In my more than a decade long development journey, I have travelled a lot. I have reached to remote corners of the country and have listened to the voices of marginalised people. No place compares to Karnali region in remoteness and marginalisation. I had heard about it but got the opportunity to experience it only in the last October.
I started my journey of Karnali from Kalikot district. Kalikot is often referred as ‘youngest district’ in Nepal as it was separated from adjoining Jumla district only few decades ago. It is also the district where the likelihood of people dying younger is higher than other districts in Nepal as the life expectancy is just 47 years. Majority of people in the district make their living from subsistence agriculture.
Galje is one of the many places I visited in Kalikot. It at is about 3 hours’ drive from district headquarter, Manma. Practical Action has been supporting a farmers group in Galje to embrace the commercial vegetable framing through its BICAS project.
The topography of Galje was challenging and climate was hostile. However, people were very welcoming. I was particularly impressed with the gender composition of the group.
After the observation of the commercial vegetable plots, collection centre and agro-vets, we held a discussion with the farmer’s groups to know more about their new initiatives. The vegetable farming was indeed a new endeavour for them as there is the monopoly of the cereal based farming in Kalikot district as in other districts of Karnali. There was good participation of females in the meeting. They were little bit shy at the beginning however as the discussion progressed they became more active. I believe my presence in the meeting also helped them to open up.
I encouraged them to share their stories and experiences, which they did turn by turn. Each had different and encouraging story to share. I was particularly impressed by the story of Radhika Shahi, a young and energetic girl of 21 years.
Radhika is a plus two graduate. Unlike many youths in rural areas who find little hope in their villages, she is determined to make a difference in her own village. She has chosen agriculture to make the difference.
“Though all the households in our village make their living from agriculture, it is often looked down as something for old and uneducated people. I wanted to break the stereotype,” she shared.
“Like other families in the village, we were only producing cereal crops in our land. We had little knowledge about the vegetable farming. Though we used to receive some vegetable seeds from the Agriculture Service Centre (ASC) sometimes, we never took it seriously as we didn’t have skill and technologies required for vegetable farming. Neither, we knew that the vegetable farming is more profitable than cereal crops,” Radhika continued.
“BICAS project convinced us about the benefits of the vegetable farming and provided technical trainings on the improved farming practices. It also introduced us to new technologies like poly house for off-season production. An agro-vet and collection centre has been established at the nearby market with the help of the project. As a result, we have easy access to seeds, fertilisers and pesticides from agro-vet. Likewise, collection centre has made the marketing of vegetable easier,” Radhika added.
Last season, she made a profit of NPR. 48,000 (1USD = NPR 107) from selling bean, cucumber, cabbage and tomato.
“I think if we have better technologies and the access to market, we can prosper from the vegetable farming. Gradually, other people in the village are realising it.” She looked more determined and hopeful when she said it.
Listening to Radhika’s story, I felt like Karnali is not without hope as it is often portrayed. Young and energetic people like Radhika are keeping the hope alive in Karnali.2 Comments » | Add your comment
If you were to ask a class of pupils ‘What takes more lives every year than malaria, AIDS and TB added together?’
What do you think their answer would be? I’m guessing it’s unlikely to be household smoke. Yet every year this hidden killer takes the lives of over 4 million people, mainly children and women.
Globally, more than three billion people burn wood, coal and other biomass as their only way to cook, boil water and heat their homes on basic stoves or three stone fires. The lethal fumes that are produced from these methods is the same as burning 400 cigarettes an hour.
Through the Smoky Homes education materials pupils can learn about this global problem and attempt to address the question – How can we reduce the smoke produced and get it out of people’s home?
The Smoky Home starter activity introduces through the lives of two sisters living in Nepal whose family cook on an open fire. They have their own ideas on how they would like something better to stop them becoming poorly and their house dirty from the smoke.
Through a set of science and technology investigation and research activities, young people can start to develop their own ideas and model solutions to address the problem. Some pupils might develop models of fuel-efficient stoves while others develop chimneys or stove hoods. Either way Smoky Homes offers a real-life problem and genuine opportunities for pupils to explore how simple solution can transform lives.
At the end of their project, pupils have the chance to see some of the inspirational solutions that Practical Action are working on in Nepal.
All the materials and activities for Smoky Homes are free to download.
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Bimala lives in a small village in the Makwanpur District of Nepal. She lives with 10 members of her family and cooks their meals on a three stone stove which is little more than a pile of bricks.
“It takes me up to three hours to cook a meal and I do this three times a day.”
The family knows just how dangerous the smoke from the stove is to their health, Bimala has suffered from breathing problems and eye complaints her whole life. “Everything was black, it was so smoky and we couldn’t sit in the house.” To try and stop the home filling with the thick, black smoke, Bimala has moved the stove outside the home but during the rainy season it becomes even harder to cook for her family.
“Sometimes I have to cook with an umbrella, it’s difficult but I have to prepare the meal. Sometimes the food is half cooked.”
Bimala has two young granddaughters who are now beginning to help their grandmother to prepare meals but she worries about their future. “I am worried about my grandchildren but what can I do.”
An improved stove and smoke hood would completely change Bimala and her family’s lives. They would spend less time cooking and would be able to spend this time earning an income, looking after cattle and studying. It’s a simple solution that has the power to transform lives forever.2 Comments » | Add your comment
We’re giving people a taste of Nepal on the Practical Action stand at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham this weekend, with samples of Sel Roti and a prize draw to win a Nepalese cooking class for two.
We teamed up with Momo Cooking to bring the Nepalese delicacy, Sel Roti to the BBC Good Food Show.
It’s a sweet rice bread, distinct from any other breads of the world. It resembles a large thin puffed-up doughnut and is prepared by grinding soaked rice to create a thick batter. It is then mixed with sugar, clarified butter, mashed banana, water, poured into bubbling oil and deep-fried.
The Killer in the Kitchen
Many people in Nepal cook this in their home over an open fire. The smoke inhaled from cooking over open fires kills 4 million lives a year – more than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. So we’re at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham from 24-27 November to raise awareness of this silent killer and inspire people to help STOP the Killer in the Kitchen.
Philippa said her mother-in-law cooks over an open fire so she is very aware of the effects cooking on wood in unventilated homes.
“My husband’s family live and cook this way and in the house we can see how the smoke and soot cover everything. The smooth, pale bamboo beams across the ceiling are turned black and cruddy and the smoke stings our eyes and makes us cough. It’s such a simple idea to put ventilation into Nepalese homes and we are delighted to learn that Practical Action are tackling this.
“We’re excited to be a small part of their efforts and look forward to a time when kitchens in Nepal are smoke free!”
Win a Nepalese cooking class for two!
At the BBC Good Food Show, we’re giving people a chance to win a Nepalese cooking class for two with Momo Cooking. You can learn how to make momos (Nepalese dumplings) and other Nepalese street food.
All you need to do is come to our stand – J151, Hall 20 – fill in a card with your details and pop it in our special prize draw. The winner will be picked at random and notified on Wednesday 30th November.No Comments » | Add your comment
If I was to tell you that there is a global killer that takes more lives every year than AIDS, Malaria and TB combined, would you know what it was?
That killer is smoke inhaled from cooking over open fires, taking 4 million lives a year…yet not many people have heard about it.
So we’re at the Good Food Show in Birmingham from 24-27 November to raise awareness of this silent killer and inspire people to help STOP the Killer in the Kitchen.
Virtual reality film launch
At the show we’re launching our first ever virtual reality film – giving visitors the opportunity to experience, through virtual reality headsets, what it is like for people in Nepal who are forced to cook on open fires in their homes.
Cooking in these conditions is the equivalent of inhaling secondary smoke from 400 cigarettes an hour! But women need to feed their families and keep warm – and they can’t get cleaner fuels like electricity or gas. It is their only choice…so they are left trapped in a cycle they can’t escape.
22,000 people die of household smoke related diseases every year in Nepal . That’s over twice as many people who died in the 2015 earthquake. But these deaths are utterly preventable.
When people at the Good Food Show watch our virtual reality film they will see – in astonishing 360⁰ detail – how critical our work in Nepal is, as they join us in training local tradesmen to build and install these stoves and smokehoods.
A smart solution to a devastating problem
We are working urgently to get these installed in 36,000 homes across Nepal.
Visitors to the show will get to see one of these smokehoods on our stand (J151 in Hall 20), which has been built for us by Engineers Without Borders.
They will be able to buy a smokehood for a family in Nepal. It one of a range of Practical Presents that we have available on our stand to buy as Christmas present for someone. Not only will they be giving a special and thoughtful gift but they will be transforming the lives of poor people in Nepal.
Win a cooking class!
By buying a Practical Present at the Good Food Show will put people in a draw to win a Nepalese cooking class with Momo Cooking, who has provided a special Nepalese dish called Sel Roti for people to try on our stand.
Pick up your free virtual reality headset!
We will also be giving away special virtual reality headsets on our stand so people will be able to experience the groundbreaking world of virtual reality for themselves.
So come and find us at the Good Food Show in Birmingham and find out how you can help us stop the Killer in the Kitchen. We’re here:
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Practical Action is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through all its work; through programmes, knowledge sharing, advocacy, external communications and organisational development. It ensures gender considerations in all of its four programme areas –agriculture, food security and markets; urban water, sanitation and waste; energy access and disaster risk reduction.
To stress the importance of gender analysis and develop gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) related project activities and indicators, Practical Action organised a gender sensitisation workshop on 14-15 September 2016 in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The workshop was facilitated by Kamla Bhasin, a feminist activist and social scientist. Her work focuses on gender, education, human development and media. She is an advocate for equality between genders.
The first part of the workshop focused on the concept of gender and inclusion, masculinity and patriarchy, power relations, gender roles and work burdens, gender division of labour and gender relations on social inclusions.
The second part was concerned with gender integration in project management cycle, the role of managers including monitoring and evaluation . The workshop aimed at sensitising the concept of gender and social inclusion on contemporary issues at global, regional and local levels and enhancing the capacity of the Practical Action’s managers to mainstream GESI during the project management cycle.
More specifically, the workshop focused on lecture method. Some short movies related to gender based violence and One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign were shown.
The workshop included different types of brainstorming sessions. Male and female participants were divided into different groups and participants were asked to share their painful experience as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.
The entire group shared their experiences about gender when they were children. The women’s group found their life privileged before getting married and expressed that life after marriage somehow changed due to the expectation of domestic work from women. The group came up with the outcome that the family is the basic unit of society and it is probably the most patriarchal. A man (father, grandfather, brother and so on) is considered the head of the household within the family and they control women’s sexuality, production, reproduction and mobility. The family where one learns the first lessons on hierarchy, discrimination, etc., continues these patriarchal values and so does the next generation.
Changed forms of violence
There are different types of violence and the forms of violence are changing based on time, regions and countries, for example female genital mutilations are high in African countries. Similarly gender based violence, sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices are also forms of violence. These days cybercrime and child pornography are also types of violence. Agricultural and crafts profession are on a decline and this might be the cause of new kinds of violence and engaging women in prostitution.
Masculinity and patriarchy
Masculinity is all about power and femininity is exactly the opposite of masculinity. Masculinity is social definition given to boys and men by societies. Nature makes male or female, and it gives the biological definition but society makes masculine or feminine. Patriarchy means the rule of father or the ‘patriarch’ and originally it was used to describe a specific type of ‘male dominated society’. In Asian context, it is used more generally to refer to male domination and the power relationship by which men dominate the women. As a result women are kept subordinate in a number of ways. In the context of South Asia, so called ‘Patriarchy’.
Gender is all about ideology and mindset!
Origin of patriarchy
The origin of patriarchy dates from the beginning of human history – the barbarian age, pre-civilisation. Patriarchy, a concept that we experience in our lives, explains women’s subordinate position. During that period men developed weapons and women developed tools. Then women got involved in agriculture, crafts, social relationships and their mobility became limited to the domestic sphere. Gradually, the importance of women in the hunter gatherer economy was enhanced by the significance attached to the reproductive role of women. Female sexuality was not a threat and did not have to be managed since the community depended upon it. Female reproductive power was highly valued and female power was confined to motherhood. And the male was involved in public spheres.
Gender and gender relations and the gender division of labour are also not the same everywhere. It is specific to culture, location and time.
Gender division of labour
Gender division of labour also leads to hierarchy and inequality because men and women are not valued or rewarded equally. Even these days in some countries feminists are fighting for ‘equal pay for equal work’. The allocation of certain tasks to men and women in productive processes also leads to issue of command and control over resources. Generally, women have three types of work in our societies.
1. Reproductive work (Biological reproduction and social reproduction)
2. Productive work
3. Community and social work
Even in this work there are certain roles divided between men and women. Gender division of labour leads to gender division of types of work and standard gendered labour.
“A highly effective workshop, I have ever attended”- Vishwa B. Amatya – Head of Programme, Energy
“Last two days gave us an enlightening experience. This has been an eye opener.” Archana Gurung- Communications Officer
Definitely a very fruitful time with Kamla Bhasin over the two days period. An amazing person we all fell in love with. ‘Man of quality is not afraid of equality’. We need more men to change now! “Strike, Dance and Rise Ladies”. Khommaya Thapa Pun – HR Manager
The workshop was found to be a productive way to communicate the importance of gender analysis. Overall it supported the GESI planning process while developing the GESI related project activities and indicators.No Comments » | Add your comment
Sushil Chaudhary, a 22 years old young farmer, is a model farmer for the youth who are migrating towards the cities and Gulf countries in search of jobs and better earnings, instead of generating self-employment using own resources.
Sushil lives along with his seven-member family in Hikmatpur Village Development Committee (VDC) of Kailali district in Far-Western Nepal with a small land holding, i.e. 0.1 ha (10914.60 square feet). The family source of income was only wage labouring and subsistence farming that only partly fulfilled family needs. Sushil was forced to seek employment in the Gulf. But his family was unable to sponsor him for the cost required for employment in the Gulf.
Because of this, he had no option other than wage labouring until he heard about the community library in his locality, which was helping community people improve their earnings and livelihoods.
In 2015, he visited Tikapur Community Library to seek information for self-employment and a better livelihood. Sushil was advised on an integrated farming system for sustainable income which was suitable for people with small land holdings.
With the guidance of a community worker and information from the library, Sushil began vegetable and pig farming. He participated in vegetable farming and animal husbandry training provided by the library. In the first year itself he was able to earn Nepali Rupees (NPR) 43,000 by selling vegetables and NPR 39,050 by selling two pigs (1 USD = 100 NPR). He expects more income this year as one of his piga gave birth to 10 piglets and all of them are healthy. Besides farming, Sushil is also pursuing his Bachelor’s degree and is in his second year of college.
“Until I visited the library, I was unable to decide what to do for better earnings… The guidance and technical information in the library helped me make up my mind…”
He adds, “On account of what I learned, I have adopted commercial pig farming along with vegetable farming as a method of income generation. I initiated with four pigs in the pigpen constructed by myself. Two of the pigs I had been raising were recently sold for meat at the rate of NPR 170- NPR 200 per kg for the net price of NPR. 39,050. Furthermore, one of my pigs recently gave birth to ten piglets. Not very long ago, I used to be unemployed but now I have a reliable source of income. Tikapur Community Library’s Technical Knowledge Service section has not only helped me but also a number of other villagers who didn’t use to have much knowledge about agriculture or animal husbandry.”
Embolden by his success he is planning to expand his farming by leasing more land and rearing more pigs. With a smile on his face, he says,
“I am helping other youths in the community by advising them that one can achieve a goal if he has determination and zest to seek the right help.”
Practical Answers Service in Tikapur Community Library, Kailali, is supported by Nepal Flood Resilient Project (NFRP) funded by Zurich Foundation.
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Jai Bageshwori is a small village located in Surajpur-11, Gulariya consisting of 24 households. Majority of the people were relocated during the Maoist insurgency period. Mr. and Mrs. Rana are one of them who were displaced from Jajarkot. Mr. Pabitra Rana recalls, “during the insurgency period, we didn’t have any options but to join the Maoist. I had my mom, dad and my little boy who was only 3 years old then, so for their security reason also I had to join the Maoist.” Mr. Pabitra Rana and his wife Mrs. Gita Rana served the Maoist army for 4 years. He shared many gruesome stories which were beyond my imagination. Later he suffered from chronic gastritis and mental stress; therefore, decided to abscond along with his wife and took refuge in India. On 21 November 2006, a peace agreement was signed between Nepal government and the Maoist, which was six months after the Rana couple had fled Nepal. “It was really painful to drift apart from the family, there was not a single day I didn’t think of them. The day I found about the peace agreement I decided that was it, so packed my bags and came back to Nepal,” says Mr. Rana with a tear in his voice. Mr. Rana worked as a laborer in one of the companies in India and had saved some money. So, instead of going back to Jajarkot, he decided to start a new life from the money he had saved. He bought a small piece of land in Jai Bageshowri and built a one bed room house and decided to call it home.
A decade long people’s war has definitely affected Nepal in one way or the other, be it in terms of economic development or poverty alleviation, it is still struggling to overcome the effects of the war. The people’s war claimed more than 18,000 lives and displaced more than 100,000 people. Nevertheless, after the peace agreement in 2006, progress has been made, yet the challenges still persist.
It was not a fairy tale start for the Rana couple. The entire village had only one toilet, as a matter of fact it was rarely used. People used to defecate outside in open spaces or behind the bushes. The water from the boring contained arsenic which was poisonous, they did not have any purification system. Just across from the street was a jungle separated by a canal which belonged to the Indian side. They feared for their life from wild animals. Life was just terrible.
Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity on August 2014
In 2010, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO) launched SWASTHA project, an awareness program on water, air, sanitation and hygiene in Surajpur Village Development Committee (VDC). The objective of the project was to contribute to sustainable improvement in health and wellbeing of vulnerable population. Right after SWASTHA project phased out, Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity. On 13 August 2014, Surajpur VDC was flooded by the swelling Babai River which wiped out the entire community. It added more misery to the miserable community of Surajpur VDC. The newly built toilets, latrines, smoke hood and filter for drinking water were all wiped out; the only thing left was utter chaos. Homesteads, crops and livestock were washed away leaving people in distress.
SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is one of the essential ingredients of human health. It has an adverse effect on food security and livelihoods of people. According to the UN report, every year millions of people, most of them children die due to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. In Nepal alone, more than 10,000 children die annually from inadequate water supply and water borne diseases. Nepal is ranked the lowest in South Asian Countries in terms of water and sanitation. With an objective to achieve sustainable Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015, focusing on coverage of sanitation facilities, enhancing the capacity of local stakeholders and introducing innovative solutions in sanitation; such as and/or disaster resilient sanitation facilities, faecal sludge management and healthy communities, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality, Bardia district by Practical Action and ENPHO the same year.
Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community” on 12 April 2016
Easier said than done. It needs relentless effort to make such a change where open defecation has been practiced for generations. Mr. Dev Dutta Bhatta, Program Manager of Practical Action says, “Awareness is the key to change. It is a gradual process, where one needs to be educated regarding water and sanitation.” Self-awareness comes from self-knowledge. An inner urge needs to be felt to embrace the change. Ones attitudes, habits, beliefs, norms and cultures may subvert the behavioral change. Therefore, educating on safe drinking water, better sanitation, personal hygiene, proper kitchen and solid waste management were the key components of SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project in achieving its goal. Several street dramas, mass rally, awareness programs were also organised to educate the community.
In a short span of time, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was successful in overturning Surajpur VDC from abysmal to a model village. On 12 April 2016, Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community.” “Before we used to drink water straight from the tap; now, we drink water only after it’s been purified, it even tastes better,” chuckles Mr. Rana. He further adds, “I hardly have upset stomach, loose motion or fever these days, wish I had known about this much sooner.” Mr. Rana is one of the first ones to have a toilet built and water filter installed in the community. After knowing about the benefits of having a proper hygiene and sanitation, he acted as a mediator in convincing the people of his community to vouch for toilet, safe drinking water, kitchen and solid waste management.
Likewise, Dipendra Nagar and Kothiya were also declared healthy community on 02 February 2016 and 20 May 2016 respectively. Three more VDCs are on the verge of being declared a Healthy Community. Gulariya Municipality is an exemplary for other municipalities to follow. After being declared Open Defecation Free on 25 May 2015, now the Gulariya Municipality is aiming towards achieving the “Healthy Community” status. The credit goes out to each and every member of the community; especially Mr. Rana, who is also a secretary of the user-community group for his persistent effort convincing every single member of the community towards building a healthy community. If we have someone like Mr. Rana in each VDCs, it won’t be long until the entire Gulariya Municipality is declared “Healthy Community”. Furthermore, it will definitely help achieve the national target on sanitation- Universal access to sanitation by 2017. While the role of the government is vital, people have equally important roles to play for better results and sustainability.
A simple technology in the form of pit latrine or bio-sand filter can change people’s lives. A village where open defecation was practiced not long ago has been declared “Open Defecation Free,” and the community now has access to safe drinking water. For me this is technology justice and I salute the innovator of such technologies. Not only should the technologies reach the privileged and elite class but also to the poor and marginalised groups. Therefore, I think it is time for you, me and us to rethink about the innovation in technology. Let the justice prevail.
The Karnali is a trans-boundary river that originates from the Himalayas and flows along the steep and hilly terrain of West Nepal. The Karnali drains into the Terai plains from a narrow gorge at Chisapani where the river splits into the Geruwa and Karnali rivers, creating an inland delta before converging as the Ghagra in India (Zurich 2015). The river carries snow fed flows and has significant discharge even during the dry seasons. Based upon historical discharge records, 80% of the total flow occurs during the monsoon season with maximum flow events mostly occurring during the months of June through September (Dixit, 2009).
The geomorphological origins of the Karnali bifurcation along with river shifting is not well understood, which is probably dictated by tectonics and attributed to the process of mountain building in the Himalayas (Sinha et al, 2014). Despite being one of the largest rivers of Nepal, there exists dearth of research on river morphology of the Karnali mega-fan (Zurich, 2015), and even less is known regarding the sediment dynamics and its impact on flooding at a basin scale. However, what is known is that the Karnali River floods the Terai plains every few years, and the frequency has increased in the past decade with major floods occurring in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014.
Understanding the catchment response for rivers in Nepal is highly complex owing to the dynamic geomorphology upstream coupled with topographic and geological constraints (Nepal et al. 2014). Moreover, it is challenging to comprehend the catchment response during high intensity and short duration precipitation events that trigger flash floods downstream (Shrestha et al, 2008). Floods are also dependent upon river morpho-dynamics and local slope conditions and generally follow non-linear pathways (Sinha et al, 2014).
It is critical to understand non-linear pathways to flooding in large river basins such as Karnali, where myriad of engineering structures such irrigation canals and hydropower plants are currently being planned to divert water flows. With the changing climate, magnitude and frequency of floods are expected to increase in the near future (NCVST, 2009), altering the dynamics and carrying capacity of the rivers that would most likely impact the future flood conditions, which cannot be discounted for the Karnali River.
Note: This post first appeared in the Flood Resilience Portal
- Dixit, A. (2009). Kosi embankment breach in Nepal: Need for a paradigm shift in responding to floods. Economic and Political Weekly, 70-78.
- Gautam, D. K., & Dulal, K. (2013). Determination of threshold runoff for flood early warning in Nepalese Rivers. IDRiM Journal, 3(1), 126-136.
- Nepal, S., Flügel, W. A., & Shrestha, A. B. (2014). Upstream-downstream linkages of hydrological processes in the Himalayan region. Ecological Processes, 3(1), 1-16.
- NCVST. (2009). Vulnerability through the Eyes of Vulnerable: Climate Change Induced Uncertainties and Nepal’s Development Predicaments. Kathmandu: Institute of Social and Environmental Transition-Nepal (ISET-N), Nepal Climate Vulnerability Study Team (NCVST).
- Shrestha, A. B., Shah, S. H., & Karim, R. (2008). Resource manual on flash flood risk management. Internat. Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, ICIMOD. http://lib.icimod.org/record/7891.
- Sinha, R.; Kale, V.S.;Chakraborty, T. (2014), Tropical rivers of south and southeast Asia: Landscape evolution, morpho-dynamics and hazards, Geomorphology 227, 1–4.
- Zurich Insurance (2015). Risk Nexus: Urgent case for recovery: what we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali River floods in Nepal.
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February’s beautiful few days kept me in the mid-west Terai. This part of Nepal is filled with the unusual beauty and especially Gulariya of Bardiya is at nature’s special rank. The sun’s radiance and crops spreading far and wide feed your eyes with a greenish-yellowish colour symphony, red-silk cotton trees catching up with you every next minute, give pleasure to the mind and heart. Gulariya holds unique flora and fauna; it is widely known for the Krishnasars (black bucks).
Gulariya is a cluster of diversity and has a unique indigenous way of life. With so much of nature’s generosity and cultural wealth, this place is a heaven on earth. But nature and culture’s lushness do not always make a land fortunate. Many reasons including illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, poverty, natural hazards such as flooding, among others have been a barrier to development in many parts of Gulariya. However, many parts are moving ahead too. While on a field trip, I spent some time in this beautiful village named Gujrana, a settlement of Gujars, a Nepalese ethnic/minority Muslim community.
After a 30 minutes drive on the highway from the main town, our course diverted to an unpaved road. We drove off leaving billows of dust behind us. I looked back at the billows and contemplated how this short dusty ride made quite a big difference to the Gujars. The road we were driving over was a long awaited one for the Gujars and ‘WE’ walked shoulder to shoulder with them to bring the road to their village. I was proud to be driving on the road which finally connected the village to a brighter future.
Road that brought sigh
Upon arrival at Gujrana, the village’s warmth gave us a big hug. Unlike other poor communities, Gujrana has a different personality. A neat, tidy and well managed little village, Gujrana also has an abundance of nature’s beauty. The people I met there had stories to tell about the road. Some shared the road linked them to higher education, some were just happy because access to hospital was easier, some said the road just pulled markets nearer, and the others were grateful that life essential infrastructures and services were now within their reach.
The first ambulance entered the village only in 2015 and this very road took it there. Before last year, it gave the villagers distress to have their lives at risk because an ambulance could not cross the mere 800 metres of distance. Many shared experience of rushing patients on bamboo made stretchers over muddy trails until they met the main road where ambulances waited.
Less than one kilometer of distance and the entire village had been pushed back by half a century. Gujrana’s facelift is mainly attributed to the road. It is not black-topped yet but is wide and well maintained. Thanks to the financial support of UK government’s UK Aid match fund through DFID, Practical Action could reach to the Gujars with Safa & Gulariya project and as part of the project, the idea of Community Action Plan (CAP) came to the Gujars which remained instrumental in bringing the road to them.
The whole time at Gujrana, I was surrounded by bright children inquisitive about the camera I was using. They mostly responded by big smiles but their inquisitiveness and curiosity allowed me to anticipate their bright futures.
The Gujar children went to school by walking few hundred metres from home. Before the road was there, the monsoons were way too hard on them. The muddy and slippery trails led to regular absence of school-goers. Many children would get back home with cuts after tripping and some were badly injured too. In poor communities like Gujrana, only light of hope for the children’s bright future is their education and failure to attend schools can hamper them from what they can be. A few children timidly said me they don’t miss schools anymore because the way to school is ‘walkable’.
Better road is better economy and better life
Tractors can finally reach the fields of Gujars now. The road has brought technology in the farmers’ backyards directly showing results in their yields. The labour involved in agriculture has dropped tenfold and harvests have increased. Most importantly, they can now easily get their produce to the nearby markets loading on ox carts, horse carts and tractors, even in the monsoon. Selling their produce takes less efforts and they have been able to make good savings. All thanks to the newly arrived road; many Gujars’ living standards have gone up.
What’s CAP all about?
Government of Nepal (GoN) has a provision of accepting community-led proposals for their local development as part of 14 step planning process under Local Governance and Community Development Programme (LGCD). The municipalities and Village Development Committees (VDCs) accept a participatory plan of action from different communities. This Community Action Plan (CAP) involves the community people directly in selection of community problem, prioratisation of them and proposal to the locally based governance body, VDC or municipality offices. However, most of the poor and marginalised communities commonly remain unaware of many provisions and services introduced by the government due to many gaps; gap in education, gap in information, gap in knowledge, among others. CAP’s provision is also unknown to many. Many times, merely knowing about CAP is also not about everything; there needs to be capacity to develop CAP. Gap in such capacity is also hurdle to many small developments communities themselves can lead.
Using various instruments like: social map, seasonal calendar, situation analysis, problem tree analysis Practical Action with partner Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) involved the Gujars in rapid CAP developing exercises. At initial stages, it was bit of a challenge to teach Gujars such serious proposition. But our social mobilisers did all it takes to simplify everything using local resources as metaphors drawing maps in the mud, creating different games and showing dramas in the local dialect, communicating more and more ̶ door to door and at a personal level, among many more techniques.
The CAP approach actively involved the villagers in preparing an inclusive and priority based plan of action. It played a crucial role in unique team building, identification of village needs, preparing plan of action and dragging municipality’s attention to address them. Team building bound the Gujars and adjoining village dwellers in a thread of unity to jointly work in bringing road to their doorsteps. Besides Gujrana, the intervention has enhanced capacities of 10 communities of Gulariya Municipality in participatory planning and has helped them develop their Community Action Plans (CAP).
A GREAT BEGINING
It’s really interesting how developing simple skills can bring such significant change in their lives. While harnessing my Gujrana understanding, I caught a moment to speak to its Chairperson, Nokhe Gujar. Responding to my query about how he felt about the change in his village, he expressed his views.
“The change has brought the village out of captivity of backwardness. We felt imprisoned without a road. Our children missed schools and we ourselves had difficult time to sell our produces in the market. CAP has helped us understand our needs and get the municipality address them. Nowadays, we sit for regular meetings to discuss our problems and we make strategies to solve them. We develop our priorities and design CAP on our own. Even in future we will be able to plan our development on our own.”
Over a year’s rigorous teaming up with Gujars and they were able to get themselves a road. However, it does not end right here on the road. It’s just a stepping stone and is a great beginning. With that capacity, they can shape further community level developments themselves in future. And if other parts of Gulariya repeat the experience, the facelift of entire Gulariya is certain. With the nature’s abundance and rich cultural heritage that Gulariya holds; people participated development can open many doors of opportunities for the Gulariya and its people.
Someone rightly said, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime!1 Comment » | Add your comment