Landscapes of uncertainties
The outlet points where irrigation water is released do not reach all the farms equally. While wealthier farmers are able to 'tinker' the infrastructure and finance extensions pipes to their fields, members of the Dalit community not only cultivate lands further away from these outlets, but lack the financial resources to invest in extension lines.
This means that almost all the land owned by the Dalit community issued as pasture for goats and sheeps, traditionally bred by Dalit families, or cultivated in the monsoon, remaining barren the rest of the year.
Yet Dalit members also recognise they have benefited from the scheme, through increased labour opportunities for flower cultivation.
Prachi is a young woman and member of the Dalit community in Pravah.
She and her husband own a small patch of land where they cultivate onions during winter and flowers during spring and summer to sell at the markets in Pune.
While her husband works in a wood-cutting factory nearby, Prachi is a full-time farmer, working on the family farm 1-2 days a week and as laborer on other people’s farms the rest of the week.
She is a smart and inventive woman, and to ensure a stable food supply for her family she makes the most out of the little water and land available, growing crops for household consumption in between the rows of the main cash-crop.
Like many other members of the Dalit community, her family does not have access to wastewater for irrigation, for which they use a combination of rainwater and groundwater from the old family well.
While not reached by the wastewater scheme, she recognises that there have been benefits for her family too. She noticed that more water percolates into their wells and that the economic opportunities for people in the village has improved.
Yet, she thinks that caste discrimination is still significant as she feels excluded and stigmatised when upper caste women refuse to enter her house, or avoid sharing their lunch with her.
THE STORY OF PRACHI
“Nowadays it either doesn’t rain at all, or it rains too much. The weather is much more unpredictable”
“Everything was much simpler when I was young. There was not much water, but everything was easier: we didn’t have to buy water, buy crops, buy pesticides, buy truck space, buy medicines, etc. We were just growing what we could, and that was our food. If we had something extra, we could sell it and get some money – and that was it.
Also it used to rain more when I was a child. So there was enough rainfall but little money. Now there is no rainfall, but a lot of money! And we need to buy everything now. Also people used to be much healthier! People now need to buy so many medicines, but they don’t mind because they can afford it!”
Veena, woman farmer, Navi caste, 75 years old
Rather than describing an objective condition, uncertainties are relationally produced, experienced differently depending on people’s identities and their abilities to respond and navigate processes of change and transformations.
The availability (or the lack) of water in adequate quantity and quality and its material re-distribution, help to shape and re-create new configurations of uncertainties; creating both vulnerabilities and livelihood precarities for some, as well as possibilities for positive transformation for others.
When navigating uncertainties (climatic and beyond), it is never just a technical matter; transferring water through a seemingly ‘neutral’ infrastructure creating livelihood security and economic opportunities.
It requires engaging with existing structural inequalities and vulnerabilities often grounded in histories of colonialism and dispossession.