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Sunita Ranabhat & Roshan Subedi
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Many experts and researches have claimed that women suffer the impacts of climate change more than men do. This is said to be true especially of women in developing countries. Disparities related to roles and responsibilities, decision making powers, access to resources, as well as cultural norms make women more vulnerable to climate change. However, if provided opportunities, women can also be effective agents of adaptation to climate change. Shramjivi Women’s Farmer Group (SWFG) is testimony to this assertion.
SWFG operates in Kalchebesi, a small village of about 25 households situated in Patlekhet, a village development committee in Kavre District. The village is located 46 kilometres east of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Most of the people here are small-scale farmers, and they are mostly women. Most of the men here leave to find work in the city, or migrate to other countries for employment.
Droughts are a major problem for farmers. Rising temperatures, drying water resources, and the increasing prevalence of agricultural pests present agricultural challenges. There was limited capacity to deal with these problems at the local level in the past. This severely affected the livelihoods of the women farmers of Patlekhet.
Bimala Bajagain, chairperson of SWFG says, “Three years ago, a long, dry spell adversely affected the livelihoods of local farmers. We could hardly think of growing vegetables in late winter. We used chemical pesticides and fertilizers to get better yield from crops.” Kamala Timalsina, secretary of SWFG adds, “We had limited knowledge, tools and resources for combating climate change when our men were out of the village.”
Bimala Bajagai spraying jholmol on her cabbage field. Photo Credit: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD
Things have changed now. The Resilient Village Mountain (RMV) concept, initially referred to as the climate smart village concept, was piloted by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) with its partner organization, the Center for Environment and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED) in May 2014 in Kalchebesi. The SWFG includes 22 members which joined ICIMOD and CEAPRED in the pilot study, training farmers to use simple, affordable and replicable climate smart practices that feature climate, socio-economic and future resilience. This pilot works with 40 farmers’ groups, which include representatives of 1,089 households across eight villages in Kavre district, under the Himalayan Climate change Adaptation Programme (HICAP). Over 80% of the household representatives are women, and many among them are from marginalized communities.
Climate smart practices such as bio-pesticides and a bio-fertilizer called jholmol, waste water conservation and mulching, resolved problems of water scarcity, helped maintain soil fertility, and brought changes in the farming system. The SWFG not only practiced these climate smart practices themselves but also disseminated them within their village. Sarita Regmi, a member of SWFG, said that the use of jholmol has helped reduce farm expenditure by around 50%, and added significantly to her income.
Field facilitator giving training on jholmol preparation to members of Shramjivi Women’s Farmer Group.
Photo Credit: Jitendra Bajracharya/ICIMOD
Sharing her experience of gaining extra income from bitter gourd plantation, Kamala Timalsina, another member, confided, “By using straw mulch, and watering only twice every week, I am able to earn NPR 70,000 from bitter gourd, even in the dry, late winter season. I am able to use this income to support my children’s education.” Increase in crop yield, increase in income, reduction in cost of production, and reduction in workload has encouraged many women to get further involved in agriculture. Besides, the production of chemical-free vegetables gives them self-satisfaction as they are able to contribute to the good health of family members, and consumers.
Kalchebesi has become an exemplary village. It has successfully demonstrated that the participatory model which is central to the RMV concept can and does work. Farmers who were once shy about even identifying themselves in public have now started interacting with visitors from inside the country and outside. Many national and international delegates have appreciated the organized efforts of the women’s group in transforming their village into a climate resilient one.
Members of Shramjivi Women’s Farmer Group. Photo Credit: Madhusudhan Guragai
This women’s group has also been successful in attracting resources from district line agencies such as the District Agriculture Development Office, and the District Livestock Service Office. The confidence and knowledge displayed by these women while implementing climate smart practices successfully has been acknowledged by Yuvraj Khatiwada, vice chairperson of the National Planning Commission. He praised the women’s group’s accomplishments as a valuable lesson for farmers living across the mid-hills of Nepal.
SWFG is in the process of developing Kalchebesi as a model village for climate resilience. This women’s group has been particularly successful in organizing its members to implement climate smart practices, to improve livelihoods, and to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change. This group has proven that women are not only agents of change but also strong drivers for adaptation. As said by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), in 2014, these women from Kalchebesi are real entrepreneurs, and thus an inspiration to other communities to use modular and affordable technologies in the combat against climate change impacts.
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