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The Women Climate Fighters of Nepal

Krishnaa Budha: Water that Changes the Village

Residents of Tolepani village in Dailekh, Nepal, had virtually no water to drink. Women had to walk down to Lohorey river for 2 hours for a couple of pitchers of drinking water. Without water, sanitation became impossible and even preventable diseases like diarrhea and dysentery became common that hit children and elderly people hard. Both villagers and animals had to rely on a small well for water during rainy seasons. With climate change, water sources in the village began to dry up even more putting their food security and whole survival in jeopardy.

The situation worsened when they had to spend all of their time looking for water. Managing water for drinking and other purposes had them worrying all the time.  Finally, Krishnaa Budha, a resident, took the initiative to organize and lead the group of women from her village to address this issue.

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All the women united under Krishnaa’s leadership to get out of the brunt of water scarcity. They sought help from different government and non-government agencies. SUDeCC, a local partner NGO of Oxfam supported the women group for a drinking water project in their village. Krishnaa along with her neighbors and whole village ensured timely completion of the project. Now the residents of Tolepani do not have to walk down to the river, nor do they have to waste hours of precious time waiting for water.

Krishnaa became the first person and a pioneer to cultivate vegetables, which was an uncommon sight previously. She reminisces how she bartered labor work for green vegetables in neighbor village. When her vegetable farming started to prosper, others in the village followed in her footsteps. She earned 50,000 rupees by selling tomatoes alone. This became a catalyst to extend her business and encouragement to everyone to take up vegetable farming commercially.

She donated her own land for construction of a Participatory Learning Center building and irrigation pond. Commercial vegetable farming became reality for whole village after the two irrigation ponds were constructed under her leadership along with the help of villagers. This has transformed the face of whole village in just 4 years.

1Besides being a key figure in Drinking Water and Irrigation User Group, she has also taken the responsibility of cleaning the source of water and preserving the wetlands. With this, Krishnaa has proved that local initiatives are far more effective in biodiversity management and conservation.

She has understood that climate change to be the cause behind water scarcity. She insists that water conservation and efficiency in water use is the need of hour. She uses water efficiently and incorporates techniques to mitigate impacts of climate change in farming. For instance, she practices mulching by using wet straw to keep the land damp for long time. Krishnaa uses organic compost fertilizers and encourages others to do the same.

Once considered poor, Krishnaa’s family saw prosperity in just 4 years. Water project has empowered her and made her a responsible person. Her involvement in social cause has changed social opinion about her. “They have changed their perspectives about me in the VDC,” says Krishnaa, “they insisted that I must remain a treasurer in agriculture, forest and environment committee formed in the village, and I had to.” Everyone looks up to Krishnaa when they have to take counsel on any issue. She has formed an agriculture group, which she leads as the chairperson. She is also associated with a local Saving and Credit Cooperatives.

 

Phuraphutti Sherpa: Surviving in adversity

Phuraphutti Sherpa’s village stands at 2600-meter high altitude in Solukhumbu. Apart from potatoes, the chief crop of her village, her land grows naked barley (uwa) and buckwheat.

Phuraphutti was accustomed to her traditional method of farming. She knew the weather pattern and had managed her cultivating plan accordingly. But the last few years were difficult because of growing impacts of climate change. The patterns have become more unpredictable. Rain pattern that used to be consistent in the past has changed. It either rains heavily or not at all putting a dry spell.

To her dismay, hailstorm accompanies rain in the Khumbu region nowadays. These changes have put adverse effects on crops in Phuraphutti’s field as well as in the whole Himalayan region.

Phuraphutti along with many in the region are hotel entrepreneurs.  Her husband Tshering Tamang, is a tourist guide and remains away from home for most of the time. She has been shouldering the responsibility of taking care of her family, which also included two  children, and running the business (which is not an easy job in Khumbu as transporting goods to that higher altitude is the major challenge for hotel entrepreneurs here) as well as coping with the effects of climate change herself.

DSC05719The majestic Mount Everest has become their source of livelihood. Khumbu region is a major hub for domestic and international tourists who come in thousands in peak season. Most of her agricultural products get consumed in the hotel itself so she does not have to take them elsewhere for sale. Her home products such as apples and potatoes are enough to support her hotel business throughout the year.

However, the erratic weather patterns including rise in temperature have become a great deal of worry for farmers like Phuraphutti who depend solely on traditional crops to run their small scale hotel business. They are worried that the techniques they are so accustomed to might not work in the future, putting their business and their livelihood in jeopardy. While traditional farming is being affected, tropical crops have started flourishing in the Himalayan region. However, farmers do not have skills and knowledge required to cultivate these tropical crops.

Living in Khumbu region would have been quite difficult without Mt Everest and other mountains as they are the main source of water and livelihood for the locals. But these majestic mountains are losing snow every single day and snowfalls have decreased drastically.

Defying the climate change, Phuraphutti has decided to learn new techniques to fight the adverse effects of climate change as well as to cultivate tropical crops suitable as per the new weather pattern. She does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides in her potato farm and uses locally available titepati (scientific name Artemisia vulgaris) plant as a natural pesticide and local manure as alternative.

Despite her growing responsibilities she has been fighting through these problems in her own way. This perseverance and dignity for work has made her both successful farmer and successful hotel entrepreneur.

 

 

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