Climate Change Effects Lead to Mass Migration in India

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

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Source: Neeta Lal/IPS
Source: Neeta Lal/IPS

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“Displacement for populations due to erratic and extreme weather, a fallout of climate change, has become a scary reality for millions of people across swathes of India. Flooding in Jammu and Kashmir last year, in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Assam in 2012 displaced 1.5 million people.”

South Asia continues to be hard hit by the effects of climate change. High temperatures, rising sea levels, and increased cyclonic activity in India are creating large-scale migrations. Just in the eastern Indian state of Assam and in Bangladesh alone, its been estimated that a million people have been rendered homeless. As droughts and flash floods prevent the success of crops, as much as a quarter of India’s population has been affected — many of whom, as we know, are women farmers who are the backbones of rural communities.

With precious resources, like land and water, being depleted by every passing day, we as a global community must come together to support one another as we address ‪climate change, and find solutions for those already hit the hardest. We believe women are key to finding, and implementing, these solutions.

To read more about this issue, click here.

Over 1 million people hit by flooding in India’s tea region of Assam

Project: Together for H2OPE

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We’ve just learned of the flooding that has hit the communities and tea gardens in the Assam region of India. This is also the region (specifically, the Tinsukia district) where our project, Together for H2OPE — a partnership between WEA, Numi Foundation, and Purva Bharati Educational Trust — is based. Please join with us as we keep all those impacted in our thoughts. We will be keeping a close watch on the situation, to see if/how we can support our friends and colleagues on the ground in the coming hours/days.

A woman (C) looks on as she walks with others to a safer place through a flooded road after incessant rains at Bullut village in Kamrup district in Assam, June 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files
A woman (C) looks on as she walks with others to a safer place through a flooded road after incessant rains at Bullut village in Kamrup district in Assam, June 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

More than 1.2 million people in northeast India have been hit by floods which have submerged hundreds of villages, inundated large swathes of farmland and damaged roads, bridges and telecommunications services…

More than 2,100 low-lying villages and almost 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) of crops have been partially or totally submerged in upper Assam…

The fast-flowing waters have also breached embankments and eroded dykes, leaving some parts of national and state highways inaccessible and compounding efforts to rescue marooned villagers and distribute food aid such as rice, lentils and oil.

Officials said more than 60 percent of region’s famed Kaziranga National Park, home to two-thirds of the world’s endangered one-horned rhinoceroses, is also under water, leaving the animals more vulnerable to poaching…

Experts say decades of mass deforestation have led to soil erosion where sediment is washed downstream from mountainous areas. It ends up in rivers where it builds up on the river bed, raising the level of the water far higher than normal.

Read the full article here.

Daily flood watch available here.

Congress Passes the Global Food Security Act of 2016

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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By: Janice Kim, Programs + Operations Intern

Last week, in a celebrated step forward, Congress passed the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) of 2016. With just the president’s signature needed now, the GFSA reaffirms the United States’ commitment to supporting global food security and nutrition.

Though the newest version of the bill doesn’t create new programs or add funding to existing aid efforts, what it does do is set new standards for U.S. involvement in global hunger relief efforts. The emphasis of the GFSA is on supporting women, children, and smallholder farmers through long-term efforts to reduce global food shocks and reliance on food aid.

Here are a few of the components of the bill that WEA is especially excited about:

  • Promoting non-U.S.-centric agriculture-led economic growth for small-scale farmers that could reduce global poverty, hunger, and malnutrition
  • Improving the nutritional status of women and children while improving stability of small-scale farmers

Overall, in its most aspirational form, the GFSA could mean more support of small-scale producers—many of who are women farmers (women are the backbone of the rural economy in developing countries and are responsible for 60-80% of food production)—and greater access to skills, resource management capacity, networking, and financing to sustain their work in the long run. This goes hand in hand with the work of many of WEA’s project partners, like Vanastree.

WEA and Vanastree have partnered together since 2014 to uplift the role of rural women farmers in the Malnad region of southern India. Through this partnership, Vanastree and WEA are building the capacity of small-scale women farmers, supporting them as they cultivate their own forest gardens and strengthen seed banks, providing training on integrated food gardens for women and youth, creating opportunities for women to generate stable, alternative sources of income, and more. These efforts are all in answer to the regions growing food security concerns.

Youth in the garden
Manorama Joshi (center, crouched down) of Vanastree teaches farming techniques.

WEA, together with many other organizations, are looking forward to seeing the positive impacts the GFSA can mean for women farmers, their communities, and the goal of ending global hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

Strengthening the resilience of West Bengali farmers

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GEAG-soma

Soma is from West Bengal, a state that boasts extraordinary biodiversity but is also one of the most ecologically fragile regions in the world.  At high risk of seasonal flooding, and prone to cyclones, West Bengal’s extreme weather patterns threaten the food, water, and economic security of its communities, especially its farmers. Committed to improving her circumstances and those of her community, Soma works with the local organization, West Bengal-based Development Research Communication and Services Centre (DRCSC) to mitigate the catastrophic impacts of climate change on female farmers in her state.

As a farmer, water collector and caregiver, Soma is on the frontlines of the climate change crisis. She came to WEA and our partner GEAG’s 2011 Northern India Women, Food Security, and Climate Change Training with a vision: to improve the resilience of West Bengali farmers in the face of climate change and regional flooding. Soma was not alone — twenty-nine more Indian women farmers from other regions came to the WEA training with similar visions. By connecting women from across India who already have their own techniques and solutions for dealing with floods and maintaining food security, WEA and GEAG created a container for women across regions learn from one another.

At the Training, these women farmers exchanged knowledge and learned skills in low-cost techniques to mitigate the effects of climate change. During the training, Soma and her teammate created a year-long action plan to increase resilience to floods and improve food security in West Bengal.

Soma returned to her community armed with new solutions, ready to implement her action plan. Soma facilitated demonstrations of several appropriate technologies that help women access food, harvest water, and improve community health. She mobilized her community to:

  • Construct a rainwater harvesting system, providing water for fifty families
  • Build container gardens for an entire community to ensure their access to food
  • Provide twenty women with organic, low-input seeds
  • Build six smokeless chulhas, demonstrating the positive respiratory health impacts and improved efficiency of the stoves

Soma’s story demonstrates the power of what can happen when grassroots women come together and learn from each other.  In Soma’s community, women are moving from a place of dependency to a place of self-reliance.  Soma’s leadership has helped spread needed information and solutions that can help families survive during the rainy season. Soma has helped herself and other women leaders in her community unlock their leadership to take control of their own livelihoods.

As Soma puts it, “I am a farmer, I am happy, and I choose to remain so.”

We stand in solidarity with Soma as she is improving the independence and resilience of women farmers in West Bengal.

How Funding Women’s Climate Action is Unique and Necessary

Project: Mexican Indigenous Women Uniting for Land Protection

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 Global Greengrants Fund, the leading environmental fund supporting grassroots action on a global scale, and The International Network of Women’s Funds have put together a guide to supporting grassroots women’s organizations working on climate justice and women’s rights across the globe. The guide specifically addresses the urgent needs within the funding community and aims to increase appropriate funding for climate action and women’s rights worldwide led by women.

Women’s funders might describe grants that build on women’s traditional roles in agriculture or as service providers… [and] Although such interventions have supported women to mobilize and articulate their rights, they do not always challenge women’s secondary status in societies or address existing power dynamics within families and communities.

You can read the entirety of the guide here.