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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Advancing livelihood water security in the rural global south Shah, Sameer H.


Climate change and variation, and rising demand for freshwater increasingly impact water security for humans, ecosystems, and integrated social-ecological systems. In the rural global South, diverse water-related risks interact with systemic inequalities to unevenly impact the assets, capabilities, and activities underpinning resource-based livelihoods. As such, livelihood water security – whether and to what extent people can avoid unacceptable risks, meet context-specific needs, and achieve self-defined aspirations – is critical for disadvantaged groups, without which they may experience pronounced impacts to their food and income security. This challenge has revealed significant research gaps in how rural livelihood water security concerns are conceptualized, studied, and addressed in local and regional contexts, including whether and to what extent equity and sustainability objectives and outcomes are reflected and achieved in water security approaches. In response, this dissertation i) undertakes a systematic scoping review of the English-language refereed scholarship to ascertain how water security for rural livelihoods in global South contexts is conceptualized and addressed; ii) conducts an empirical and multi-village analysis of the equity and sustainability effects associated with an over $1B USD water security program (“Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan”) in Maharashtra state, India, intended to transform villages and agricultural livelihoods into “drought-free” systems; and iii) develops an integrative methodological and epistemological approach to analyze dynamics affecting the distribution of livelihood water security initiatives at larger policy-relevant scales. This dissertation was informed by an extensive review of scholarly research; ninety-four (94) interviews, including individual and focus-group meetings with key informants, and households in three drought-prone villages; and statistical analyses of secondary climate, agricultural, demographic, and water security project data in Maharashtra. It advances knowledge of how water (in)security for rural livelihoods is conceptualized, analyzed, and addressed in both scholarly and applied contexts in the global South, stresses the importance of advancing water security in holistic, widespread, and long-term ways, and identifies key considerations to support this approach.

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