Depleted by debt

Depleted By Debt is an interdisciplinary and comparative research project (ESRC-UK funding, 2019-2022) that investigates the interactions between debt, migration, food insecurity and climate change from a gender perspective. In collaboration with ecologists and nutritionists, we are investigating how surface irrigation, rainfall, soil fertility and salinity influence local (individual and village) trajectories of migration, indebtedness and food practices. The pandemic context also leads us to question the role of local ecosystems in the diversity of responses to the pandemic and its consequences. The research combines questionnaire surveys (400 households surveyed in 2021) and qualitative interviews (60 people followed up by telephone and then in person for almost a year) in both South India and Cambodia.

Women queuing in front of a bank branch to collect their NRGA work cash payment from their bank account (I. Guérin, August 2021)


A crisis like no other: Gendered burdens and caste dynamics of debt and food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic in Tamil Nadu
— I. Guérin, N. Joseph, G. Venkatasubramanian, B. R. Ramesh, S. Michiels, K. Brickell, V. Guermond, and N. Natarajan

Available here »

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the long-standing problems of debt distress and food insecurity already impacting households in rural Tamil Nadu. This report explains the gendered and caste-based dynamics of these crises as they unfolded in one of India’s most populous states.


The data collected are freely available here.


Isabelle Guérin,
Université Paris Diderot,
Case courrier 7017,

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