Women’s Empowerment at the Frontline of Adaptation
This chapter presents the key findings of the study on the impacts of climate change on Nepali women. For the sake of simplicity, these impacts have been grouped into three major themes: availability of water; agriculture and food security; forests and biodiversity. Women’s participation in governance structures and overall empowerment has been included as a cross-cutting theme.
Challenges to Water Availability
1. The decrease in the quantity of water has increased the time required for women to collect water. The increase in the time required for women to collect water was one of the most important issues raised during the consultations. During field visits to all three districts and discussions with grassroots women from six districts, it was clear that rainfall patterns are becoming increasingly unpredictable, more intense, and shorter in duration. Longer periods of drought also seem more common, resulting in the drying of wells and small springs. The resulting increase in time needed for collecting and guarding water is affecting other sectors, such as agriculture and forest management. The availability of drinking water sources has decreased in the past few years by up to 50%. In 2012, we had short, but heavy, pre–monsoon (March–May) rains with very little rainfall during peak monsoon months (June–early August) and heavy post-monsoon rains (late August–end of September). In the past three years, the permanent and seasonal springs have either dried up or have less water. Out of 90 households in the village, more than 70% have to spend at least 3 to 4 hours every day to fetch a bucket of drinking water. Even rich households with taps close to their house have to wait for long hours to fill their water vessels because of low water flow. We have had to cut down on bathing and washing clothes to deal with the water shortage. Shova, a woman leader and farmer from Sindhuli district 2. Contestation for irrigation water due to limited supply and high demand has resulted in the sourcing of water for irrigation at night, disadvantaging women-headed households. With water sources drying up, the flow of water has been reduced in many areas, leading to long queues for water during the day. One alternative is to collect water for irrigation at night when the water supply is uninterrupted; however, this requires guarding the water channels, which is usually done by men (it not being safe for women to venture to isolated places at night). This puts women-headed households at a disadvantage. 3. Alternative means of accessing water, such as deep boring and rainwater harvesting, are expensive and require technical knowledge, financial resources and networking that is not available to Dalit and poor households, particularly those headed by women. Techniques such as deep boring for drinking water and irrigation have high installation cost and require external technical inputs. Other methods like rainwater harvesting and use of small or large drums and temporary plastic ponds to store water are simple in technique but expensive. But having networks beyond the village plays a key role in mobilizing resources for adaptation. In one example, in Kavre district, a predominantly Chettri and Brahmin village (advantaged caste groups) was able to use its networks at the district and national level to mobilise almost 95,000 USD (which was double the amount required) in funding for deep boring and building water reservoirs to supply drinking and irrigation water to about 30 households. A neighbouring village, a predominantly Dalit and Tamang village (disadvantaged caste groups), which also faced severe water problems, came to know about the construction of improved water supply facilities in the next village only after they saw the construction taking place. Even though the Dalit/Tamang village has strong women leaders and a rich cooperative, they were unaware of this opportunity for improving water supply. A wider network for receiving timely and useful information regarding schemes and opportunities is important to access the financial resources required to meet development needs.
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