Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 267–280 | Cite as

Climate change and poverty: building resilience of rural mountain communities in South Sikkim, Eastern Himalaya, India

  • Anamika Barua
  • Suparana Katyaini
  • Bhupen Mili
  • Pernille Gooch
Original Article


The rural mountain communities have long faced challenges from a range of social, economic, political and environmental factors and the threat from these factors has only intensified due to the current climate change. This study was conducted in South Sikkim, a mountain region located in the Indian Eastern Himalaya, to get a deeper insight of the multitude of barriers and stresses that a poor rural mountain community experiences. The purpose of the study was to get community’s perception on the kind of interventions that they consider important to lift them out of poverty and enhance their resilience to manage climate risk. The analysis is based on focus group discussions and household survey, using a multidimensional poverty assessment tool. The study highlights that the vulnerability of the study region to climate change is not concentrated to physical or geographical factors alone, but mostly to the socio-economic factors like lack of access to education, health care, limited livelihood opportunities, limited resources, etc. People consider that these non-climatic factors act as barriers for them to overcome poverty, contribute to their weak resilience, and make it extremely difficult for them to manage the risk posed by climate change. The study therefore suggests that it is of utmost importance that the interventions are planned in ways that address the multidimensional poverty in the region which in turn will enhance community’s inherent capacity to adapt to current as well as future climate risk.


Climate change Multidimensional poverty assessment tool Poverty Resilience 



Swedish South Asian Studies Network (SASNET) supported this research; the authors gratefully acknowledge their support. We would like to express gratitude to the officials of the Rural Management and Development Department (RMDD) of Sikkim—Dr. Sandeep Tambe and Mr. Ghanashyam Kharel. We would also like to thank Mr. Robin Sewa, Block Development Officer of Namthang block, Mr. Karna Bdr Chettri, field facilitator of Nagi Pamphok and Tangzi Bikmat for community mobilization and support in making logistic arrangements. We would like to acknowledge the contribution of students and faculty of Sikkim University; the panchayat members and respondents from Namthang block of South district of Sikkim for their extensive help and support in conducting this study. We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions to improve the quality of the paper.


  1. AfDB, ADB, DFID-UK, Director General for Development, E, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, G., Ministry of Foreign Affairs, D. C, et al (2003) Poverty and climate change. UNDP-UNEP poverty-environment initiative. Accessed 08 Aug 2012
  2. Agarwal P, Perrin N (2008) Climate adaptations, local instituions and rural livelihoods, Michigan: IFRI working paper, Wo 8I -6, International Forestry Resources and Institutions program, University of MichiganGoogle Scholar
  3. Allan T (2011) Virtual water tackling the threat to our planet’s most precious resource, I B TaurisGoogle Scholar
  4. Balemie K, Singh RK (2012) Conservation of socioculturally important local crop biodiversity in the Oromia region of Ethiopia: a case study. Environ Manage 50:352–364. doi: 10.1007/s00267-012-9883-9 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beniston M (2005) The risks associated with climatic change in mountain regions. In: Huber UM, Bugmann HKM, Reasoner MA (eds) Global change and mountain region: an overview of current knowledge. Spinger, NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  6. Berkes F, Colding J, Folke C (2003) Navigating social-ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  7. Carpenter KE, Abrar M, Aeby G et al (2008) One-third of reef-building corals face elevated extinction risk from climate change and local impacts. Science 321:560–563. doi: 10.1126/science.1159196 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chambers R (1988) Poverty in India: concepts measurement and reality. IDS, SussexGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen A (2009) The multidimensional poverty asessment tool. Design, development and application of a new framework for measuring. Rome, International Fund for Agriculture DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  10. Development Pool (2010) Moderators manual for conducting FGD. Accessed 23 Dec 2011
  11. Escalada OM, Heong KL (2009) Focus group discussion. Accessed 12 Oct 2011
  12. Gentle P, Maraseni TN (2012) Climate change, poverty and livelihoods: adaptation practices by rural mountain communities in Nepal. Environ Sci Policy 21:24–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Government of India (2011) India State of forest report. Forest Survey of India. Accessed 8 July 2012
  14. Government of Sikkim (2006) State socio-economic household census 2005. Gangtok, DESME[Directorate of Economics, Statistics,Monitoring and Evaluation], Government of SikkimGoogle Scholar
  15. Government of Sikkim (2009) State industrial profile of Sikkim. Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Development Institute. Accessed 06 May 2012
  16. Government of Sikkim (2011) Sikkim action plan on climate change (2012–2030). Draft report, Gangtok, Govenment of SikkimGoogle Scholar
  17. Government of Sikkim (n.d.) Sikkim. National Informatics Centre. Accessed 9 Jan 2012
  18. Heltberg R, Siegel PB, Jorgensen SL (2009) Addressing human vulnerability to climate change: toward a ‘no-regrets’. Global Environ Change 19:89–99. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.1158177 Google Scholar
  19. Holling CS, Gunderson LH (2002) Resilience and adaptive cycles. In: Gunderson LH, Holling CS (eds) Panarchy: understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 25–62Google Scholar
  20. IFRC (2012) Understanding community resilience and program factors that strengthen them from International Fedaration of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society. Accessed 05 Sept 2012
  21. IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JO, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) A Contribution of Working Group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, IPCC. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  22. Jha V, Jha A (2011) Traditional knowledge on disaster management: a preliminary study of the Lepcha Community of Sikkim, India. Indian J Tradit Knowl 10:173–182Google Scholar
  23. Kollmair M, Gurung GS, Hurni K, Maselli D (2005) Mountains: special places to be protected? An analysis of worldwide nature conservation efforts in mountains. Int J Biodiversity Sci Manage 1:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lama MP (2001) Sikkim human development report, Government of Sikkim. Social Science Press, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  25. Macchi M (2010) Rural Livelihoods and adaptation to climate change in the Himalayas, Kathmandu: ICIMOD. Accessed 12 May 2012
  26. Macchi M (2011) Framework for community-based climate vulnerability and capacity assessment in mountain areas. Accessed 14 May 2012
  27. Maina I, Miruka M, Rono B, Njeru PN, Amboga S, Gitari J et al (2012) Adaptive strategies and local innovations of smallholder farmers in selected agri-food systems of central Kenya. Afr Crop Sci J 20:77–84Google Scholar
  28. Malone EL, Brenkert A (2009) Vulnerability, sensitivity, and coping/adaptive capacity worldwide. In: Ruth M, Ibarraran ME (eds) The distributional effects of climate change: social and economic implications. Edward Elgar Publishing, Northhampton, MAGoogle Scholar
  29. Namara RE, Hanjra MA, Castillo GE, Ravnborg HM, Smith L, Koppen BV (2010) Agricultural water management and poverty linkages. Agric Water Manage 97:520–527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Neu U (2009) Climate change in Mountains In: Kohler T, Maselli D (eds) Mountains and climate change—from understanding to action, Geographica Bernensia, BernGoogle Scholar
  31. Norris FH, Stevens SP, Pfefferbaum B, Wyche KF, Pfefferbaum RL (2008) Community resilience as a metaphor, theory, set of capacities and strategy for disaster readiness. Am J Community Psychol 41:127–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ongoro EB, Ogara W (2012) Impact of climate change and gender roles in community adaptation: a case study of pastorialists in Samburu East District, Kenya. Int J Biodiversity Conserv 4:78–89Google Scholar
  33. Osbahr H (2007) Building resilience: adaptation mechanisms and mainstreaming for the poor. United Nation Development Programme, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Pearce TD, Ford JD, Laidler GJ, Smit B et al (2009) Community collaboration and climate change research in the Canadian Arctic. Polar Res 28:10–27. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-8369.2008.00094.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rai AK, Palni U, Tamang JK (2009) Traditional knowledge of the ethnic Himalayan people on production of indigeneous meat products. Indian J Tradit Knowl 8:586–591Google Scholar
  36. Ramakrishnan PS (1998) Some key issues relevent to natural resource management in developing countries. Int J Soc Econ 25:207–225. doi: 10.1108/03068299810193407 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ramakrishnan PS (2007) Sustainable mountain development: the Himalayan tragedy. Curr Sci 92:308–316Google Scholar
  38. Ramchandran P (2007) Nutrition Transition in India 1947-2007. Section 7.2 Dietary Intakes and Nutritional Status. Nutrition Foundation Of India, New Delhi, India p 162-185. Accessed 12 June 2011
  39. Rural Management and Development Department (2012) Village development action plan. Government of Sikkim, GangtokGoogle Scholar
  40. Saaty TL (2003) Decision-making with the AHP: why is the principal eigenvector necessary. Eur J Oper Res 145(1):85–91Google Scholar
  41. Saisana M, Saltelli A (2010) The multidimensional poverty assessment tool: robustness issues and critical assessment. EUR report, European commission, Luxembourg. doi: 10.2788/82008
  42. Simons LPA, Wiegel V (2009) Evaluating AHP as multi-stakeholder decision tool. In: Pawar KS, Katzy B, Thoben KD (eds) ICE. Center for Concurrent Enterprising, Nottingham, UK, p 1-9Google Scholar
  43. Singh A, Singh RK, Sureja AK (2007) Cultural significance and diversities of ethnic foods of Northeast India. Indian J Tradit Knowl 6:79–94Google Scholar
  44. Singh RK, Shrivastava RC, Mukherjee TK (2009) Community-based sustainable natural resources management and development in Northeast India. Curr Sci 10:19–21Google Scholar
  45. Sovacool BK, D’Agostino AL, Meenawat H, Rawlani A (2012) Experts views of climate change adaptation in least developed Asia. J Environ Manage 30:78–88. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2011.11.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sunderlin WD, Dewi S, Puntodewo A, Müller D, Angelsen A, Epprecht M (2008) Why forests are important for global poverty alleviation: a spatial explanation. Ecol Soc 13:24Google Scholar
  47. Tamang B, Tamang JP (2009) Traditional knowledge of biopreservation of perishable vegetable and bamboo shoots in Northeast India as food resources. Indian J Tradit Knowl 8:89–95Google Scholar
  48. Tamang JK, Chettri R, Sharma RM (2009) Indigeneous knowledge of Northeast women on production of ethnic fermented soybean foods. Indian J Tradit Knowl 8:122–126Google Scholar
  49. Tambe S, Arrawatia ML, Bhutia NT, Swaroop B (2011) Rapid, cost-effective and high resolution assessment of climate-related vulnerability of rural communities of Sikkim Himalaya, India. Curr Sci 101:165–173Google Scholar
  50. Tambe S, Arrawatia ML, Ganeriwala AK (2012) Managing rural development in the mountain state of Sikkim, India. Mountain Res Dev 32:242–252. doi: 10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-12-00005.1
  51. Tanner T, Mitchell T (2008) Building the case for pro-poor adaptation, vol 39. Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, Brighton, UKGoogle Scholar
  52. Teknomo K (2006) Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) Tutorial. Accessed 9 Aug 2012
  53. United Nations Development Programme (2011) Towards human resilience: sustaining MDG progressin an age of economic uncertainity. United Nations Development Programme Bureau for Development Policy, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  54. University of Illinois Extension (n.d.) Key informant interviews. Accessed 12 Feb 2012
  55. World Bank (2000) World development report (2000/2001): attacking poverty. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anamika Barua
    • 1
  • Suparana Katyaini
    • 1
  • Bhupen Mili
    • 1
  • Pernille Gooch
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of TechnologyGuwahatiIndia
  2. 2.Human Ecology DivisionLund UniversityLundSweden

Personalised recommendations