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Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: Pathways of resilience to future storms

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A Leverhulme Trust funded research project at the University of Southampton, UK, assessing future pathways of resilience to cyclones in east India using remote sensing and socio-economic data.

The Leverhulme Trust
The Leverhulme Trust

Start Date: 18/11/13

End Date: 17/09/16


Coastal Odisha, India, is one of the world’s disaster-poverty hotspots; 39% of its rural population are below the poverty line and are concentrated in coastal plains or river deltas. Here, communities are reliant upon the land, mainly rice cropping, for their livelihoods and food security. Odisha is frequently affected by natural hazards, including droughts, floods and cyclones, which all impact agricultural production. Significant progress in disaster risk reduction in Odisha has meant that fatalities from tropical cyclones have dropped considerably. Advances in early warning systems and evacuation planning have been at the heart of this success. Despite these improvements in saving lives there has been less success in reducing the impact of cyclones on livelihoods.

The problem:

The timing of the rice crop harvest, and yield forming crop development stages, co-occurs with the ideal meteorological conditions for cyclogenesis in the Bay of Bengal. This simple issue of timing means that cyclones always have a devastating impact on rice crop harvests, and also on other smaller scale land-use practices such as shrimp farming. Livelihoods of some agricultural households in the region are yet to recover from a cyclone in 1999. Unless the agricultural land-use practices and livelihoods activities in rural, coastal Odisha become more resilient, tropical cyclones will continue to entrench poverty, compound existing food insecurity, undermine socio-economic development and attainment of poverty alleviation goals will not be possible (e.g. MDGs up to 2015, SDGs post 2015).

Through advances in modelling and observation networks, national meteorological centres are able to provide forecasts and warnings of cyclogenesis, however, the capacity to predict the impact and scale of disaster of tropical cyclone impact on communities is less well developed; this predictive capacity is even more diminished when considering the long-term impact of tropical cyclones.
Aim: The key research question in PREFUS is: what erodes or increases the resilience of rice croplands, and rice farmers, to tropical cyclone impacts? The PREFUS project is interested in identifying where (and why) rice croplands withstand or recover rapidly from tropical cyclone impacts such that there is little or no harm to livelihoods, food security and economic development in the region. We will develop a method to predict the resilience of rice-dominant socio-ecological systems to tropical cyclone disasters using Kendrapara district, Odisha, as a case-study.


A mixed-methods approach comprising of remote sensing image analysis, household surveys, analysis of policy and governance structures will be used to elucidate factors and processes within rice-dominant socio-ecological systems which build or erode resilience to tropical cyclones.

Project details:

PREFUS is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and runs from October 2013 to October 2015. All project outputs will be posted on the project website. Project progress is described on Twitter – where you can follow us.

Summary of outputs from stakeholder workshop held in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, June 2014.

The PREFUS project held a workshop with key stakeholders in the disaster management and agricultural sectors (State Government, UN, NGOs and academics) in June 2014 to discuss institutional barriers and options to build disaster resilience in the agricultural sector in Odisha. The attached document provides a discussion of the key outputs to emerge from this workshop. For more information download our Outputs pdf.

PREFUS – safe havens

PREFUS research contributed case study to IUCN publication (Safe Havens) demonstrating the disaster risk reduction benefits of Protected Areas. Remote sensing was used to show how the Bhitarkanika Mangrove Forests offered protection to rice fields, crucial to supporting the livelihoods of the local population, from tropical cyclones. The following is a link to the publication: . This case study was also included in a handbook, prepared by the IUCN, for disaster risk reduction and Protected Areas managers released at the Sendai World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (

PREFUS – news

PREFUS stakeholder workshop covered in local news in Odisha, India: and PREFUS work included in IUCN article on disaster risk reduction in the Bay of Bengal:

Related research groups

Environmental Change and Sustainability (ECaS)

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