Livelihoods and climate variability in Phalee Khul, Ukhrul district

Rahul Ashem *

Climate variability and change is an issue for all. Both male and female are equally affected by its impacts. Providing environmental services to the hill people is one option to enhance the socio economic livelihoods and reduce vulnerability .

Presently, the effects of climate variability and change are visible in every corner of the regions. The change suggests the increase in landslide frequency in the hill districts as the frequency of sudden and erratic rainfall increases. While, drought is another possible expect due to the unexpected rise in temperature, pest and disease outbreaks and wildfire all of which are likely to increase landslide incidence.

A study on disaster prone areas has highlighted the vulnerability of Phalee khul and its people to certain natural disasters. Sudden and violent hazards like mudslides, landslides and drought are seen commonly in recent times. The village is located about 40 kms away from the district headquarter.

The Naga community forms the greater part of the village. The village is flanked by Ngaimu and Tolloi in the East, Somdal and Hoomi in the north, Tuinem and Lamlang in the south and Champhung and Tora in the west.

According to the locals, the 2017 landslide covering an area of about 300 square meters on the eastern side of the village church is one of the worst examples in the last many decades. Few of the houses had to be evacuated for about a week during the time. This year, 2019, the village witness signs of crop failure due to irregular and uncertain rainfall pattern. This confusion of natural hazards has left the Phalee farmers clueless.

People who depend on natural resources are sensitive to changes in climate. Particularly, women are more affected by climatic and environmental stresses. They are the ones primarily involved in activities related to natural resources. As per reports of personal interviews, most people do not even hear the phrase climate variability and change but many of them define environmental changes from their experiences on their daily basis.

Scientifically, changes in monsoon seasons, temperature and rainfall are possible factors for the environmental changes in the village. Further, exposing infrastructure, comparatively low incomes, declining traditional knowledge and practice, historical factors and dependence on climate-sensitive resources like agriculture, fish farming etc are other underlying vulnerabilities.

The confluence of such factors has led the people to being unable to sustain their every day to day livelihood. In the wake of these established facts in the present scenario, Phalee village is one with clear evidence of experiencing climate variability and change and its impacts.

Unfortunately, climate variability and change is a whole new concept to be fully understood by the people of Phalee. The villagers confirm the change in rainfall patterns (sudden and erratic) and temperature (increase or decrease) most of the year. The locals identify physiological and other vegetative structure and patterns changes.

As a result, many of the village ecosystems services (river, forests and grassland) which provide a source of livelihoods are at risk. Besides, the household survey found out that woman folks are more stressed to changes in temperature in comparison with men folks. The women folk observed the rise of certain temperature during summer season. They considered that June and July were the monsoon months but now there seem to be longer periods of heat waves.

The women folks are of the opinion that the months of April and May were not hot in the past as they are now. While, men folks suggests that there is an increasing intensity of rainfall during summer month but the rate of frequency is declining. Sometimes, the village suffers from high exposure to natural hazards such as landslides, erratic rainfall patterns, chilly winter and delayed rain related drought etc.

Historically, most agricultural fields and collection of firewood are done by women while male work in the nearby town and are not involved in kitchen activities. Now, collection of firewood was done by heavy vehicle where males are mostly involved. Agricultural related activities/works too shared almost equally though there is loose division of works mainly done by women and by men.

As an example, transplantation, mowing weeding, cleaning done by women while ploughing and digging were done by male parts. At the time of harvesting, threshing was done by men while collection of sheaves was mainly done by women. Above all, the disturbance in climate leads to poor crop yields and productivity. Most of the paddy cultivation starts with the arrival of monsoon season.

Lack of rainfall during pre monsoon or monsoon season adversely impacts the agricultural production to fall. In fact, the increasing floods, drought or any other natural calamities is havoc to farmers, jeopardizing their livelihoods and threatening their food security at last.

Now -a -days, the drought like situation is worsening farm distress, exacerbate groundwater extraction, increase migration from rural to urban areas, and further inflame water conflicts between states and between farms. Mostly, women, children, the elderly and a few youths are left behind in the village as the rest leave to seek better opportunities in cities and other states in the country.

It is also observed that women’s specific needs and ideas for adaptation are less likely to be heard or acted upon and their voices largely remain marginalized in the environmental debate. Moreover, changes in temperature and rainfall patterns can create favorable conditions for pests, diseases and other invasive species to emerge.

The localities already experienced the emergence of new insect, Khayi (local name) seen in other crops like brassicaceae family and other vegetables but not in rice before. Consequently, local knowledge of planting and local seeds is disappearing. As income drops due to reduced crop yield, communities are moving from subsistence to hybrid seed and cash crop production.

Specifically, the Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) revealed that local impacts of climate change are difficult to capture during climate change projections. Even so, the baseline information on climate variability and change of phalee village are not available at this time.

The survey report responses to droughts, landslide and other extreme weather events provide partial analogues to both capacities to deal with climate change and with its likely negative manifestations. It is well established that climate variability and change factors are insufficient to predict the village its degree of sensitivity or adaptive capacity to such disasters.

In order to secure local livelihoods, people’s participation, legitimacy and knowledge play an important part in adaptation process. An action plan focusing on mitigation and adaptation measures of building their capacity to combat climate change impacts is required. Other collateral benefits, such as biodiversity conservation, watershed protection needs to be identified.

Besides, practicing of traditional knowledge is an important factor of resilient measurement. Sometimes, traditional knowledge is not static at all; they change with the flow of environment and climate variability. Studies suggest that poor societies have high capacity to adapt through traditional bearing or sharing of losses.

Further, meeting with local aged people about the changing scenario of local weather patterns and climate will also helpful. Such knowledge combined with observations made by researchers will understand the changes happening in the village. The restoration of hydrological regimes is another option to restore the ecosystem function.

Conversely, collaboration of meteorological data and scientific data analysis combined with farmers’ experiences and perceptions will ultimately help in understanding the methods of climate change and how people can adapt to it and mitigate its effects.

* Rahul Ashem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at benthhook(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 26th August, 2019.

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