Elderly people bring a lot of experience and knowledge that can be utilized not only as a rich source of information but also a mean of community awareness on realizing the effects of climate change such as increased number of natural disasters in rural hilly areas. A story of Muhammad Younis tells us how effectively he can reflect on his life and share his personal observations regarding changing weather pattern and its effects of human beings.
I met Muhammad Younis during my field visit on June 5, 2009 to village Harrian, which is one of the remote and hilly areas located in uphill of Siran valley (northern NWFP, Pakistan). He is 65 year old and has a very amazing memory of his life. He can recall his different age times and share with the youth of his village about changing weather pattern and its effects on human lives. Younis can interestingly elaborate the continuous decrease in SNOWFALL and increase in NUMBER OF HOUSES CONSTRUCTION in the village with the passage of time. I was so interested to know these indigenous findings so decided to put these information on a flip chart to measure how Yuonis describes the changing weather pattern and its ultimate consequences.
Younis tell that when he was 12 year old, there were only 5 houses in village Harrian, while he can remember that by that time there was average 12 feet snowfall on hills and the surroundings of his village. At the age of 20, the number of houses reached 30 with number of families migrated to this village and average snowfall decreased to 10 feet. At the age of 40, houses construction reached to 45 while average snowfall in the areas further decreased to 6 feet. Younis has now reached the age of 65 and he tells that there are now 90 houses in his village due to rapid increase in population while average snowfall has further decreased to 3 feet only during the winter season.
Despite of his unawareness on global warming and its effects on weather, human lives and their assets, Younis is of the opinion that this changing pattern of average snowfall is the will of God as the youth of present time cannot afford such hard weather condition that the people of past used to face. Secondly, he realizes that there is significantly increasing average temperature of the area. Younis tell us that often he gets astonished by observing unexpected high temperature during summer season which they never observed some 10 years before in this area. Younis also realizes that due to ongoing deforestation in the area, there is increased number of average temperature and increased number of landslides every year which effect their previous agricultural land, infrastructure and human lives.
Of course, this effective way of Younis’ reflection on his personal life provide a very good source of information and gives an innovative approach towards community awareness on climate change and natural disasters. This approach can be better utilized in creating awareness among local community for protection of their natural assets like forest areas that could contribute in decreasing the risks of natural disasters such as landslides and flashfloods.