FBL 3: New approaches to participatory development for social-ecological resilience on women’s collective action: A case study from Garhwal, North-West India

Faculty: Business and Law

Supervisors: Dr Sunrita Dhar-Bhattacharjee; Prof Alison Greig; Prof Hemlata Mishra (external)

Location: Cambridge

The interview for this project is expected to take place on Wednesday 19 April.

COVID-19 revealed the inherent instability within our food systems and how vulnerable they were to shocks. The pandemic also highlighted the need for building resilience capacities within affected communities, especially those who suffer from the compounded issues of marginalisation and poverty.

Resilience research aiming to build capacities for resilience has not always considered power dynamics, and those who may suffer when a system adapts.

A search of the literature around participatory research, social ecological systems, and resilience indicates there are several gaps which need addressing, particularly in terms of how collective group action, power and cultural dynamics interact with the attempt to understand and enhance resilience capacities in rural communities in low-and middle-income-countries like India.

This project will build and test new methodologies for implementing participatory approaches to sustainable development, focusing on the role of women’s collective development initiatives to build resilience to the complex suite of social-ecological challenges faced by communities in the rapidly changing landscapes of the Garhwal Himalaya.

The research will include testing out new methods of participatory analysis of the physical, social, economic, political, and ecological drivers of vulnerability and resilience, paying particular attention to the linkages and feedbacks between these.

Working with community members, it will use the results of this research to identify ways to build resilience collectively.

The fieldwork will take place in Sainji and other villages of the Agla valley (Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand State, India) in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. These communities are an ideal testbed for this methodology development exercise as they face many of the problems common to rural India (marginalised low-skilled subsistence communities) and are facing rapid physical and socio-economic change, the result of, for example COVID-19, climate change, changing employment opportunities and cultural expectations.

Using in-depth interviews, fuzzy cognitive mapping and participatory workshops the project will explore:

  1. The barriers and enablers of rural resilience and social-ecological development and how gender intersects in contributing to vertical and horizontal inequalities in the Sainji case study.
  2. The potential for resilience to be enhanced using women’s collective actions at local, state and national scale in India.
  3. The potential for multi-method resilience analyses to contribute to women’s community-led planning in the Global South.

During this project, you'll help to plug the major gaps in knowledge and action relating to how implementing participatory approaches to sustainable development, with a specific focus on women’s collective development initiatives may help build resilience to the social-ecological challenges faced by communities in the rapidly changing landscapes in the Global South contexts.

Applicants are expected to demonstrate evidence of good written and analytical skills and a strong interest in women’s collective action and sustainable development.

A demonstrable knowledge of qualitative research methods is essential, and experience of using participatory research is desirable.

Educational, project or work experience relating to community led development is desirable.

It is anticipated that you'll stay in Sainji village during your fieldwork. Ras Bihari Bose Subharti University, approximately three hours by car from the study area, will provide logistic support.

SDSU University, also based in Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, where the external third supervisor is based, will provide access to their learning resources when you're in India.

If you would like to discuss this research project, please contact Dr Sunrita Dhar Bhattacharjee: sunrita.dhar-bhattacharjee@aru.ac.uk

Apply online by 19 March 2023

Funding notes

This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2022/3 this was £17,688 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.