Barley is the only grain crop that is grown in the trans-Himalayan area. Traditionally, the crops are planted in April, when the mountain top glaciers melt and the water runs down to the fields. Climate change means that this is no longer the case.
“The glaciers are receding, which means that the melted water now comes in June. So at the time of sowing the farmers don’t have any water,” explains N Sunil Kumar, head of the RBS Foundation, India.
The conventional civil engineering solutions on offer would prove hugely expensive, and could potentially have a detrimental effect upon the fragile eco systems of the local Young Fold Mountains.
Chhewang Norphel, a 78-year-old retired Civil Engineer with over 40 years’ experience of working in the region, used his knowledge of glaciers and local agro-climatic conditions to come up with a simple but hugely effective solution.
Sunil says: “They impound the snow in December and January in a series of check dams close to the villages. The snow compacts and melts at the right time to be used for sowing the barley.”
“This is a typical case of a local response with very low cost technologies, to meet a local need that has been forced on them by the changes of global warming. It’s ingenious.”
The Funding is part of the RBS Foundation’s flagship initiative – Supporting Enterprise – which works with communities that are outside mainstream society. There are currently 16 projects going on across India. The activities are as diverse as agriculture, horticulture, ecotourism, handicraft, bee keeping and livestock-raising, but all are in response to local needs and play to the local supply chain’s strengths.