Fostering Resilience: Enhancing the Majhi's Livelihoods

April 23, 2024
people building a water storage facility

“Around a decade ago, we would yield fishes up to 6kg daily while fishing in Dudhkoshi and Bange rivers. This abundant catch would comfortably sustain the needs of our 7-member household. However, we barely manage to capture a maximum of 2 kg per day now, making it insufficient to be sold at the market. The rivers exhibit a noticeable decline in the water level and fish population compared to the past,” says Pramila Majhi, a resident of Majhi village in Kuivir, Chishankhugadhi-4, Okhaldhunga. I got an opportunity to converse with her while conducting my master’s thesis research and our discussion centered on climatic patterns and its impact in the Majhi community. 

a lady holding her baby infront of her house


The Majhi community in Nepal has been significantly impacted by climate change with adverse effects on their traditional livelihoods, which heavily relies on natural resources, such as fishing in rivers. Their unique knowledge on climate change is often overlooked instead of being acknowledged and leveraged to enhance their resilience and ensure sustainable liveliho.ods 

The incessant rain, along with prolonged dry periods and drought, has made it difficult for the community to sustain their livelihoods for example, lack of irrigation has affected agricultural practices. Though there have been improvements in water supply, challenges still persist. And the Majhi community is shifting from on-farm to off-farm activities such as brewing of alcohol or undertaking manual labor for income.

Understanding the Vulnerability of Indigenous Communities:

Indigenous communities worldwide have long relied on their intimate connection with nature and traditional knowledge to understand weather patterns and seasons. Indigenous and local knowledge plays a crucial role in fostering climate resilience within indigenous communities. Practices like water management, soil fertility practices, grazing systems, forest restoration, and sustainable harvesting are often informed by indigenous and local knowledge. These traditional land management practices, combined with new approaches, can help indigenous communities balance past experiences with innovative strategies to cope with the adverse effects of climate change. (IPCC)

a landscape picture of  houses with blue roofs on a hill


In 2022, the Government of Nepal officially recognized 59 indigenous groups including Majhi, each with its own unique culture and traditions, scattered across the country. The Majhi community has a rich cultural heritage and relies on various traditional practices for their livelihoods. Like many other indigenous communities, it has a deep understanding of their surroundings and the ecological and weather-related patterns of their territories. While they may not be proficient in academic language to discuss climate change, their livelihoods are intricately intertwined with their environment, making them highly vulnerable to its impacts.

Traditionally, the Majhi community practiced sustainable and eco-friendly fishing methods, using nets to catch fish. However, introduction of modern fishing techniques such as electricity-powered fishing, has had a detrimental impact on the fish population as scares away fishes and disrupts their habitats, leading to a decline in fish quantity and diversity in the rivers. This has also impacted the livelihood of Majhi community, who still follows the traditional method.

The other livelihood activities of the community members include subsistence farming, fishing, boat making, and providing ferry services to help people cross the rivers. However, these livelihood practices have been increasingly exposed to vulnerabilities due to climate change and emerging environmental problems such as incessant rainfall, prolonged dry periods, and droughts. Subsistence farming has been hampered by a lack of irrigation, leading to poor crop yields. Therefore, the Majhi community has explored and adapted to alternative incomes sources such as brewing of alcohol and engaging in labor work.

Developing Climate Resilient Livelihoods of Majhi Community 

Since 2020, the Government of Nepal in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has been implementing the 'Developing Climate Resilient Livelihoods in the Vulnerable Watershed in Nepal' (DCRL) project in 8 rural/urban municipalities of Khotang and Okhaldhunga districts. This project has prioritized to enhance climate resilience of the Majhi community by promoting traditional watershed-friendly initiatives. 
According to the 2018 baseline survey, the Majhi communities residing in the project area are among the predominant populations. However, their livelihood practices are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and emerging environmental issues. To protect their skills and knowledge, as well as promote their traditional livelihood options, the DCRL aims to support the Majhi social groups. 

a picture of a house in a rural nepal


The DCRL project has taken significant steps to support the Majhi community to enhance their livelihoods and building climate resilience. One of the key interventions are the construction and renovation of multipurpose ponds that store water for multiuse, including irrigation, vegetable farming, fish farming, and groundwater recharge. The project further supports to enhance conservation farming skills and increase knowledge of farmer groups. Drought-tolerant varieties of seeds and seedlings are distributed to promote sustainable cultivation practices. By encouraging polyculture instead of monoculture and promoting conservation farming techniques, DCRL aims to improve agricultural productivity and enhance Majhi’s resilience to climate change.
Integration of Indigenous Knowledge

An effective integration of traditional and technical knowledge in local actions strengthens the resilience of the Majhi community. Recognizing and valuing indigenous knowledge is crucial in effectively addressing the impacts of climate change. It highlights the power of collective efforts in confronting climate challenges and fostering sustainable livelihoods for marginalized communities. Through initiatives like the DCRL project and the integration of indigenous knowledge, Majhi community have the potential to enhance their resilience and adapt to environmental changes.

It is essential for the Government of Nepal and development partners to prioritize enhancing the resilience capacity of indigenous communities like Majhi. By taking proactive measures to support Majhi people in adapting to changing environmental conditions, we can work towards building a more sustainable and resilient future for all. 

Prerana Lama
Project Officer for Climate Finance Network (CFN) and Strengthening the Governance of Climate Finance to Promote Inclusive Resilience in Asia Pacific - Phase III (GCCF-III), UNDP.