DWINDLING FASTER THAN NATURE CAN REPLENISH

 “It hasn't rained in almost three seasons. I have abandoned my paddy fields since there isn’t enough water to cultivate”

Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh (drinkable), and humans are using it faster than nature can replenish it.

J.M.P Chandralatha, shares the bitter truth of the effects of the prolonged drought which has had severe impacts on paddy farming and other water intensive livelihoods in her small village Kalanchiya in Galgamuwa Divisional Secretariat Division. A village in the North Western province of Sri Lanka with a higher number of single mothers, women farmers like Chandralatha have had to look for alternate income generative mechanisms as they struggle to survive the effects of climate change.

A mother of three sons, her husband drives a Tuk-tuk in the nearby town as there are no livelihood options in the village during the prolonged drought. Due to the additional burden of water scarcity, she has had to pursue new livelihood and business opportunities as an adaptation strategy. In order to help support her family, she now is the owner of a thriving, drought-resilient home garden and a member of a well-established community managed regional marketing network.

RESILIENT COMMUNITIES

The United Nations Development Programme together with the Ministry of Disaster Management through the Climate Change Adaptation Project (C-CAP) funded by the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) of Global Environment Facility (GEF) since 2015 up until 2017 provided and trained farmers like her to engage in drought resilient farming and home gardening with a potted plant method. Using this method, farmers can make maximum use of the scarce water that is available during the drought period.

The $3.12 million project initiated with the objective of increasing the resilience of development to climate change risks, supported farmers in the Kurunegala and Puttalam districts. Under this, 34 minor irrigation tanks were rehabilitated and 42 run-off water harvesting tanks were established as an adaptation measure to climate change. More than 18,000 people received access to water while climate vulnerability maps and plans were also developed for each district. 

CHILLIES TO THE RESCUE

One of the many interventions was the establishment of 1350 drought resilient ecological home gardens. Chandralatha has a cultivation of over 130 chilli plants in pots, which was introduced through the project, for which she receives Rs. 500 per kilogram of its harvest. “During the drought season, I have even sold a kilogram for Rs. 1250!”. She also grows ten types of vegetables including bitter gourd and eggplant. The vegetables which are grown in her garden only using compost, is also a source of food for the family. “We don’t need to buy vegetables from the market anymore. We are able to eat fresh organic produce right from our garden. It has also helped us save.” 

She is one of the many farmers who sends her produce to the ‘Wayamba Isuru Farmers Market’ which was established by the C-CAP project in 2017 in Kurunegala together with the Provincial Department of Agriculture of the North-Western Province. Alongside 11 other farmers markets which were established through the intervention, the market sees people from all walks of life who come to purchase their pesticide-free eco-friendly produce weekly. 

NETWORK OF ECO-FRIENDLY PRODUCE

A large share of the world population is still consuming far too little to meet even their basic needs. Halving the per capita of global food waste at the retailer and consumer levels is also important for creating more efficient production and supply chains. The farmers market has built a network to meet the growing demand for eco-friendly food produce. 

S. P. Lakmali Rasanjali from Mawathagama plays a role of an intermediary as a part of this network. A mother of three sons, Rasanjali produces spice products such as chili and curry powder. Prior to the establishment of the farmers market, she would sell her products in an ad-hoc manner to nearby offices and shops in town.

The market which follows a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) introduced through UNDP’s interventions, has also connected her with farmers like Chandralatha who find it hard or don’t have the means to travel to the market. Rasanjali now has a network of about 10 farmers who supply their eco-friendly vegetables

These farmers’ markets not only encouraged local farmers to produce more but also promoted locally produced food consumption in the North Western Province, which establish fruit and vegetable supply chains with less food miles.  Reducing food miles of the supply chain has other positive impacts too. It helps to reduce the use of fossil fuel and minimizes the various emissions; especially those of GHG emissions in keeping carbon footprints low. This can help with food security, and shift us towards a more resource efficient economy.

“I used to earn around Rs. 20,000 a month. After this intervention I have managed to double my earnings.”

FRUITS OF THEIR LABOUR

She takes her responsibilities as the Secretary of the Wayamba Isuru Farmers Market very seriously. “I always want to be of service to other farmers and especially women like me in the society. This makes me very happy.” 

Through this intervention, farmers are able to monitor their produce and value-added products. This in turn has helped farmers to have a more stable economic return for the fruits of their labour.

“From the higher income I now receive, I was able to purchase a water pump and lay pipelines in the garden which would help irrigation during the dry season” says Chandralatha. 

She also maintains a bank book for her 11-year-old son, who helps her in the garden. “I have saved up almost Rs. 10,000 for him in the account. I hope these savings will help him one day when he takes on this responsibility”.  

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