People's Action for Development (PAD) has begun its latest project, titled "Strengthening Resilience: Sustainable Adaptation to Climate Change in Flood Affected Areas of Assam Through Multi-Sectoral Prevention and Adaptation Mechanisms and Advocacy", which will engage with 10 villages in the Lakhimpur district of Assam which are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The project is a partnership between PAD and the Terre des Hommes Germany-India Programme.
To introduce the vision and course of future activities, 11 members of the PAD project team travelled to each of the 10 villages between 4-12 January 2021 to hold meetings and speak to members of the community.
The first project introduction meeting was held at Gankhariati and led by Ramchandra Hazarika, the village headman and also a resident of the village. Around 50 men, women and children attended the meeting.
PAD staff explained the purpose and timeline of the 3-year project, outlining the objective of increasing the community's resilience to the impacts of climate change.
In the villages engaged in the project, people's livelihoods and lifestyles are severely affected by unpredictable natural disasters, and hardships were increasing year by year. Disasters like recurring flooding and erosion occur every year, with increasing intensity and frequency. This has resulted in more land being submerged or made unusable by flooding, and the displacement of families – in some cases multiple times in a single year.
Monoj Gogoi, PAD's advocacy and documentation manager on the project said, “the future is uncertain but we must embrace it. Therefore, with the experience of local people and suggestions of concerned experts, PAD’s project will try to reduce the hardship faced by the people.” He added, “We need to learn to adapt to the impacts caused by various changing climatic conditions and must be resilient to those extreme events.”
PAD has been working in these communities since 2014 and has formed strong relationships with local people. This has helped ensure the current project is widely embraced, and that PAD is trusted to deliver on its objectives. In the meetings, people expressed their gratitude for the previous work PAD had done in the community and said they were happy to know that a new project was underway. They also stressed that the impacts of climate change went beyond flooding and erosion- communications, transportation and school classes are all disrupted by the floodwaters.
PAD staff collected a wide range of feedback and input from the community which will help to shape how the project is rolled out.
One of the difficulties PAD faces is managing the scope of the project area: staff spoke to a woman who has been displaced from her village and now lives in another settlement not covered in this project, and without assistance such as access to boats or higher ground to seek refuge during flooding.
Flooding has also changed how many farmers cultivate crops. After repeated catastrophic flooding, kharif crops (crops grown during the monsoon season) have failed, and people have started to grow boro rice (a rice variety grown before the rains begin). This means the crop has to be fed with groundwater pumped to the surface, rather than relying on the rains. Recurring issues with poor electricity connection and low voltage to the pumps have been big problems for farmers, and they have requested a transformer be installed in the area to help fix this.
The project team from People's Action for Development will continue to actively engage with local communities in these 10 villages to increase resilience to the effects of climate change.