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Junmaya’s story: farming in a changing climate

By Practical Action On 08.12.2020 Climate changeFarmingBlog

Junmaya is a farmer living in Rolpa, a remote and mountainous area of Nepal. Junmaya told us about her daily life farming in this isolated area and the impact climate change is having on her crops and her livelihood.

We’ve met some amazing people as part of  our Turning the Tables on Climate Change campaign – an opportunity for you to help farmers like Junmaya adapt to the new climate reality and thrive despite the effects of climate change. Here’s Junmaya’s story…


Early memories of farming life

Junmaya on her farm in Rolpa, Nepal. Most people who live here rely on farming to earn a living.

Junmaya told us a little about her childhood. She said she knew that, as a woman living in an isolated Himalayan farming community, she would be expected to work every day on the farm. She’d also be responsible for caring for her children and her husband’s older relatives.

Nepal’s civil war was a more unexpected challenge. Junmaya told us that fighters would steal crops to eat and force farmers to walk miles to carry out manual labour. Even though Junmaya had given birth to her first child just a few months before, she was forced to make the trip. “They would threaten to beat and kill us if we said no,” she says, “I had to carry the baby, water and milk for the baby. It was a huge load.”


Living and working on the farm

Junmaya showed us around her farm – it’s so steep and rocky that using any sort of wheeled vehicle is impossible and donkeys are too expensive. Junmaya demonstrated the heavy loads she spends much of her day carrying up and down the mountainside. She explained that market day is particularly challenging because she has to lug baskets full of vegetables up and down the mountains, in order to sell them at the weekly market.

After harvesting tomatoes, Junmaya carries them up the mountain using a traditional basket that distributes their weight between her head and back.

The terrain brings other challenges. “It’s very difficult to plough the field,” Junmaya told us, “It’s full of red clay and big clay lumps, which makes it difficult to prepare it for planting.”

Junmaya explained that, over the years, through hard-won experience, scraps of knowledge gained from other farmers and her own resourcefulness, she’s learned how to grow enough food on her farm to support her family. Most months, she even grows enough to be able to take some produce to the market to sell. When we asked how she spends the money she earns, she said; “It’s only for subsistence – buying salt and oil and continuing with daily life”.

Climate change brings new challenges

In common with most farmers, Junmaya is reliant on the weather. She explained to us how climate change has disrupted weather patterns in the mountains, causing long periods of drought followed by huge downpours.

“The heavy rains and landslides have ruined half of the crop of tomatoes,” she said – showing us the ruined crops.

Junmaya described how weather patterns have changed over the years, with rainfall becoming more erratic and unpredictable. She also showed us plants that had been eaten by insects – the changing climate has caused an influx of new pests and diseases.

These tomato plants have been killed by an unknown disease. The warmer climate has bought with it many new diseases and pests.

“Sometimes the plants wilt and die just as they start to fruit – it’s a disease of some kind but I don’t know what it is or how to stop it,” Junmaya said.

Junmaya continues to work hard on her farm, trying to keep seedlings free from weeds and pests, carrying water on her back to keep crops irrigated during drought, clearing up the mess and replanting after floods and landslides. Feeding the goats and bringing them water. Cooking for her family and keeping the house clean. Taking food to her husband’s elderly relatives.


The impact of climate change on Junmaya’s life

There are many things Junmaya tells us she’s grateful for. Two years ago, she saved enough money to have a brick house built for her family to live in. She’s hopeful that one day she’ll be able to pay for a door and windows to be installed. Meanwhile, her younger daughter has taken on some of the cooking and household chores. Junmaya says she’d rather her daughter spent her spare time studying – but her help in the home means Junmaya has more time to work on the farm.

Junmaya is hopeful that one day she’ll be able to afford to have widows installed in her home.

Junmaya tells us she’s concerned about her son, who has a medical condition that has left him almost blind in one eye. Along with her children’s education, it’s her son’s health that causes Junmaya most anxiety.

“Things haven’t worked out as I’d hoped,” she said, “I expected to earn enough from the farm to pay for the children’s education and hospital bills. I had lots of expectations, but it didn’t happen.”

An opportunity to turn the tables on climate change

Imagine what a resourceful farmer like Junmaya could achieve if she had the chance to learn improved farming methods. Or if she had seeds that were suited to the changeable weather and resistant to pests and disease. What if her farm had solar-powered irrigation and a water storage system to help her cope with drought?

A vegetable cable car would help Junmaya get her produce to market quickly and easily. Business training would help her build the skills and confidence to get a better price for her crops, as well as giving her ideas of ways to supplement her income.

Just imagine how a vegetable cable car like this one could help Junmaya get her produce to market quickly and easily.

Simple, powerful solutions like these could become life-changing in the hands of someone with Junmaya’s determination and energy. Perhaps she could even fulfil her ambition of getting proper healthcare and a good education for her children, so they grow up healthy and able to choose their direction in life.

Junmaya is a gutsy, tenacious woman who has provided for her family through incredible challenges in a remote environment. With ingenuity, Junmaya can overcome the new challenges created by the climate crisis and fulfil her ambition of building a healthy, happy future for her children.

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