India, July 12 -- In the winter of 2018, Kamal Ram's livelihood was destroyed.

As cyclone Gaja barrelled through the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu in November 2018, uprooting trees, electricity poles and power transformers, the gale-force winds that accompanied the storm also destroyed the ready-to-harvest paddy crop on farmer P Kamal Ram's two-acre plot in Thalainayar village of Nagapattinam district.

"In 200,000 hectares, the yield was halved. The farmers had paid a premium for crop loss insurance but it has not reached all," said Ram, 41.

This summer, he hoped, would be better, but is battling another crisis - a lack of water to irrigate the Kuruvai, or short-term, seasonal paddy crop cultivated between June and September. Ram and...