Values, environmental vulnerabilities, and implications on adaptation: Evidence from an indigenous Raika community in Rajasthan, India
Global environmental change has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of pastoral communities in India, who have already been sidelined in the current development and modernization discourse. The Raikas are one of the largest groups of indigenous nomadic pastoralists residing in the semi-arid regions of Northwest India. They are facing the brunt of shrinking grazing areas, social marginalization, and economic pressures. The past two decades have witnessed additional challenges, such as water scarcity and rainfall variability, which have pushed them beyond their adaptive threshold. These churnings have led to a radical shift in their values and climate adaptation strategies. However, the role and importance of social values in shaping their response to environmental change are not well understood. This study conducted life history interviews and focus group discussions with community members to examine social values and their linkages with climate adaptation decision-making in Raikas. The findings demonstrate that the community’s livelihood, health, and social cohesion are severely affected by environmental change, entwined with social, economic, and political stressors. There is a parallel change taking place in their social values. Their values related to esteem, self-actualization, safety, and belongingness have witnessed shifts, leading them away from pastoralism. This has ramifications on their adaptation decision-making. Their time-tested and preferred choice of adaptation in the face of drought and water scarcity – seasonal livestock migration – is no longer desirable. New adaptation options, such as urban migration, have emerged, while traditional measures have declined in popularity. There is an urgent need to understand and engage with a broader set of methodologies and literature to facilitate the integration of social values in vulnerability and adaptation assessments. The inclusion of social values presents an opportunity to understand the subjective limits of adaptation better as well as to expand adaptation pathways.
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