When thinking about water management, gender is probably the last thing on many people’s minds. But in fact, the whole process of water management – technology choices, decision making, implementation, benefits and risks are all gendered.
The Women’s Alliance of Ladakh (WAL), while making efforts to protect Ladakh’s environment and preserving its culture, is persuading farmers of the cold desert to practise organic farming and traditional water harvesting as farmers face water scarcity because of low snowfall in recent years. “It seems water is gradually vanishing from this place. We need to be prepared for water-related challenges ahead,” said 60-year-old Tsering Chondol, President of WAL, which counts some 4,000 women in 114 villages of Ladakh as members.
“Year by year, the quantity of rainfall is decreasing,” said Shyamrao Patil, 55, a lungi-clad, generously mustachioed wiry farmer who has learned to read the changing seasons and–most importantly–adapt to them in a country where climate change has started affecting the livelihoods of a fifth of the population, or 263 million people, that depends on farming.
She wakes up at 5am when it is still dark and the rest of the family is asleep. She walks 4 km to reach a hillock and starts gathering firewood. By daybreak, she is back and starts cooking for the family. What about water for cooking? That involves another trek.