NDF - Financing for climate change and development projects

Enhancing climate resilience and promoting gender quality through integrated watershed management in Nepal’s Far-Western Mountain districts

Photo: TA 7984 Mainstreaming Climate Change Risk Management in Development

Communities in Nepal’s Far Western Mountain Region have long coped with problems of water scarcity. Collecting water for the family’s daily needs is a labor-intensive task that mainly falls to women. The amount of water flowing to traditional mountain sources can vary based on changes in annual and seasonal rainfall patterns and other hydrological factors. When water sources dry up, women find their already charged day even longer as they are forced to travel further to find an available water supply.

Climate change is likely to intensify the problem of water scarcity in mountain communities. Climate change projections for Nepal show that increasing average annual temperatures will alter precipitation patterns, resulting in wetter summers and drier winter months.1  These trends are magnified in the climatic conditions of high altitude regions and have a strong effect on the hydrological cycle. Uncertainties remain in projections of exactly how precipitation will be impacted by climate change. Downscaled basin-wide modeling by the Institute for Water Resources Management point to both increasing and decreasing tendencies in rainfall patterns at various times of year.2 Overall, less predictable access to water sources is projected to be a major climate change impact, and one that will disproportionally affect women. 
The Project

Under the ADB technical assistance Building Climate Resilience of Watersheds in Mountain Eco-Regions (BCRWME), co-funded by the Nordic Development Fund (NDF),  Nepal’s Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management (DSCWM) is improving access to water for 45,000 households in climate vulnerable mountain communities. The technical assistance, launched in September 2014, is applying an integrated watershed management approach to enhancing climate resilience. Promoting women’s active involvement in participatory community forums about improved water management priorities is a key element of the project design and implementation.

The project is covering six districts in the  lower West Seti and Budhi Ganga watersheds of the Karnali River basin - Achham, Baitaidi, Bajhang, Bajura, Dadeldhura, and Doti.  The Department of Soil Conservation and Watershed Management established a Project Management Unit in Dadeldhura District in order to place field teams close to the communities the project is serving. These teams are addressing climate change impacts on water resources through three sets of interventions.

First, the project is working with community groups and Village Development Committees (VDC) to identify community priorities for building water source catchment management and storage infrastructure (drinking water systems and irrigation). The project then combines a number of these community-defined initiatives into one sub-project managed by the VDC. Second, the project is training women and men in target communities on methods for maintaining soil moisture in agriculture, grazing and fodder management and on techniques for regenerating vegetative cover to protect water sources.  Third, the project is supporting local governments and communities to better coordinate integrated watershed management, increase local knowledge about good practices, and implement activities to boost the resilience of watersheds.

Promoting gender equality in integrated watershed management  

The BCRWME technical assistance has developed a Gender Equality & Social Inclusion (GESI) Action Plan to transform women’s role in water management in the target areas. Despite their critical role in water collection, women have traditionally had very little voice in local decisions about water management. The GESI Action Plan identifies ways to give women an equal voice in the participatory decision-making process that drives project investments and to ensure that project strategies capitalize on women’s knowledge about traditional water sources.

The GESI Action Plan includes a range of targets to promote women’s participation in the project and contribute to the longer-term goal of empowering women to take a more active role in decentralized local development.

The project has established Community Development Groups (CDGs) that mobilize community participation in local water infrastructure improvement, and Community Development Committees (CDC) that represent community members at the VDC sub-project level. These bodies are important decision-making forums where project investment decisions are presented and validated by the community. Since the project inception, 257 CDGs have been formed with at total of 2,414 members. Women now represent 47% of CDG members, and 44% of CDG leaders – well above the original targets set by the project. Women are also getting actively involved in the VDC level sub-project decision-making. The project has formed 28 Community Development Committees, one for each VDC subproject area. Of the 331 CDC members, 138 - or 42% - are women. Women also represent 39% of the CDC members in key leadership positions.

The active role women are taking in these decision-making forums is having its impact on women’s overall involvement in the project. The project has succeeded in ensuring that women are well-represented at all public meetings with a 45% female participation rate. Women are also actively involved in paid construction work, an opportunity that allows them to contribute to their families’ livelihoods.

Along with promoting gender equality, BCRWME is ensuring that members of the communities socially disadvantaged groups – in particular dalit populations – are also accessing more opportunities to be part of local decision-making on water management.

The BCRWME technical assistance has succeeded in developing a participatory, gender-responsive and inclusive decision-making process that combines climate risk factors with social and technical factors to ensure the project invests in water access infrastructure that will reduce climate change impacts on the most vulnerable populations. These efforts will continue until 108 water access sub-projects are built. This process is not only building more reliable water sources for the future, but also laying the foundations for more equal participation of women in making local development decisions that will enhance the resilience of mountain communities to the long term impacts of climate change.

NDF wants to acknowledge that the authorship of the news item is assigned to TA 7984 Mainstreaming Climate Change Risk Management in Development. Asian Development bank is the executing agency of the project.

[1] World Bank. 2011. Vulnerability, Risk Reduction, and Adaptation to Climate Change: Nepal Climate Risk and Adaptation Country Profile. Washington: World Bank, 2011.
[2] International Water Management Institute. 2012. Building Climate Resilience of Watersheds in Mountain Eco-Regions –Climate Change and Vulnerability Mapping in Watersheds in Middle and High Mountains of Nepal. Project Preparatory Technical Assistance 7883-NEP.  ADB: Manila.

More information

Building Climate Resilience of Watersheds in Mountain Eco-Regions (BCRWME) [NDF C56]