Photo: Khaula Jamil/OxfamAUS
A water-tight solution to the climate crisis
Increased droughts and saltwater intrusion have turned Muhammad’s once productive farmland barren, sparking feuds over access to canal water. But thanks to training from Oxfam in new climate-smart farming techniques and skills to lobby for a fairer water supply, life is looking brighter.
Pakistan’s Badin district is home to 1.8 million people, with more than 70% living in rural areas. The region experiences frequent floods and drought-like conditions due to water scarcity, changing rainfall patterns and land degradation caused by sea intrusion. These volatile conditions conspire to undermine agricultural productivity. Economic opportunities for men, women and young people are limited by the region’s remoteness and agricultural dependence. To cope with these shocks and stresses, farmers and their families often resort to taking children out of school early; taking loans or credit from landlords; foregoing necessary health care due to the associated costs; and migration to urban centres for economic opportunities, which increases the care burden on women. To address these issues, our Building Resilient Communities project aims to equip rural communities and government authorities with the knowledge and skills to prepare for, adapt to and mitigate climate and disaster risks. This includes adopting climate-smart agricultural techniques and diversifying livelihoods.“Life is very difficult here. There used to be times when water was available but now it is very difficult to access,” says Muhammed.“We have to buy our food from the market now. Because of the water shortage we cannot depend on our land anymore. “I attended a three-day training where I learnt which kind of land was good to grow crops in, which cropping patterns I should adopt to improve our lives, and we also received trainings on how to raise our voice and speak up for ourselves, to advocate for our cause. “I was able to learn new techniques and farming methods. Our old methods required a lot more water than the new methods. “We have our land here, but the lands further over belong to another caste, so often when the water is flowing down, they would close it off for their use only. When they closed the water last time, I went to [talk] with them. I explained that I also had a right to access the water and that it should be an equal distribution. “So now we have access to that water. I feel so much happiness from this. There is nothing without water. Everything is birthed from water; life is from water. “Before we didn’t have access to food or water. Now we have access to not only water but soon we will have access to clean and fresh vegetables. “We are expecting the demo plot [and irrigation system] to improve our lives. We have been given the tools, resources and means so we can increase the produce we grow on the land and improve our standard of living. “We are going to use all that we have been provided with to improve our lives.” This year, the average income of those who embraced alternative livelihood activities tripled, from 1,000 Pakistani rupees (PKR) to 3,000 PKR per month. It pays to think outside the box!
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