Rajasthan women farmers successfully battle climate change


As the United Nations Climate Change Conference ― 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21), is underway in France, women farmers in Rajasthan drylands are implementing their own methods to battle climate change.

The impact of climate change can be felt most strongly in the drylands ecosystem. Rajasthan’s women farmers are adopting methods which would help overcome this obstacle and keep them out of poverty.

Sixty per cent of Rajasthan is covered by the Thar Desert, which spreads over 320,000 sq km. The region sees around two droughts in five years and faces an acute water shortage for 9 to 11 months in a year.

Mani and Rameshwari are women community leaders from Rajasthan’s Derasar village who have brought in improvements in farming and related issues which effectively combat the adversities of climate change.

Embankments have been constructed to prevent runoff soil and erosion, and also to capture rain water. To provide cattle fodder, grasses and fodder tress are planted, while crop varieties which are suited to the region are being concentrated upon. More fruit trees are planted which provide income as well as nutrition, and improved crop varieties such as pearl millet have been introduced.

In a move towards better management of common community resources such as the grazing lands, new institutional agreements have been employed. These agreements will also help the women easily form self-help groups which would allow them to weigh and market livestock in a proper manner, for higher income.

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, which has brought in most of these changes, is working in Rajasthan, Karnataka and, Andhra Pradesh to assist the local institutions and farmers to build farming systems which can prevail against climate change. The program aims to lives of the billions living in rural areas and diminish the degradation of land and other resources in the dryland areas in the world.

The different initiatives are turning out to be quite successful, mainly due to the different organisations who have come together to lend a hand to the cause. The local community received ample assistance from the NGO, Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS), and the scientific expertise lent by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Donations from all around the world have also been coming in from donors under the CGIAR program.

ICRISAT scientist Dr Shalander Kumar said, “The strategy takes women’s needs into account by working directly with them. Women are empowered to take charge of their lives and reduce the vulnerability of the communities living in these harsh environments.”