulating landscape of Pratapgarh, house and farm ed by extreme events, they tended to perceive changes in rainfall location dictated water access (through proximity to streams variability more strongly. Heightened perceptions in some and ponds), crop productivity (through varying soil fertility), and exposure to environmental hazards (valleys at higher risk Table 3 Factors affecting perceptions of exposure water scarcity and of flood than plateaus). Perceptions of water scarcity were climate variability significantly higher in location 1 because more hamlets were Parameter Water scarcity Perceptions of on plateaus, which were far from water bodies and had hard ranking climate variability under-rock that dissuades subsurface percolation (Fig. 3,left). Villages in location 2 ranked water scarcity relatively lower Location 73.244** 67.833** because poor access to farm implements and markets were Well ownership 24.452 22.812 more pressing issues. Landholding size 36.993** 19.185 Perceptions of climate variability, captured through chang- Income 21.572* 17.052 es in rainfall amount and extreme events, show that all hamlets Level of education 15.393 9.048 on the plateau reported decreasing rainfall amount. Some re- Age 14.208 8.330 spondents in hamlets HK and Kh (in the valley) perceiving an Gender .674 16.868* increase (Fig. 3, centre). This was because during high inten- sity rainfall events, flash floods were common in the valley A chi-square test was run for each pair of variables. Significant associa- tions are flagged and these high impact, recent events were recalled strongly. Denoted through change in rainfall amount over past 10 years.**p < Also, most houses and farms in the valley were on steep 0.001, *p <0.05 slopes, and farmers faced detrimental effects of rain like % respondents Amount of rainfall Less water in wells Less water in water bodies Soil moisture Ecological indicators Decreased crop production More dry spells Change in cropping pattern Food insecurity Inability to pay loans 2426 C. Singh et al. 100 100 100% 90% 80 80 More heavy 80% rainfall 70% Decreasing events 60% 60 60 No rank More erratic 50% Normal Rank 3 40% 40 40 Same variability 30% Rank 2 Increasing 20% 20 20 Rank 1 10% More dry Don't know 0% spells 0 0 CP KP J K NM NA HK Jh Kh CP KP NM NA J K HK Jh Kh CP KP NM NA J K HK Jh Kh Location 1 Location Location 1 Location 2 Location 1 Location *During the household survey, farmers were asked to name and rank three factors that most limited their agriculture. Each limiting factor identified was given a score of 3 (most limiting), 2 or 1 (least limiting to their agriculture). A score of zero was given to any factor that was not identified. **Examples of the questions asked about change include: “In the past 10 years, has the amount of rainfall changed?” to elicit information about perceptions of change in the rainfall amount; “From your experience, do extreme events such as drought, floods, heavy rain etc. affect your agriculture?” to initiate perceptions of extreme events and these were followed by additional questions about why and how. * ** Fig. 3 Hamlet-wise breakup of perceptions of water scarcity (left) , change in rainfall amount (centre) and extreme rain events (right) hamlets were the result of differential information access. For them since they are elder with larger families than mine. example: in location 1, Hamlets CP and KP have limited road Sometimes we fight, but we always resolve things within connectivity or NGO presence contributing to less participation ourselves.’ HH_34_K. in local government meetings; Hamlets J and K are close to roads, have better access to newspapers, shopkeepers and NGO Interestingly, people with access to both shared and own wells staff, contributing to their awareness of government-funded dis- used their own wells first because these were perceived as an tribution of free maize seed; Hamlets J and K have access to assured supply of water. The shared wells were ridden with con- popular media and regular contact with extension workers and flict and marked with uncertainty (all users needing water within were more articulate about climate change, as depicted through the short growing season). Thus, though such farmers had access dominant discourses of global warming (longer droughts, gla- to both own and shared wells, their water availability was closer ciers melting, sea-level rise etc.). to those who had only their own wells since the shared ones were not a reliable option. This highlights that familial ties and kinship Assets and sharing norms networks affect well ownership directly with indirect implica- tions on perceptions of water availability. Households with wells coped with water scarcity better be- Access to wells and common water resources like streams and ponds also affected perceptions of changes in cause the additional water helped tide over dry spells and grow a winter crop. Some households shared wells with other rainfall. Respondents with own/shared wells perceived a family members (usually father or brothers). Depending on decrease in rainfall amount because water level in wells how much water there was in the shared well and how cordial was used as an indicator of water scarcity. Those without relations were between family members, such households access to either common water resources or wells replied were either water secure or water constrained. This experience with ‘don’tknow’, indicating that they did not perceive of water security (or lack of it) drove perceptions of water changes in rainfall amount as strongly because they did not have the access to those indicators. being sufficient (or not) (see Supplementary Material for graphs). Respondents across income categories ranked water scar- city high and perceived decrease in rainfall (Fig. 4,top),per- As expected, farmers with no access to wells or common water bodies ranked water scarcity high. However, 80% of haps because income disparity within locations was not wide. Interestingly, only the very poor (BPL and CPL) reported farmers owning wells also ranked water scarcity high. Discussions highlighted that most wells were either old, shallow increase in rainfall. In the absence of proper huts, they are (the average depth being 3 ft), or heavily silted and could not most exposed to damage from strong rains and floods, leading hold much water. Of farmers with shared wells, 90% ranked to stronger perceptions. water scarcity as the main constraining factor, which is higher Perceptions of water scarcity were significantly linked to than farmers with no access (80%) or reliant solely on common landholding size with larger landholders perceiving erratic water resources (70%). This quote sheds some light: rainfall behaviour more than smallholders (Fig. 4,bottom). This may be because large landholders diversified into differ- ‘My father and five brothers share the family well which ent crops, some of which were weather sensitive. Farmers growing weather-sensitive crops such as caraway and cumin is old with hardly any water. First my elder brother draws water and then the second eldest. Since I am had heightened perceptions of climatic fluctuations since cum- in and caraway need a moisture-free period towards the end of the youngest, I hardly get any. I cannot say anything to % households The implications of rural perceptions of water scarcity on differential adaptation behaviour in Rajasthan,... 2427 Water scarcity as a function of income Rainfall perceptions as a function of income 100% 100% 80% 80% 60% 60% 40% 40% 20% 20% 0% 0% APL State BPL BPL CPL No coupon APL State BPL BPL CPL No coupon Rank 1 Rank 2 Rank 3 No Rank Don't know Increase Decrease Same More erratic Rainfall perceptions as a function of landholding Water scarcity as a function of landholding 100% 100% 80% 80% 60% 60% 40% 40% 20% 20% 0% 0% Landless Marginal Small Medium Large Landless Marginal Small Medium Large Rank 1 Rank 2 Rank 3 No Rank Don't know Increase Decrease Same More erratic Fig. 4 Household income and perceptions of rainfall variability and water poverty line identified by state government, BPL = Below poverty line scarcity (top), landholding size and perceptions of rainfall variability and identified by central government, CPL = Antodaya or Poorest of the poor water scarcity (bottom). APL = Above poverty line, State BPL = Below the growing season. In contrast, farmers growing soybean and as much of an influence on memory: while older farmers maize did not report any change in temperature or incidences narrated their experiences of extreme events like droughts, of frost; clearly demonstrating that ‘a ‘bad’ year for one farmer younger people narrated those narrations as if their own, may be ‘good’ for another’ (Simelton et al. 2011:8). reconfirming the observation that memory can be shared or collective with experiences and stories passed down through generations. Thus, people spoke of ‘a timewhenitrainedso Age and farming experience much that the grasses were so tall that no one could cut them’ (HH_65_NM). While respondents in their 30s had not seen Those who had been farming for many years had sharper such a time in their own lifetime, they relied on stories they perceptions of water scarcity than young farmers (see had heard, and thus, these had become part of their own mem- Supplementary Material for graphs) perhaps because young ories and shaped their perceptions of the past (thus moulding farmers were increasing exposed to other non-climate limiting their reference point, which they compared to the present). factors. Older people were not as involved in accessing agri- culture inputs and hence did not feel the impact of unavail- abilityofinputsorissuesofrestrictedmarketaccess. Gender and caste During conversations about climate variability, respon- dents often alluded to ‘how it was earlier’ versus ‘present Both male and female-headed households ranked water scar- conditions’. This comparison comes easier to farmers with a city as the main limiting factor to agriculture. However, per- body of experience to draw on and use as reference points. ceptions of change in rainfall amount differed significantly by Young farmers could not draw on long-term rainfall patterns gender. Both men and women perceived rainfall to be decreas- and relied on present conditions to develop their understand- ing but significantly more women (14%) replied ‘do not ing of the climate. Thus, more experienced farmers defined know’. Since access to weather information was mainly from water scarcity in terms of ‘water stays in the stream for 6 radio, mobile phones, through shopkeepers, and informal months instead of 8 months as it used to 10 years ago’ (typically all-male) meetings between neighbours in the eve- nings, women did not have access to information in the same (HH_13_NA). However, as discussed earlier, age did not have 2428 C. Singh et al. way as men do. ‘My husband has gone for Gram Panchayat Discussion meeting to get maize seed. The men talk about agricultural issues there. He also went to Kishangarh (key town) two years Drivers of perceptions of water scarcity ago…’ ‘Of course I didn’tgo!’ HH_67_K Also, the spheres men and women operate in (farming and domestic duties re- Farmer perceptions of water scarcity were an outcome of an spectively), are clearly demarcated. You should ask my hus- intricate interplay of their definitions of water scarcity, person- band about the well. I go to collect water for the house from al and borrowed memories, experiences of past events, and the hand pump so I can tell you about that.’ HH_72_Kh. expectations of future risk (Fig. 5). Perceptions were mediated Through a narrowing of the channels and spaces that women by normative beliefs, caste-specific gender roles, asset hold- occupy either publicly (village meetings) or privately (on farms, ings, and age. within homes) often resulted in women being less articulate Respondent memories of water scarcity and drought were about climate than men. Men were more tuned to changes in subjective with a bias for the present. Respondents gave more temperature, frost, and soil moisture, while women only reported weightage to recent events because the consequences were changes in rainfall amount. This was perhaps because rainfall perceived more strongly than those in the distant past. amount directly affects groundwater recharge and hence drinking Although people recalled rare and acute events like intense water resources like wells, hand pumps, and streams. Men no- droughts with more clarity, they were considered as ‘one-time ticed other climatic factors because they were engaged in the events’ to which people attached a low probability of recur- day-to-day activities of agriculture. rence (Marx et al. 2007). Memory was also signposted by In Rajput households, caste and gender intersected so that important personal or political events thus highlighting that the divide between roles of men and women was sharper: cross-scale processes and events may affect memory and women confined to the domestic sphere and men solely re- hence risk perception. sponsible for agriculture-related work. The demarcation was Farmers underreported drought which contrasted with his- so unyielding that some women reported never having left torical data. This was because regular experiences with water their house, while others report rarely seeing their farmland. scarcity and moderate drought had habituated farmers and Such female respondents tended to refrain from holding any built a high threshold to it (Slegers 2008b). This ‘prison of perceptions of water scarcity or climate variability and if they experience’ (Kates 1962 p. 132) emphasises that in order to did, they tended to agree with their male family members. perceive a hazard as a threat, people need to experience it in a Fig. 5 Factors shaping farmer perceptions of water scarcity and climate variability as shown through the conceptual analysis of the data The implications of rural perceptions of water scarcity on differential adaptation behaviour in Rajasthan,... 2429 certain magnitude with a certain frequency. Severe drought information access and strongly defined roles where men were once every 25 years (as in Pratapgarh) was perceived too in-charge of agricultural activities and women responsible for improbable and moderate droughts and dry spells too com- domestic chores. mon to be reported. Expectations of future climate variability were based on The role of misattribution existing definitions of ‘normal’ climate, cultural norms like tra- ditional calendars, and to a lesser extent, information from exter- One complication in studying perceptions of climate variabil- nal sources. Most often, these expectations of perceptions of ity is the difficulty in disengaging perceptions of events (ac- future climate-related risks were not based on actual probabilities tual rainfall) from their impacts such as decreased crop pro- but on what people desired the future to look like (Simelton et al. duction or food insecurity (Marx et al. 2007; Rao et al. 2011). 2011) and thus had implications for anticipatory adaptation. The range of direct and indirect indicators farmers use to per- Disentangling perceptions of climate from its impacts were ceive changes in their environment, illustrate that climatic difficult, and farmers often misattributed water scarcity to re- factors are only one of the many factors shaping perceptions. duced rainfall; a finding not supported by meteorological First, normative beliefs held by family members, neigh- trends (Singh 2014). These perceptions were obfuscated by bours, elders, and shopkeepers (who are often educated and dynamics in the operational and geographical environments have relatively better access to information) tend to shape such as input availability, fluctuations in market rates, and perceptions held by farmers. Second, when indirect indicators broader discourses of environmental change through newspa- such as change in crop production or household food security pers, extension agents and NGO workers. are used to gauge risk, chances of misattribution are high. Though farmers identify water availability as a driver of Explaining differential perceptions of water scarcity change in crop productivity, non-climatic dynamics such as changes in soil fertility, fertiliser and seed availability, market Overall, farmers perceived water scarcity as the main factor accessibility, harvesting losses, or personal reasons like illness limiting agriculture. However, perceptions differed along geo- in the family may be significant drivers. The following quote graphical factors (location, soil type), agricultural assets (well illustrates the issue of possible misattribution: ownership, crops grown), and individual characteristics (age, experience of farming, gender, and caste) (Table 3). ‘Our planting schedule has changed: earlier wheat Broadly, respondents living on the plateau (fewer wells, would ripen with soil moisture alone. Now we water poor soil quality, and more soil erosion) perceived water scar- up to 4-5 times to get a good crop. And getting so much city as the only limiting factor for agriculture. Interestingly, all water is difficult. We don’t even have an engine.’ hamlets reported those in the valley to be water-rich because it Household 49, Hamlet Chhota Pathaar. has access to village streams. However, respondents in the valley perceived themselves to be water constrained, noting The respondent is comparing a time when people grew one that locally, shallow wells were predominant and these only crop of rainfed wheat, for which there was sufficient soil mois- recharged in a good rainy season. This dependence on a good ture. Presently, farmers take two crops a year, driving up water monsoon made farmers in the valley vulnerable to monsoonal requirements. However, this is not factored into perceptions of variability. Thus, geographical location and well ownership decreased water availability. Thus, farmers may attribute wa- affected perceptions of water scarcity. ter scarcity to declining rainfall when it may be because of Crucially, access to common water resources and well increasing water demand due to increased cultivation (Osbahr ownership did not always translate into higher water availabil- et al. 2011; Rao et al. 2011). ity. This was because wells were often shallow, silted, or old, Third, farmers often base perceptions of water scarcity on and constrained by inadequate irrigation infrastructure, erratic changes in crops grown. While this may be driven by changes electricity supply, and high costs of diesel. Thus, beyond rain- in water availability, KIIs indicated otherwise. Institutional, fall amount and presence of water bodies, broader factors economic, and infrastructural changes, such as the promotion shape the perception and experience of water scarcity. of Pratapgarh to a district (leading to better road connectivity), Farmers growing weather-sensitive crops such as caraway increased presence of private companies directly sourcing raw had heightened perceptions regarding climatic fluctuations materials from farmers, improved availability of different because of the potentially higher losses involved. seeds, and subsidised loans towards building wells appear to Demographic characteristics directly affected ability to ac- be driving crop choices. Thus, although farmers may perceive cess and understand information from different sources. In that changes in water availability are driving crops choice, the particular, older farmers drew on experience to make compar- role of wider regional socio-political dynamics (the operation- isons of past and present climate. Women were less articulate al environment) that may be ushering in these changes cannot be overlooked. about changes in climatic variability because of differential 2430 C. Singh et al. Implications for adaptation policy and practice management, top-down climate scenarios and water use models need to be corroborated with local perceptions of risk for effec- Adaptation is inherently a behavioural change preceded by a tive adaptation. Focussing on improving water use efficiency, process of risk perception and consequent decision-making storing rainwater, creating competitive prices for millets and (Grothmann and Patt 2005; Marx et al. 2007; Singh et al. oilseeds, and improving climate information services, especial- 2016). Thus, examining what drives risk perception furthers ly to women and older people are some possible strategies. our understanding of the cognitive and behavioural aspects of Finally, changes in the operational environment through adaptation. We find that the interrelatedness and complexity of wider institutional, socio-economic, and infrastructural dy- how farmers defined water scarcity and the direct and indirect namics are shaping rural livelihoods and must be factored into indicators they used to ‘know’ it, closely affected their decisions adaptation planning. on crop choice and livelihood investments. Understanding these ways of knowing, which may differ from scientific definitions of drought and water scarcity, is thus crucial for incentivising and Conclusion institutionalising adaptive behaviour. This adds to a growing literature that demonstrates how dissonances between farmers’ Against the hypothesis that only if risk is perceived can it be and scientists’ ways of knowing environmental change managed or responded to, drivers of differential farmer percep- (Burnham et al. 2016; Popke 2016) feed into adaptation invest- tions were explored to understand factors underlying differen- ment and policy development (Birkenholtz 2014; Goldman et tial response behaviour. Perceptions of water scarcity and cli- al. 2016; Stock et al. 2017). mate variability in Pratapgarh were shaped by individual and We found that water scarcity is differentially perceived and collective memory, past experiences and future expectations, experienced by individuals, households and communities. and their definitions of stressors. Geographical factors such as Separating these perceptions of water scarcity, climate vari- location, assets such as income, access to wells and common ability and incidence of events (for example heavy rainfall) water bodies, and demographic factors such as age, gender and from the impacts they have on agriculture (for example de- caste, interact to shape the experience and perception of water creased crop production) is complex (Marx et al. 2007; Rao et scarcity. Climate variability emerged as one among several fac- al. 2011;Simelton etal. 2011) and artificial. Cross-scale, non- tors driving perceptions of water scarcity, highlighting the need climatic factors like differential water availability and access, for addressing non-climatic reasons for water scarcity. We crop changes, reduced soil fertility and unavailability of good found that there are multiple ways of ‘knowing’ climate and quality, and timely seeds and fertiliser affected water availabil- the focus on ‘climate change’ has obscured the other livelihood ity. We argue that while the climate is an important factor factors that people perceive as drivers of vulnerability. One of shaping farmer perceptions of water scarcity, the climate the key contributions of our approach is to help reframe this change and erratic weather narrative potentially obscures oth- understanding of risk perception and consider how it may affect er non-climatic drivers of farmer vulnerability. Such a focus behaviour and therefore pathways of response. on climate change alone downplays the multiple risks (con- Overall, we found Slegers’ framework of risk perception structed through perceptions of past and present socio- (Slegers 2008b), which highlights the role of memory, expe- environmental factors) that shape household response path- rience, definition, and expectation as key factors that construct ways. From a policy perspective, the findings emphasise the meaning and perceptions (Fig. 1), useful to make sense of need for recognising plural knowledge systems where local local perceptions of water scarcity and climate variability in perceptions of risk are factored into adaptation plans as mete- Pratapgarh. By highlighting the role of local beliefs and prac- orological trends and climate projections are. They also in- tices, and normative values, the framework allows us to em- form adaptation implementation by demonstrating that a focus phasise how socio-cognitive and normative factors shape risk on climatic risks alone downplays the role of inter- and intra- perception and consequently, adaptive behaviour. While link- household factors in mediating social vulnerability—factors ages with the operational and geographical environment (e.g. such as location, asset bases, age and gender critically shape instituional and ecological factors respectively) help place risk risks and responses. Such evidence calls for adaptation inter- perceptions in a broader context, future research can ventions to be more holistic and factor in multiple risks as operationalise these cross-scalar and beyond-local factors fur- perceived by vulnerable individuals. ther. This will extend this paper’s contribution on demonstrat- Projections of higher rainfall variability and evapotranspira- ing how local risk perception and adaptive behaviour is con- tion rates in Rajasthan (Singh et al. 2010) highlight the need for structed by local and beyond-local factors. investing in strategies that can support farmers to store rain Differences in farmer perceptions provide insights into when and where it falls. While the recent Pradhan Mantri why some farmers choose to adapt while some do not and Krishi Sinchai Yojana (Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation how subjective perceptions influence decision-making to re- Scheme) is a promising step towards improved water spond to external risks. 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