Wells and Irrigation Liberates Communities from Unpredictable Monsoons

Ekadashi (right) proudly shows off the bounty of vegetables the women in her community have grown with the help of their new irrigation system.

In the northeastern Indian state of Bihar, farmers either have too much or too little water for their fields.

Every monsoon season, thousands of farms and villages in Bihar’s expansive river basins face devastating floods, which not only destroy roads and homes but also drown crops, livestock and livelihoods. Outside of these river basin communities, however, more farmers have the opposite problem—drought.

For the past four years, Bihar has not received enough rainfall to sustain its agricultural production, which relies on the monsoon rains. Climate change has rendered India’s monsoon season unpredictable and its rainfall uneven, leaving many farmers without enough food to feed their families for the year, let alone enough produce to sell at the market. While the debate on our global response to climate change continues, Bihar famers need practical water solutions now to save their livelihoods and avoid food shortages.

This is where you come in. Through your generous support, Luther World Relief and its local partner PRADAN are building irrigation and household systems to bring accessible water to these parched rural communities in Bihar. These water systems include digging wells and water collection ponds as well as installing diesel and solar powered pump machines, piping, water valves in the fields, and household taps.

a well in Bihar, India
A well is constructed as part of the new irrigation and household single tap water systems in the village of Bahadiya in Bihar, India.

These water solutions have made a world of difference for the women of Bahadiya village in southern Bihar. Only 2.5 percent of households in Bihar have tap water in their homes. More than 90 percent rely on communal hand pumps attached to a distant, heavily shared water source for drinking and cooking water. Water collection, considered a women’s task in Bihar, can eat up half of the day going to pumps, where it often takes an hour to completely fill one jug. With tap water now piped into their homes, Bahadiya women no longer have the burden of water collection, which frees them to engage more fully in their homes, communities and farms. In fact, several of these women have taken the time and effort to form a water committee to regulate the sustainable usage and maintenance of Bahadiya’s new household tap and pump irrigation systems.

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Ekadashi, the president of Bahadiya’s water committee, credits their new access to water with their community’s unprecedented crop boom and rising standard of living. She describes the heartache and burden that she and the other wives and mothers carried, back when the community only practiced monsoon farming, and the village’s men were forced to migrate to find work to make up for the poor harvests. Ekadashi remembers that her day, and that of many other women, used to begin at 3 o’clock in the morning. In the pre-dawn hours, they would scavenge the forest floor for sticks and other natural materials to sell for a pittance before returning to run their households and tend to their fields during the long, scorching days.

Thankfully, migrating for work and scavenging the forests are no longer necessary. Thanks to your support for these water solutions, the men of Bahadiya can remain at home with their families and still earn a living, the women have more time and energy to step out of their traditional roles and lead community development, and these Bihar farmers no longer have to worry about whether or not the monsoon will come.