KATHMANDU: Dwellers in Pakistan's upper belt, who experience adverse effects of climate change in the form of extreme weather and floods time and again, have a lot to be inspired from the climate-smart techniques employed by some villages in Nepal.
Climate change experts say these methods have helped villagers to recover from the effects of changing climatic patterns.
Increasing trends of global warming and erratic precipitation in Himalayas — mainly in Pakistan, Nepal, India and Afghanistan — have resulted in grim consequences for the livelihood of the region's inhabitants.
“Due to climate change, the monsoon pattern changed completely as the amount of rain not only decreased but also became erratic. There used to be light rain all week long according to the calendar and season but now it often showers for a day and then for months there is no rain — which badly affects our irrigation system,” laments Nanu Ghatanee, a woman community leader in Bajpokhari — which is a remote mountainous village in the Kavrepalanchok district — some 50 kilometres away from Kathmandu.
Villagers say the change in rainfall patterns has affected the production of rice, maize and other crops, and also decreased their yield.
“Our fields are becoming too dry for growing rice…and dry land means our source of livelihood is halted,” says Ganesh Prasad Kuikel, a resident of the village.
With a shortage of water brought about by the drought, crops have withered and livestock has died leaving the community crestfallen.
“Some ten years ago, we had six water springs but they all dried up, leaving us in dire need of water,” says Jamuna Adhikari, a woman in the village.
Adhikari says they used waste water to irrigate their crops and rain water to wash clothes and dishes.
Sunita Adhikari, 16, is a grade 12 student who travels 4km downhill everyday to reach her college. She also has the additional duty of fetching water from a spring about 7km from her house.
“I make three trips to fetch water after walking a distance of 7km from one side early morning. In the scorching heat, it is difficult and tiring to do the laborious task on a daily basis,” she says.
Piqued by the blistering heat and cumbersome rounds of carrying water, Sunita wishes her village had enough water so she could concentrate on her studies in order to become a teacher and educate village children.
Aware of the hazards of climate changes in their area, local communities in Nepal’s Kavrepalanchok district have joined hands with climate change scientists and organisations to understand, deal with and adapt to the changes.
Of the five villages in the district, Dhaitar village, which is a two hours’ drive from Kathmandu, encountered climate change threats when its abundant water reservoirs dried up, and agricultural land in the highlands turned barren, leaving farmers downcast.
The villagers breathed a sigh of relief after learning the Climate-Smart Village (CSV) technique initiated by the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED) and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
The concept is known as Climate Smart Villages and is being rolled out under the programme titled Himalayan Climate Change Adaptation Programme (HICAP).
Based on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s approach of climate-smart agriculture, the CSV combines the three dimensions of sustainable development — economic, social, and environmental — for an integrated approach to climate adaptation, resilience and food security.
“After being introduced to a number of programs with a focus on organic practices, growing off-season vegetables, use of bio-pesticides, collection of waste water in ponds for irrigating agricultural fields and promotion of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method, the villagers realised the difference and they started earning more income,” says Ram Deo Shah, a senior agriculture expert in CEAPRED.
SRI, a climate-smart methodology aimed to increase rice productivity, is an organic practice that requires less water and labour and uses young seedlings spaced singly.
Keshab Dutta Joshi, the Programme Director of CEAPRED tells Dawn: “The normal traditional practice of rice growing requires more seeds, more water and also needs more labour. However, the SRI system requires less seed, less labour and most importantly it requires less water which has become scarce.”
He added that SRI system was ideal for water vulnerable areas.
Village farmers say they are excited to see production swell in rice and vegetables farming after applying the new methods of adaptation to climatic changes.
“The crop grown with the new scientific methods have almost doubled the yield than the crop grown with traditional methods,” Murali Paudel, president of Tin Chautara farmer group in Dhaitar village, tells this reporter as he points to the rice fields in his village.
ICIMOD Ecosystem Specialist Laxmi Dutt Bhatta says that the CSVs technology was piloted in five villages in Kavrepalanchok district in the footsteps of a globally recognised research.
“The programme, based on extensive research, discourages the use of chemical fertilisers, increases nutrients in the soil, reduces fuel consumption and introduces improved cultivation practices in the area of implementation,” he says, adding that regular SMS service to update farmers on weather prediction, market rates etc., was also part of the programme.
Bhatta says that Pakistan was the top priority among other countries to implement the idea of CSVs. “We have already initiated the Climate Smart Villages approach with the Pakistan Research Council for replication, and hopefully it will be soon implemented in upper regions of the country,” he says.
Owing to its long-lasting benefits, the government of Nepal is keen to extend the Climate-Smart Village model to the entire country to address climate change hazards.
“The technology is really efficient and can easily be replicated in other areas. We have to extend the model to the whole country,” Krishna Dhital, the District Agriculture Extension Officer, tells this reporter.
The programme discourages the use of chemical pesticides, while farmers are being introduced to organic pesticides for cultivation of vegetables and cereal. Waste water collection ponds for irrigation have also been developed in the model.