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Making rain, making roads, making do

The north-east of Brazil is characterised by a semi-arid environment with highly variable rainfall and frequent drought. Its population, particularly rural inhabitants who practise rainfed agriculture, are especially vulnerable to climatic extremes that compromise fragile livelihood systems. Since the end of the 19th century, the government has assumed responsibility for solving the drought problem through programmes designed to reduce immediate impacts and permanently diminish the overall vulnerability of the population. This paper focuses on the central north-eastern state of Ceará, where the history of drought has been particularly savage and the public policy response particularly ambitious. Based on 3 years of research, it first documents the vulnerability of rural Ceará, then traces the history of public efforts to mitigate these climatic crises, with particular focus on the role of seasonal forecasting. At the same time, the paper uses field data to report household coping mechanisms of rural inhabitants to drought. The conclusions argue for the need to combine both public and private responses in effective drought planning.

Finan, T.J. and D.R. Nelson, 2001: Making rain, making roads, making do. Climate Research, 19, 97-108.

Reacting to climate events

Likely link— assessment by LAs

Strong link made by authors

Climate event


Large number

Longstanding conflict



Requires large investment


Multipliers could be significant

Medium term (5-20 years)


Strong link to poverty reduction

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