Adopting climate friendly techniques, empowering lives

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DCA helps in providing sustainable livelihood solutions through a fish farm in the flood affected communities of far-west Nepal

A group of 40-45 women and men clad in vibrant colored clothes collectively greet us with a cheerful ‘Namaste’ as soon as we enter the village. It is still waterlogged and marshy due to rains the night before. As we make our way through the slippery alleys, the villagers welcome us with garlands.

“Thank you for showing us the way to make some money in our own village”, says one women gleefully as she puts a vermillion tika (blessing) on my forehead. This was my first meeting with Sabitri Raut, the treasurer of Karnali Fish farming group started by The Nepal National Social Welfare Association (NNSWA) with the support from DCA. The fish farm, according to the villagers, is a long term solution to generate income for a community ravaged by floods and water logging.

Floods damage the crops and land, forcing men to work as seasonal migrants

Kanchanpur’s Karnali village is known to be flooded every year. The majority of people living in this area are small farmers dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Irregular rainfall patterns and waterlogging during the monsoons damage the crops and fields, resulting in most men in the area migrating to India for work as seasonal migrants. The women are left behind in the village to take care of the family and kids. They are completely dependent on the money sent back by their husbands who work in low skilled jobs in India where they earn a meagre amount to provide for their families.

Adopting to climate friendly alternatives - empty waterlogged land turned into a fish pond The empty big farmlands during the dry season might deceive one into thinking that there is food self-sufficiency in the village. However, on a closer look, one realizes that the farm lands have been mostly destroyed by continuous waterlogging during the monsoons. The rainfall pattern has changed tremendously in the last couple of years, leaving the farmers clueless about when to plant and when to harvest. Half of the land is uncultivable. The fields where plantation is done also don’t yield much or the crops are destroyed before harvesting.

Realizing the impact of the changed climatic conditions on the farmers and assessing the market demand for fish, DCA suggested the option of building a fish farm in the community. We will also be introducing flood and water logging resistant varieties of rice to help farmers adapt to the impact of climate change.

Cooperative started to manage the pond

A village level cooperative was formed by NNSWA. Each of the 45 households in the village has one person who is a member of the group. Of them, over 85% are women and hold decision making positions such as treasurer and secretary.

With the support from DCA’s Gift Catalogue and Resilient Livelihoods for Sustainable Food Security program, the villagers received money for building the new pond and buying the small (fish) fry. Besides, the cooperative members also received training from the program to take care of the fish, feed them and sustain the farm. The cooperative members have allocated themselves responsibilities to feed the fish, clean the pond and manage the fry. They already have 11,500 small fish of seven different species in the pond. They intend to put 16,000 small fish in which will help them generate 1.2 million rupees (11,700 US$) in a year. This money will be divided amongst the group members and some will be used to get more fish.

Collaboration with local stakeholders

Owing to their limited resources, it was important to collaborate with other stakeholders to sustain the farm. We helped the cooperative members coordinate with the District Livestock Service Office and private fish producers in order to get further fry for the farm.

Generating income, empowering women

It’s the women in the village who are mostly members of the cooperative. “We are excited. We no longer will have to depend only on the men for money. The income from the farm will help us take care of our household expenses”, says Sabitri. The group members meet every month and have started saving one hundred rupees (1 US$) a month in the group. This, they feel, will help them for a rainy day. They are also planning to grow some vegetables on the embankment area of the pond. “People who come to buy fish can also buy some vegetables from here, which is another source of income”, Sabitri tells us excitingly.

This fish farm has instilled a new hope in the villagers of Karnali tole. They feel that the fish farm will change the face of the village. “You must have stopped by at Chisapani (a popular destination for fresh water fish) for the fish from Karnali river. Now, in a year’s time, this area will be known for fish from Karnali tole”, Sabitri tells me excitedly.

DCA building synergy, providing solutions

Nepal is a country prone to disasters. Floods are a recurrence in the plains which will affect the lives and livelihoods of people. DCA Nepal, along with its partners, is looking at finding sustainable livelihoods solutions for people affected by such catastrophes. Karnali tole is one of many such examples. We also work on building the resilience of the communities to mitigate the impact of disasters through our Disaster Risk Reduction programs. Our Active Citizenship component works at building leadership at the local level and helps them in getting access to local resources. In case of a big emergency, we provide immediate relief support through our Humanitarian Response Program to help communities cope with the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Through synergy amongst our three thematic program areas, we try to provide long term solutions to the most vulnerable and marginalized communities of Nepal so that they are empowered to enjoy their rights; live with dignity and have access to appropriate livelihood choices for themselves and their families; and are resilient to environmental threats and natural disasters.