From an interview with over 15 local people in Haramosh Valley, we tried to understand their practices for environmental adaptation.
Calamities and disasters are not new, they have been there for centuries. While modern technologies and practices were not in place, indigenous communities had their own ways of dealing with the issues. This is known as Traditional knowledge (TK). Traditional knowledge plays a vital role in dealing with natural disasters.
The Haramosh valley (Northern Pakistan) has always been vulnerable to natural disasters because of its fragile mountain ecosystem, geographical location, and socioeconomic conditions. When we look back at the history of Haramosh, it has always been prone to natural disasters that caused the loss of human and animal lives. Natural disasters include landslides, floods, changes in weather patterns, soil erosion, and avalanches. Off and on, these issues have hit the area, though they have varied in frequency and intensity, causing great loss to local communities.
Upon this premise, it is useful to explore the adaptation practices that the people of Haramosh use to deal with natural hazards and interview 15 locals from the area. Research has already looked at similar studies conducted in the area.
Villagers perceive that the climate in Haramosh has changed in recent years; impacting the natural environment and the local population’s lifestyle, i.e. winter season is shorter, the rise in temperature reduces the growing season, and changes in sowing and harvesting dates. In response to the changes, farmers of the region have begun producing shorter-term winter crops and, in some villages, they have started growing two crops per year because of the rise in temperature.
Some respondents mentioned that the shift in crops occurred due to climate variability. Furthermore, Habi, a resident, said that pasture productivity has reduced due to soil erosion and reduced precipitation, forcing people to feed fodder to their livestock. A shepherd aged 65 mentioned that he had never used fodder to feed his livestock in his whole life but nowadays this is very common practice in the village, especially in the winter season. He further stated that, when he was younger, they used to grow grass in summer, then cut it down, dry it and keep it for the winter season to feed their livestock.
Adaptation practices in other areas, such as forest management, are also commendable. There are forest committees in the villages of Haramosh formulating policies regarding forest management. Upon asking a question to the head of the forest committee about the use of resources, he said: “We have imposed restrictions on the cutting of trees, and villagers are only allowed to cut dried trees and branches for fuel purposes”.
Like the forest committee, local institutions (Jaito/Jirga System) also exist in the area. Their main purpose is to oversee any irregularities in the area. If something happens, they promptly react to it and settle issues and conflicts. Another purpose of local institutions is to repair roads and canals when damaged due to landslides and floods. This is because the government institutions take time to repair damaged canals and roads and villagers are suffering. Currently, these local institutions are complemented by Community Based Organizations (CBOs), such as an organization working in the area named Haramosh Development Organizations (HDO), which help in the capacity building of local institutions and provide training and conduct various awareness sessions in the area.
Protecting Endangered Species
When it comes to wildlife management, local people have started practices that aim to protect the endangered species in the area. The elders of the area said there used to be lots of Ibex in the mountains of Haramosh but now very few are seen in the area. To protect the endangered species the villagers of Barchi and Sassi Haramosh have started “Trophy hunting“, channeling the money obtained from this practice to the local communities. This shows locals’ interest in the conservation of wildlife. Trophy hunting is the most important adaptation practice in the area, moving from individual hunting to collective hunting. Although there are concerns around this practice, at a local level, in this case it is considered effective. There should be provided some further understanding of its impact.
Based on the discussion, we can sum up that local subjets are well aware of the issues they are facing because of environmental changes and can rely on plenty of knowledge and local practices for climate change adaptation. Therefore, there is need of further examination of traditional and local adaptation practices to climate change in light of scientific understanding in order to develop adaptation plans, strategies, and policies. The government and other organizations should use participatory approach in formulations of plans; also, there is need of capacity building of local people and community organizations according to modern techniques so that they will be able to handle emergency situations. Conclusively, the government need to upgrade local knowledge and traditions so that they remain relevant in the fast-changing conditions.