As France is on the verge to host United Nations Climate Change Conference â€• 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) from 30 November to 11 December 2015, the livelihoods of millions of dryland farmers across Africa and India are affected by climate related problems.
However, there are some success stories where farmers are leading the way and are finding potential ways to fight climate change. In the deserts of Rajasthan, India, women farmers are adopting farming methods, which show there is hope to combat climate change impact in the drylands, the ecosystems most adversely affected, and move out of poverty.
The women leaders like Mani and Rameshwari from the Derasar village in Rajasthan, have been leaders in their community and taken on many innovations such as improved crop varieties including pearl millet and other crops suited to the region; fruit trees to provide nutrition and income; constructing embankments to capture rainfall and prevent runoff and soil erosion; and planting grasses and fodder trees to provide fodder for cattle.
Interestingly, new institutional arrangements have been implemented to enable communities to better manage common property resources such as the common grazing lands or to form women’s self-help groups to weigh and market livestock for higher income.
The Thar desert, spread over an area of 320,000 sq km, covers 60 percent of the State. The region faces water scarcity for 9 to 11 months in a year and frequent droughts, two in five years.
These efforts are part of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, where work is underway in three States of India, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, to empower farmers and local institutions to build resilient and sustainable farming systems that cope with the vagaries of current and future climate.
This success is due to the partnership of different organisations coming together to work for a common cause. Local community and a grassroots organisation Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS) along with scientific expertise from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) worked closely with the local community. Funding has also been critical coming from CGIAR donors around the world under the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.
“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.” says Dr Shalander Kumar, Scientist, ICRISAT.
The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems aims to improve the lives of 1.6 billion rural people and mitigate land and resource degradation in over 3 billion hectares covering the world’s dry areas.