Climate Change- challenge yet opportunity for women

This is about three women from different walks of life, in different level, empowering each other to rise against the hardship caused by Climate Change. We have talked to Nanu Ghatani from Kavre, Phoolbari, Shobha Karki from Sindhuli along with Dibya Gurung from the organisation WOCAN, which is working to empower the women against the impact of climate change.

Pakistan’s mountain farmers ‘helpless’ in face of erratic weather

By Saleem Shaikh 
Thu, 3 Oct 2013 01:03 PM
AlertNet Climate, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Farmer Bibi Baskiya describes the sudden cloudburst that damaged her maize crop just a few days from harvest time in Danyore, a village in Gilgit district in Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin area. TRF/Saleem Shaikh

DANYORE, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – One night was all it took for Bibi Baskiya’s fortunes to be reversed. In June the young farmer had sown maize on half an acre of land in Danyore, a scenic mountain village in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province.

On Sept. 12 it was sunny and the skies were so clear that Baskiya watered her crop from a nearby spring, certain there would be no rain. But that night, her hopes of a good harvest were destroyed.

“A sudden rainstorm and heavy winds flattened 80 percent of the standing crop,” she said. The maize is now only good to be used as fodder for her cattle, and she will not recover the cost of cultivating it.

Baskiya is one of many farmers in this remote region whose livelihoods are threatened by the effects of erratic weather and climate change. Experts say measures are desperately needed to help them adapt to unreliable rainfall, but few – if any – are available so far.

“We farmers are really helpless before the inconsistent weather,” said Baskiya. “We are thinking to abandon growing maize and wheat, and cultivate cash crops like tomato and potato instead that are short-duration and less water-intensive.”

Maize is the most important summer crop after wheat in northern Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin (UIB). The grain is harvested to eat, while the stover (dried stalks and leaves) is used to feed livestock during the winter.

“Owing to erratic weather patterns, the area under the staple crops in most of Gilgit-Baltistan province in UIB has shrunk alarmingly, and vegetables are now being grown as cash crops,” said Asmat Ali, director of the province’s agriculture department.

An estimated 70 percent of the wheat consumed locally must now be imported from Punjab province in eastern Pakistan and Sindh in the south, Ali added.


Cash crop farmers are also suffering the consequences of extreme weather.

Ali Da’ad, 50, a vegetable farmer in Danyore, said his potato and tomato crops have been struck by lightning several times.

“There has been a significant escalation in lightning activity and thunderstorms over the last 10 years, particularly during summer months,” Da’ad said.

The lightning has triggered fires, damaging crops and endangering populated areas. At the same time, rainfall is increasingly unpredictable, causing crops to fail.

“In Gilgit district, rains are no longer even and fall patchily during the summer months,” Da’ad explained. “Sometimes it is intense and sometimes not.”

Muhammad Iqbal, chairman of Local Support Organisation Danyore (LSO-D), a nongovernmental group working for rural development, said rains are unequal even within Danyore village. “When it rains in the eastern part of the village, the west remains without it,” he said.


Gilgit-Baltistan is home to the world’s largest frozen water reservoir, which feeds the Indus river system – a lifeline for Pakistan’s agro-based economy.

Farmers in the province depend on melting snow from April onwards to replenish streams, enabling them to sow seasonal vegetables and maize from late May. But Da’ad said prolonged winter weather is causing the snows to melt later, making it difficult to plant crops in time.

Nek Parveen of LSO-D said this year streams filled 50 days later than expected.

“Women wheat farmers in Sultanabad village (adjacent to Danyore) suffered substantial financial losses early this April, as they had to prematurely harvest after farmers sensed (the crop’s) growth had halted,” Parveen said.

According to Ghulam Rasul, a scientist at the state-owned Pakistan Meteorology Department in Islamabad, rainfall in the province has become less frequent but more intense over the past 50 years.

The decrease in winter precipitation and snowfall due to rising temperatures in the area is affecting Pakistan’s hydrological cycle and hampering the country’s agricultural growth, Rasul said.

“Investing in farmers’ climate adaptation capacity building and knowledge development can help them cope with impacts of climatic variability on their crops,” said LSO-D’s Iqbal.


Iqbal sees a need for the construction of small or medium-sized reservoirs in the foothills and plains, so that water from streams can be harvested for use during the dry season and the winter, both for farming and domestic purposes.

But there has been little progress in the province so far, where development agencies are hampered by the inaccessibility of much of the terrain, political inertia, and a volatile security situation due to conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim sects.

Jamil Uddin, who manages programmes in the Gilgit region for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), said his organisation plans to introduce climate mitigation and adaptation measures for the province’s farmers.

“Our experiences show that information-sharing programmes for mountain farmers and communities about better, proven adaptation and mitigation measures can enable (them) to cope with the aftermath of rapidly occurring climatic variability,” he said.

The AKRSP hopes to bring climate-resilient crop varieties and water conservation technologies to farmers.

According to LSO-D’s Iqbal, transmitting weather forecasts via FM radio and free SMS texts on mobile phones would help farmers, who now rely on indigenous techniques that are increasingly inaccurate as weather patterns become harder to predict.

Iqbal emphasised that helping mountain farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change is vital to support the livelihoods of rural people and maintain an acceptable level of food security.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.


Kashmiri Farmers Unprepared for Drought

SRINAGAR, India, Aug 16 2013 (IPS) – Zareena Bano has had to skip school 17 times this year to help out on her family’s farm in Tangchekh village in the northern Indian state of Kashmir.

Her teachers say she has the potential to be a brilliant student, but warn that if she keeps missing school she will not go far.

Never before has the 15-year-old had to sacrifice her education in order to support her family, but an acute water crisis in this Himalayan state has made irrigation a constant worry and severely disrupted the way of life for thousands of farming families like her own.

Troubled though they are by the toll the extra labour is taking on their daughter’s schoolwork, Zareena’s parents are in no position to order her to stay away from the fields.

Her father, Gaffar Rathar, says the family is entirely dependent on the yields from his 2.5-acre paddy field and half a dozen walnut trees. Frequent droughts mean a lot of additional hard work for him and his family.

“Sometimes, when water is in extremely short supply, we have to store water in small ponds that we dug ourselves, and plastic containers,” he told IPS.

More at:

Climate change hurts women. Wall Street Journal sneers.

Women in the developing world, many of whom work in agriculture, are vulnerable to climate change.

Apparently the idea of girls being sold off into early marriage and women being pushed into prostitution is fucking hilarious.

Or so thinks the right-wing media machine, confronted this week with warnings about the negative ways climate change could affect women around the world.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and 11 other House Democrats, both men and women, introduced a resolution that aims to raise awareness about the vulnerability of women and girls to global warming.

More at Grist:

Climate change is harder on women in Pakistan

By Shabina Faraz

Zainab Bibi, a widow, mother of three from a very isolated village in District Mansehra (KPK) has a small farm and some livestock as a source of livelihood. From the last three years, she has been experiencing a constant decline in her wheat production. Zainab is desperately looking for some help. More knowledge about the alteration in sowing dates, usage of new crop varieties, irrigation methods, advance seasonal weather forecast etc can be of help to her. Being a female, widow and very few resources to rely-on, makes Zainab not only economically but also socially and politically vulnerable in a traditional Pakistani society. The addressal of her problems requires special efforts, efforts which could be reached-out to her.

The phenomenon of climate change in the years 1999 and 2000 clearly indicated the vulnerability when thousands of poor families had to flee from drought-hit areas of Balochistan where women and children were seen the most suffering sections of the society.

A report of the World Bank also showed that in Pakistan, especially in the mountainous regions, men out-migrate for livelihood opportunities (from 50% to 63% of the households) and it is the women who look after the family’s agriculture piece of land along with many other responsibilities.

According to an official report, climate change could hamper the achievement of many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including those on poverty eradication, child mortality, malaria, and other diseases, and environmental sustainability.

The report said like other poor countries, climate change is harder on women in Pakistan, where mothers have to stay in areas hit by drought, deforestation or crop failure. Many destructive activities against the environment disproportionately affect them, because most women in Pakistan are dependent on primary natural resources i.e. land, forests, and water.


Women most affected by climate change, says Shirkat Gah recent study

For woman in rural areas, the consequences of climate change have been a sharp increase in their daily workload and a host of health and social issues, according to a study conducted in Shaheed Benazirabad, formerly Nawabshah, district in Sindh.

Climate Change and Women: A Study, conducted by Shirkat Gah, assesses the impact of changing weather in four flood-affected villages, particularly on women. According to the study, yet to be published,the heavy floods of 2010 and 2011 affected women more than men as it had resulted in an increase in their workload.

A report cited in the study estimated that the floods affected 51 per cent of the women in the district and 40 per cent of the men. About 3.6 million women in Sindh were affected by the floods in 2010 and 2011, of whom 133,000 were pregnant at the time.

Since the floods, women in these villages have been travelling to other villages to find work such as cotton harvesting, while continuing with their household chores and home-based work like embroidery to make extra money.

The floods wiped away most crops, meaning families needed money to buy vegetables and grains previously available in the fields. The loss of a substantial portion of agricultural land meant more labour was required, so women were spending more time in the fields alongside men than before, in addition to their usual tasks.

Many women complained that the rise in heat intensity over the summer and loss of livestock in the floods meant they had to rise earlier to ground and knead flour, cook, fetch water from wells, buy firewood from markets, clean the house, and then also help in the field. Rising temperatures, coupled with poor diet, made it especially hard for women to work in the fields as well as do house chores.

Deforestation, which had made the floods worse, also meant less fodder available for livestock and fewer and sicker animals in these villages. In the past, livestock provided milk as well as income cushion. Now with fewer animals, women were compelled to sell milk and look for work on days men failed to find work.

The increased use of pesticides on the cotton crop had detrimental effects on women’s health. In the absence of firewood, dried and contaminated cotton was being used to light fires. Women, being in charge of the cooking at home, were exposed to the high carbon emissions in the smoke.

The study noted that the riverine forests in three of the four villages started disappearing in 2001, when local landlords and the Forest Department began to clear the land for agricultural purposes, mostly to plant banana trees. Until then, the forests provided beehives (honey was used particularly by pregnant women), grazing land for livestock and free wood.

With the forests gone, in the last three years locals have had to start buying wood and livestock fodder. The disappearance of beri beri and neem trees put an end to several traditional herbal remedies, meaning villagers must buy modern medicines.

The loss of trees has also led to the loss of indigenous bird species such as partridges, doves and parrots. The swamp deer, whose antlers were used in traditional medicines for kidney ailments and TB, has become extinct. The pollution in the Indus has increased, affecting fish populations.

The floods also destroyed several lakes in Sarkand, one of the four villages studied, compelling local fishing communities to take up seasonal wage labor.

The study said that the shift in agricultural patterns to cash crops and farmers using more chemicals and mechanisation had had adverse effects on income and health. In the last three years, cases of hepatitis, skin infections, hypertension and malaria have gone up considerably. The social fabric has also been damaged, with conflict, domestic violence, drug use and suicide rate among women going up.

The study cited several sources showing that rainfall and maximum temperatures had increased in the district since 2006.


The study recommends special adaptation funds for grass root levels to prepare for changes affecting their livelihoods. It also suggest including women in decision making regarding use of natural resources and 33 per cent representation of women seats in local government systems. Introducing schemes backed with green technologies (drought resistant crops, water conservation and management systems) and owned by women will help, it suggests.

The study also recommends promoting climate resistant crops, ensuring of schemes promoting secondary education amongst women, and extending services regarding reproductive heath education and training women in marketing skills. Measures for reducing degradation of natural resources is also suggested.

You can see the original story here.