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The stories we encounter in the field are the story of all of our lives
11 Apr 2019 - 21:30
By Arjun Srinivas, Researcher, Indian Institute for Human Settlements
When I started working with the ASSAR project, I was driven by a desire to understand the issues surrounding agrarian distress and migration in my home state of Karnataka. Issues around how people who had lived off the land for centuries, now found their old ways of life untenable, causing them to change, to adapt and on most occasions, move.
I am told that my ancestors were compelled to migrate out of their home in hot and arid Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh, in the face of a severe drought a hundred years ago. The stories we encountered in the field were, in effect, the story of all of our lives.
My role in the ASSAR project took me to places that I had never been to before, ranging from informal settlements in the heart of Bangalore city to the extreme fringes of arid Gulbarga district in the north of the state.
I spoke to community leaders who had forged a life for their community in the hostile city, as well as with farmers who had stayed on in their home villages in the face of desperate adversity. The range of problems, as well as the stories of adaptation and resilience that we encountered helped discern a nuanced understanding around the issues of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change.
It was a very enriching experience to see through the entire duration of the project, right from the conceptualisation of the research to the fieldwork as well as the writing.
The combination of methodological approaches that were adopted, including a large-scale household survey, qualitative interviews and geo-spatial analysis, meant there was a lot to learn throughout the course of the project.
In addition to academic writing, there was the space as well as encouragement to write popular articles to disseminate findings from the research. Therefore, along with my engagement with the research, I was able to pursue my interest in journalism as well.
The project offered ample opportunities to learn and travel by supporting collaborative work with the regional partners. The ASSAR Small Opportunities Grant enabled me to travel to the University of Cape Town to work with Prof Martine Visser and her team in developing household survey instruments that were consistent across Southern Africa and India.
The multiple workshops conducted by a range of experts throughout the duration of the project also helped build capabilities in several spheres relating to research, writing and advocacy.
I was also given the opportunity to present my work at the Impacts World Conference, 2017, conducted by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research in Potsdam, Germany.
All in all, my time in the ASSAR project was extremely fruitful and enriching, and helped build skills, competencies and sensibilities for my current role as a development journalist. The intellectual rigour, along with the spirit of inquiry that was honed through extensive fieldwork, helped me secure an extremely competitive data journalism fellowship, that I'm currently pursuing with The Hindustan Times in India. Therefore, I carry the lessons learned from ASSAR, even in my new role.