Agrarian communities in the Terai have to address mounting challenges related to increased climatic variability and acute socio-economic stresses. As migration patterns show, these stressors seriously threaten the sustainability of farming systems in the region.

Identifying the factors impacting the capability of men and women to sustainably address these challenges is key to design fair policies which support marginalized groups.

A team of IWMI researchers has conducted research in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (Nepal Terai-Madhesh, Bihar and Bangladesh) to understand the patterns of vulnerability to climate change and the adaptive capacity for women and men farmers respectively, with a focus on agricultural water management.

The research also critically evaluated a range of water-related interventions led by various actors, including donors, scientists, NGOs and the government, in case study sites in Nepal, North India and Bangladesh. In particular, the project has closely engaged with the Department of Irrigation (DOI) of Nepal to explore ways to support gender-sensitive interventions.

An innovative off-shoot of this project was the use of participatory video making in Dhanusha district of Nepal. By creating their own films, farmers in Nepal’s eastern Terai were given a direct mouthpiece to voice their experiences and ideas on climate change, adaptation, and the inter-related impact of male out-migration on farming and livelihoods.

 

Motivation

Though climate change is often considered as a biophysical phenomenon, its effects on farmers’ livelihoods ultimately depend on the capacity of the latter to adapt. One’s vulnerability to environmental change varies considerably according to social factors. Such understandings are crucial for the success of climate change policies and interventions, yet relatively few studies have sought to understand the macro and micro-level structural constraints to adaptation in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, and even fewer have explored this with regards to gender. This project aims to fill gaps in understanding of gender relationships within the agrarian communities of the plains.

 

Goals

In that spirit, IWMI researchers seek answers to two main questions:

  • What are the structural causes of vulnerability to climate change, with a particular focus on gender and associated axes of inequality such as class, caste and ethnicity?
  • To which extent do current government and donor-led agricultural water management interventions aiming at reducing vulnerability address these structural causes?