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.