Changing Livelihood Strategies: The Experience of the Valaiyars of Karandhai Malai, Tamil Nadu
A curtain raiser to the lives of communities in the peripheries, this chapter provides an insight into the conflicts, opportunities and changing livelihood strategies adopted by one such community, the Valaiyars of South Tamil Nadu. The Karandhai Malai forests of South Tamil Nadu are home to these traditional agricultural communities. As this is a semiarid zone, communities practising rainfed agriculture are especially vulnerable to climate variability. This study began as an exploration of the adaptive measures that the Valaiyar farmers had taken to manage the effect of climate variations on their livelihoods. In what was supposed to be an apparent adaptation to climate change, it was found that the farmers had engaged in large-scale conversions, from traditional cultivation of pulses and millet to cultivation of cashew, a horticultural tree crop, between 1990 and 2007, confirmed by GIS images that were obtained of two villages in particular, Chinnamalaiyur and Valasu. Analyses of climate data, however, showed no significant shifts in climate, leading us to believe that livelihood strategies were changing as a result of non-climatic factors also. This chapter explores the external motivations for these adaptation strategies, which, in the absence of incentives for ecologically appropriate practices, have dangerous long-term implications including severe degradation of land, increased dependency on pesticides and associated dietary shifts.
KeywordsLivelihood Security Rainfed Agriculture Cashew Tree Public Distribution System Cashew Kernel
This chapter is based on a study of climate change and agriculture in Natham under an Indo-Norwegian research and education project, Conservation of Biodiversity and Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: Capacity Building for Interdisciplinary Research and Applications. The authors would like to thank the donors, The Royal Norwegian Embassy, New Delhi.
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