Case study: Sindhupalchok district
By Arun Regmi, Pranita Bhushan Udas
In 2013 the District Soil Conservation Office (DSCO) of Sindhupalchok, a hill district in central Nepal, promoted 12 conservation ponds in ward no. 5 and 8 of Sipapokhare VDC. The initiative targeted a hamlet comprising 19 households suffering from drought. To enhance the community’s cash income, the DSCO also promoted horticulture (mango and litchi) and off-season vegetable farming in plastic tunnels with irrigation from the pond. Support from the DSCO amounted to NPR 129 thousand, whereas community contribution was NPR 183 thousand. A user committee was formed for the overall management and operation of the ponds. The project was implemented in coordination with Sarbangini Cooperative. The ponds also provide irrigation for paddy in critical periods, albeit on a smaller scale. Production of forage and fodder on terrace risers has increased with the increased availability of water, reducing pressure on the nearby forest. Before the ponds were built, people had to walk downstream to collect water for drinking. This was mainly women’s responsibility and added to their workload. Water scarcity also led to food insecurity as families could only grow vegetables up to November after the rainy season.
The ponds have helped reduce water and food insecurity. Monsoon rain and domestic wastewater are used to replenish the ponds; therefore timely rainfall and the availability of water from the pond play a crucial role to meet the domestic water needs.
Household level analysis of this initiative shows that overall water availability for farming has increased. Women are also trying fish farming and Elaeocarpus ganitrus (rudraksha) plantation, thus multiplying the benefits of increased access to water. People continue to search for alternative water sources to fill the pond in the lean period. With income earned from vegetable farming, women have direct access to cash income. These changes have taken place at the household level.
The intervention has enhanced access to water. It has provided an asset, i.e., water, as well as a service, i.e., supply of water for women, poor and marginalized people. Earlier the pond would be filled with drinking water from a tap built with support from the Red Cross. The water used to flow day and night, making the hilly paths wet and swampy. After the ponds were built, water from the drinking water pipe has been diverted to the ponds, which has improved the environment. With the availability of water, the maize terrace has been converted into a vegetable terrace. People can sell vegetables to local vendors who go from door to door. In addition, women gift vegetables to relatives and friends, building their social capital.
Women and men who own the ponds are able to mobilise family resources to maintain the pond. Women in particular are found to be negotiating with their husbands to allocate extra fund for pond repair and maintenance.
Women who farm vegetables using water from the pond are able to influence their households’ rules in their favour. They can negotiate and mobilise resources to maintain the pond and diversify the use of water; however, collective efforts to address the common problem of pond degradation has been limited.
The ponds are plastic lined and can easily be built by a household. The first step is to identify the spot for building the pond. The pond is then dug for collecting household wastewater. Funds are needed to buy the plastic sheets and pay the labour cost. Tools and equipment are also needed.
If it’s not possible to build a pond in the above mentioned way, one can build an Ahal, a pond traditionally built on mountain terraces to collect drinking and bathing water for buffaloes. Over time the movement of animals blocks the tiny hole on the surface of the pond, reducing seepage loss.