Climate change and climate-induced disasters pose a significant challenge to poverty reduction, health, and development in many countries. Located on the east coast of India, the state of Odisha is a climate hotspot, highly prone to climate change and multiple hazards, mainly cyclones, droughts, floods, and heatwaves.

The Population Council conducted formative research to better understand the impact of floods and cyclonesdroughts, and heatwaves on the Odisha people and their resilience. The study also examined the perceptions of state-level infrastructure and institutional initiatives to strengthen responses to climate disaster.

We talked with community members (farmers, daily wage laborers, tribal community members, women with children, the elderly, and disabled people) through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions:

  • “Food is always a problem in my home. But during the 1982 flood, we went without food for many days. During the 2014 flood, we had less food for 3 to 4 days and after that relief reached us. After the flood, people gave cooked food so we took it and I ate half, and kept half for my children. Many times, I had to stay without food because I had to feed my children.”—Widow, 55 years, Jagatsinghpur district
  • “Due to no rain, there is no crop production. In our area there are mostly small and marginal farmers, and due to crop loss we are migrating to other places and some even outside the state for jobs. Drought has a serious impact on our livelihoods. There is no government program on livelihoods in our area; round-the-year people of our area are migrating outside and maintaining their families. I continuously work outside for six to eight months and after that I return to our village. Due to migration, the schooling of my children is largely affected.”—Male farmer, 38 years, Nuapada district
  • “Farmers are largely affected by drought. As there is no agriculture and production, we don’t have any earning. Because of this we are not able to send our children to school, and always encounter problems in feeding our family and providing clothes to family members. We are not even able to provide treatment when our children have any diseases or health problems such as fever, cold, cough, and diarrhea.”—Focus group discussion, Nuapada district
  • “The government department is not playing a major role in digging ponds, installation of tube wells, supply of seeds and mini kits. There are also no irrigation facilities in this area. Water is the lifeline of our agriculture, and we depend upon rainfall only during the kharif season.”—Village head, 32 years, Nuapada district
  • “The government has installed two tube wells in the school and another is in our village. But they are not functioning properly. The water is not available and we have already informed the village head about this problem but no action has been taken yet.”—Woman with disability, 55 years
  • “Ponds, rivers have dried up. Due to heatwaves, people are not able to go outside for work and when there is no work, how will we get food to eat? These four summer months, March to June, are really a challenge for my family to survive. We are not able to give nutritious food to pregnant women. From the Anganwadi center, we used to get 2 eggs in a week and 1.5 to 2.5 kg of Chatua [food grains] in a month but this is not sufficient for pregnant women. Through the public distribution system we receive 5 kg rice per head per month through the panchayat [local government], but this is not sufficient for our survival.”—Focus group discussion, Sundargarh district

A review of the findings, published in the journal of the India Meteorological Department, Ministry of Earth Sciences, documents that, while immediate coping mechanisms at the local level provide relief, there is a dire need for more sustainable and long-term livelihood solutions.