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Accueil du site → Doctorat → États-Unis → 1989 → Life in the land of death : famine and drought in arid western Rajasthan

Columbia University (1989)

Life in the land of death : famine and drought in arid western Rajasthan

Henderson, Carol Elaine

Titre : Life in the land of death : famine and drought in arid western Rajasthan

Auteur : Henderson, Carol Elaine

Université de soutenance : Columbia University

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 1989

The essential fact of agricultural production during severe drought is that there is none. This research examines adjustment and adaptation to frequent drought in Rajasthan’s Thar desert and the ways in which economic stratification, community organization, and links to outside regions promote or hinder survival. These data provide a basis for examining the impact of external economic ties on vulnerability to drought, as hypothesized in earlier works on famines in India. This dissertation examines three hypotheses : (a) that traditional patron-client relationships provide a basis for the survival of the poor ; (b) that droughts intensify pressure for desertification ; and (c) that droughts increase economic stratification. The research, based on fieldwork conducted in a village of India’s Thar desert in 1981-82 when the rains failed for the third consecutive year, indicates that resistance to drought varies according to the resource base of households. A household’s wealth is positively associated with its structure and ability to diversify production into the three components of crops, livestock and outside work migration. These are flexibly combined for survival and growth and reliance on each varies, depending on a household’s access to each source of earnings as well as prevailing monsoon conditions. The risk of failure also is reduced through the use of actual and fictive kin relationships which facilitate access to resources outside the village. Beyond their positive functional value, these adaptations to drought suggest that the area is integrated into a broad set of economic and political relationships centered on market relations for the sale of livestock products and urban wage-labor. The ability to exploit these opportunities is unequally experienced by different wealth groups and in turn leads to economic differentiation based more on inequality of access than intracommunity wealth transfers. Historical evidence suggests further that these outcomes are not a new result of modernization, but are embedded in traditional organization, household structure, and the mix of activities necessary for survival in the Thar desert.

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