ParbatiBK washing dishes in her wash station infront of her house
“I wake up at five in the morning. Immediately after, the need of water arises – to perform daily ablutions, clean and cook.” Parbati BK, Treasurer of the Tikhatar multi-use water systems (MUS) Water Users Group (WUG) in Tikhatar-2 of Doli in far-west Nepal, reiterates the importance of water in daily life. An integral requisite for human life, water is also key to food security. In this settlement where rainfall is inadequate, agriculture production requires large quantities of water for irrigation.
The community of Tikhatar-2 is vulnerable to drought. This shortage of water mainly affects women, who are usually in charge of household activities. In the past, people used to go to the river for bathing and washing clothes. Houses and animal sheds were cleaned only during festive occasions. Toilets remained unclean, which affected the health of people.
Parbati, a representative of the Dalit community, is also associated with lata Farmer’s Group as a member since December 2016. When commenting on the situation 3 years ago, Parbati says “Forget irrigation or agriculture, there was a huge shortage of drinking water in this community. It would take us up to an hour to fetch water. Vegetable production was low and hygiene was poor. There were times when I could not manage water to drink and cook“.
During that period, people went to the market each time to purchase vegetables. When people could not afford to buy vegetables, they were deprived of nutrition. These water challenges strongly impacted the growing of crops -a highly water-dependent sector- from both rain-fed and irrigated methods particularly in regions like Mid-west and Far west Nepal.
Parbati was troubled by these difficulties and she decided to take the initiative to make a change in her community. “To overcome these difficulties, I envisioned this community as a place where people have enough water to drink, support agriculture and maintain hygiene, thus uplifting their economic condition.” shares Parbati. She wanted to see people live a convenient life, not having to spend an exorbitant amount of time and energy on basic needs like water. She envisioned people working together to address their community water needs.
In order to achieve her vision, Parbati learned of an opportunity for installation of a community MUS being offered by PAHAL and her local Rural Municipality (RM). She took action and formed a group of seven members who requested support from PAHAL and the RM for construction of a MU in Tikhatar-2.
PAHAL partners with communities like Tikhatar-2 to install MUS for irrigation and domestic use. This system uses gravity to collect water from an uphill source and deposit it in a holding tank downhill. Distribution lines carry the water farther down to the community to domestic tap stands and irrigation off take lines. By providing close and consistent access to water, the MUS helps families cope with drought and its impacts more effectively. PAHAL works, as part of its facilitative model, with leaders like Parbati who have the vision to change their community.
In Tikhatar-2, PAHAL provided financial support and helped Parbati and her group coordinates with the RM for fund leverage. At the beginning of the MUS construction process, Parbati and the local lead farmers, together with PAHAL representatives, identified a usable water source and conducted a feasibility study on the potential water system. After PAHAL completed the design and cost estimation, Parbati conducted a group meeting in her community to develop a plan to access government funding for the water scheme.
Parbati was inspired and took the lead in mobilizing members from 17 households. The WUG they formed with the support from PAHAL assumed responsibility for collecting local resources such as sand and gravel; transporting construction materials; digging and installing the pipelines; land preparation at the site and so on for the MUS construction. With financial support from the RM and PAHAL, and technical support from PAHAL ensuring community participation and contribution, the group managed to achieve the construction of the MUS in 2018, providing water to 30 families.
Constructed with local materials, the MUS’ simple technology solved their problem of lack of water. “Water availability has brought about a marked change in the community,” shares Silo Devi Bogali, Member of Mangaleshwar Farmers Group in Tikhatar-2. “People now maintain personal hygiene and keep their surroundings clean. The frequency of diseases like diarrhea and dysentery has gone down.“
Parbati’s drive to improve water access in her community didn’t end with obtaining the MUS. She wanted people to understand and plan for the proper use of water to improve both food productions as well as to maintain personal hygiene. This awareness came to her after attending trainings on kitchen garden management, waste water management, and total sanitation provided by PAHAL. She encouraged others to attend as well and as a result, along with other community members, they have made the best use of their learning.
For example, all households in Tikathar-2 have now constructed kitchen gardens. The water available from the MUS for irrigation has helped each farmer earn at least $365 USD per annum. Parbatihas also guided the group by sharing techniques on proper water utilization. The community members of Tikhatar-2 learned that water management is essential for food production. “Parbati encouraged us to construct a ditch for reuse of the waste water and directed us not to leave the tap open after use, 11 shares Silo.The waste water now gets Collected in a ditch and is utilized for growing vegetables. Their household activities such as washing utensils, bathing, cleaning etc. are conducted in a small area, from where waste water flows through a pipe or narrow canal. This water is re-utilized, mostly in kitchen gardens.
Being a member of the local Farmer Group, Parbati shares her ideas, skills and knowledge of improved technologies such as plastic greenhouses and drip irrigation with her fellow farmers; and provides them seeds when possible. She has a kitchen garden where people visit to observe and learn better techniques from her. “Parbati is a very hard-working woman. She has grown capsicum, cucumber, and other off seasonal vegetables in her farm for sale in the nearby market. I have also started growing seasonal and off seasonal vegetables. She has inspired many farmers like me in this community, II says Prem BK, Member, Mangaleshwor Farmers Group.
The MUS has brought about a change in Parbati’s personal life as well. After water became available, she produced more vegetables and earns $77 USD every season. She uses the income to fulfil household responsibilities but she also puts savings in the Sanloshi Mahila Cooperative for her future.
Realizing the value that the MUS has brought to the community, Parbati says, “I felt even more responsible after the MUS was constructed because the source area is liable to be damaged by landslides and the scheme needs to be protected. Else, we will face water scarcity again. II
The WUG now meets formally at least twice a month where they discuss and update each other on maintenance and repair of the MUS, condition of taps and other structures, and the status of the water management fund and account keeping. The management/ maintenance fund can be used to recover the scheme in case of possible disaster. They have planted vegetation that reduces erosion in the water source area to mitigate the effects of landslides.
“We collect 0.91 USD from each household on a monthly basis as maintenance fund for the MUS. Till date, we have collected and saved $20 1 USD. Furthermore, we have a trained person designated for maintenance,“ says Parbati. The group is also planning to use a meter system, thus setting the minimum price and charging certain amount per unit of water used.
Parbati has not only been able to ensure community members’ access to water and increased food security; she has also been able to take action to fulfill her vision. She has been able to make people aware of the importance of water in all aspects of their lives. People ore mindful of and plan their water use today to secure themselves from the shocks and stresses tomorrow. “We will protect this scheme, for it helps in providing us with physical and economic access to enough safe and nutritious food for an active and healthy lifestyle,” Parbati concludes.