Article written by Eshwer Kale published in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) (Vol. 52, Issue No. 3 dated 21 Jan, 2017)
The WOTR Centre for Resilience Studies (W-CReS)
Climatic and non-climatic drivers of changes are significantly altering India’s landscapes, its socio-political fabric and economy. In particular, the overall impacts of climate change on ecosystems, water, agriculture, forests, wet lands and grasslands are expected to be adverse, further exacerbating existing problems. In an economy closely linked to its natural resource base where over 60% of its population,a large number of whom are poor, depends on agriculture and nature-based enterprises for a living, this presents a daunting and multi-dimensional challenge to growing and sustaining India’s economy that is both inclusive and nature friendly.
There is an urgent need for developing and implementing a science-and-evidence based risk mitigation and adaptation strategy. There exist considerable knowledge gaps in understanding vulnerability especially that resulting from climate change, socio-economic impacts and identifying suitable pathways to build resilience. There is also need for imparting education, raising awareness, training and capacity building for effective implementation of resilience enhancing interventions.
The lack of systematic and trans-disciplinary knowledge, low levels of action-research-policy interactions, and absence of rigorous analysis hobble advances in climate adaptation knowledge and practice from the household to the national level. It is in this field that the participation of civil society organizations is essential. As impacts of climate change are locally experienced, they can only be addressed by engaging local groups and institutions. While some of the existing research centres have high degrees of technical capacities, they are to a large extent top down and technocratic and are often unable to bridge the “implementation gap”. Agencies with strong grassroots presence, in particularly civil society organizations, given their proximity to the problem, are ideally placed to strengthen the adaptive capacities of communities and contribute to the formulation of realistic and practice-oriented policies and action; but they often lack the technical knowledge and skill sets required to bring about climate resilient, sustainable outcomes.
This is the raison d’etre of the W-CReS - to bridge some of the gaps between science, policy and practiceand promote multi-stakeholder collaborative networks at all levels.
Goal and Thematic Areas of Engagement
Specifically, its Overall Goal is to conduct trans-disciplinary applied research with a view to contributing insights and learnings to policy formulation, programmatic implementation, capacity building and behavioral change processes in regard to adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, water resources, agriculture, food and nutrition, livelihoods, inclusive growth, gender relations, governance and local institutions.
W-CReS is engaged in:
(1) Three large-scale, collaborative applied research projects, namely,“Adaptation at Scale in Semi Arid Regions “ (ASSAR) in Africa and India which is funded by the IDRC-DfID; astudy to assess and address the impacts of climatic and non-climatic drivers in rainfed landscapes in Maharashtra and Telangana, funded by the Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF); and “ Soil Conservation and Rehabilitation of Degraded Lands for Food security in India”, funded by the GIZ.
(2) Capacity building, Training andKnowledge Sharing Events for policy makers, government officials, knowledge workers, development practitioners, donors, local leaders and communities;
(3) Piloting innovative, scalable, and knowledge-intensive projects such as:
(i) The Water Stewardship and Multi- Stakeholder Engagement Initiative (involving the governance, developmental and administrative entities up to the state level) which seeks to develop actionable Water Stewardship Plans at the village and cluster levels;
(ii) Farmer-Centric Agrometeorology, in partnership with government entities, to automate the process of generating weather- based crop advisories that are farmer and locale specific.