This paper uses smallholder households panel data from 2006 to 2014 in three semiarid regions India, makes a key contribution to literature on drought resilience. Understanding why are some farmers able to respond to drought but others are not? How can smallholders prepare for climate variability in the future? It develops a framework for quantifying vulnerability and resilience by accounting for a smallholder household’s ability to adapt and respond to climatic risk. Findings indicate that although smallholders with smaller landholdings are more vulnerable to climatic risk (drought, in our case), they are also more resilient than their counterparts. Results reveal that cropping intensity and crop risk increase the vulnerability of smallholders to climatic risk, but large farms are less vulnerable. Diversification in on-farm enterprises, like livestock units, and off-farm income sources, play significant roles in increasing smallholder households’ resilience to climatic risk. Other drivers of resiliency include the choice of cash and risky crops, borrowing capacity, liquid investments, and the ability to regain yields. In the face of growing concerns over climate change and drought risk, policymakers can design policies that support farm-level adoption of risk management strategies, such as choice of crops, crop diversification, access to irrigation, and access to credit. The policymaker should consider Agro-ecology and risk in targeting policy support so that appropriate technologies are promoted in the right context, for example, irrigation infrastructure where groundwater resources and cash crops are sustainable where the risk-return profile is suitable. Comprehensive strategies to build and increase resilience should target specific categories of risks, dimensions of vulnerability across different time scales – ex-ante, during shock, and ex-post.

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Feature photo: Bullock-carts loaded with sugarcanes on their way to the Sahyadri Sugar Factory during the sugarcane crushing season, in Karad, Maharashtra. (PTI); Photo featured on Outlook article

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