Assessing Nepalese Farmers' Perceptions of Climate Change, Its Impacts, and Their Adaptation options in Lower Mustang
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In recent decades, about 80% of the farmers in Himalayan region of Nepal who depend on agriculture for survival have experienced both positive and negative impacts from climate change that challenge their abilities to sustain their livelihoods. In this context, this study evaluates the socio-economic and demographic characteristics that shape farmers’ perceptions about climate-change, to identify the major impacts of climate change on Nepal’s Lower Mustang agriculture, and to determine the barriers against and opportunities for adaptation initiatives that mitigate the impacts of climate change. Data were collected in several ways: farmers were surveyed, key informants were interviewed, and focus-group discussions were held. The secondary data included thirty-year (1987-2017), temperature and rainfall data of Jomsom and Marpha, two of four study sites in Lower Mustang to match the farmers’ perceptions of climate change trend over the last three-four decades in the region.
The results of farmers’ perceptions indicate rising temperature, unstable and unpredictable rainfall patterns, and decreased snowfall over the last 30-40 years are the main evidence of climate change in Lower Mustang as .These perceptions tend to align with temperature and rainfall data collected at Jomsom and Marpha between 1987 and 2017. Of the major impacts, increasingly favorable climate conditions for vegetable farming and the evolution of farmers’ pro-environmental attitudes are perceived by farmers and leaders as having positive influence on expected future outlooks. Declining apple productivity in lower elevations, increasing insect infestations and diseases among crops, adversity for livestock production, increasing frequency of flash floods, increasing soil erosion, and increasing debris flows are outcomes perceived as negative effects from regional climate change. Farmers’ adaptation strategies to mitigate the consequences of climate change in Lower Mustang include diversification of crops (vegetables, fruit, and fodder); increased use of insecticides and pesticides; gradual shifting of apple farming to hospitable elevations; the introduction of disease, pest, and heat resistant hybrid crops and livestock; and river water and rainwater harvesting. In addition to these efforts, , Mothers Groups in Lower Mustang have been instrumental in three key administrative arenas: financial management, environmental management, and empowering women . which directly and indirectly enhanced women’s adaptive capacity among farmers in Lower Mustang.
The key barriers to adaptation of agriculture in Lower Mustang are governance and the socio-economic conditions of farmers. The state of the barriers needed to be rectified are the minimal availability of public outreach and extension services, no well-planned adaptation initiatives, poor information flow, scant resources, limited budgets, and poor disaster-management. Likewise, socio-economic factors, such as the ages, incomes, genders, castes, and ethnicities of farmers impede the development of adaptation and resilience-building capacities. In spite of these barriers, locally elected government and community governance along with farmers’ collaborative effort seems to have significantly shaped adaptation initiatives and strategies in Lower Mustang.