Yema Gharti. Credit: Tom Pietrasik/Oxfam

Nepal : Yema Gharti's new life

Yema, 39, lives alone with her son, in Nepal. When her husband left them 16 years ago, she had to struggle to find food and to survive on her own. Despite these difficulties, she has been able to pay for the education of her son and has new projects to secure their future.

"I haven't seen my husband for 16 years. He is in Surkhet now with his new wife. When we were first married he used to migrate there for work, then one year he just didn't come back.

At first, I found it very difficult to survive on my own. When a woman is left on her own in our society people have bad feelings towards her. I struggled to find enough food for my son and myself on my own with no support from my husband. Most women survive here because their husband's have migrated for work and when they return they bring back money. But after a while I got used to it. I had to face it and work harder. It's not that much of a problem these days.

"Something good for the community" 

It's been 12 years since my son, Ishwar, has seen his father. He does not like to speak about his father because he knows what he did. He never asks about him. He's clever my son and kind. He always did well at school. He got a scholarship for his year 7 & 8 so I didn't have to pay.

Last year Ishwar moved to the Tangari district to get his higher education. I felt that I had to do something to ensure that my son got his education. He can't really work while he is studying so I am paying for his education now. It's hard but I can manage. Usually I sell my goats and pigs to get enough to pay for the fees. In our caste system there is a trend for making alcohol so sometimes I can do that to make some money. I am very proud of him. I know my son will do something really good with his life. He's hasn't made up his mind what he wants to do yet but he says he wants to do something good for this community. I really think he will do something good here. I would like him to have a good job so that he can secure his future.

I also had a daughter two years after my son was born, but she died four days after I gave birth to her. I never gave her a name. 

"I have learnt how to make my signature"

I am very keen to learn things so I go to the participatory learning class whenever I have time. We talk about the problems we are facing. Because we don't have water our land becomes dry and we are not able to produce what we need. We really work very hard in the fields but because we do not have enough rain we cannot produce enough to feed our families. If we had good crops in our fields we would not need to buy food.  

I have learnt how to write my name and make my signature. Now when we go for meetings and we have to sign something we can and we don't just have to give a thumbprint. It's a bit shameful just giving a thumbprint. When you make a signature you feel like you are someone.”

Climate change adaptation

I have seen the changes in the weather. Last year there was no rain and we couldn't save any grain. When we don't have any grain left, the only way to survive between harvests is to sell our livestock. Everyone has the same problem, no one has enough to feed their families, so we can't even help each other.

This year it rained a bit so we managed to save half a bucket of grain. I managed to harvest 60 kg of wheat this year using the improved seeds we received, this is really good, but I do not have irrigation on my land so I did not produce as much as I could. Once the irrigation system is finished and I can irrigate my land I will be able to produce even more. When we have irrigation I will have enough to feed my family for the whole year and I will even have enough to save some seeds and plant them the next year. It will be really good."

Cash-for-work helps build micro-irrigation systems

Access to water is essential for long-term food security. Oxfam is paying the community (mainly women) to build micro irrigation systems, which will enable them to grow their crops relying less on the rain. Skilled workers such as stone cutters will be paid $5 a day and unskilled workers, who will mainly be digging and carrying stones will be paid around $3 a day. Oxfam supplies tools and building materials and trains the community how to build and manage their irrigation systems, this is important because it ensures that they can maintain and fix it if anything goes wrong.

The systems works by channelling water from a local water source (spring or river) into a central reservoir located within the village. Hundreds of meters of pipes transport the water from the reservoir out onto individual pieces of land. The whole community (mainly women) work together to dig out the channels, the reservoir and construct the pipe network. The average system will take 80-100 people 3 weeks to build and is likely to serve up to 25 families. Oxfam plans to build two to three systems per community depending on the population and water sources.

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