Making rain, making roads, making do: Public and private adaptations to drought in Ceará, Northeast Brazil

Timothy J. Finan, Donald R. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The Northeast of Brazil is characterized by a semi-arid environment with highly variable rainfall and frequent drought. Its population, particularly rural inhabitants who practice rainfed agriculture, are especially vulnerable to climatic extremes that compromise fragile livelihood systems. Since the end of the 19th century, the government has assumed the responsibility for solving the drought problem through programs designed to reduce immediate impacts and permanently diminish the overall vulnerability of the population. This paper focuses on the central northeastern state of Ceará, where the history of drought has been particularly savage and the public policy response particularly ambitious. Based on 3 yr 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-108
Number of pages12
JournalClimate Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Drought
  • Seasonal forecasting
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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