Prabin Gurung

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Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org

Posts by Prabin

  • Odyssey to the far west- In search of stories

    Kathmandu 44600, Nepal, Kathmandu
    June 15th, 2017

    Far western region is arguably one of my favorite places in Nepal, regardless being considered one of the most remote and under developed regions of Nepal.  The place never ceases to amaze me.  I was really fascinated by the natural beauty, cultural diversity, ancient heritage and the rural traditions it had to offer.  My first trip was back in 2014 with the ROJGARI project.  So much had changed in the past couple of years; the rough gravel roads had been blacktopped, a tea house had been transformed into a full menu-set restaurant, and a dormitory had been replaced by a standard room with attached bathroom.  It was just surreal.  The beauty of the place was still there albeit the transformation.  Nonetheless, it brought a smile on my face to see development in the region.  Thanks to the effort of all the development agencies involved in bringing the change.  I feel blessed to be exploring the far west yet again, this time for Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Capacity of CSOs in Agriculture and Forest Sectors (BICAS) project.  I will be on the road  for the next one week documenting and collecting stories from the project sites.

    Dadeldhura right after the shower– Dadeldhura is the most developed district as compared to the rest of the hilly districts in the far western region of Nepal.  Due to the elevation differences, Dadeldhura has a different level of temperature.  We were welcomed by heavy rain followed by cold misty weather.

    Dadeldhura by night– The solar street lamp shining bright; breaking the dark abyss down the road.

    Good morning Dadeldhura– The almost perfect view right before the rain.

    The unpredictable weather of the far west– The weather changed so dramatically (within a couple of minutes) it rained cats and dogs.  After a heavy downpour for almost an hour, spotted this cool looking motion of clouds.  The clouds started dancing gracefully clearing the view of Mount Saipal.

    What is a success story?– A two and a half day workshop on “Telling better stories” was organised in Dadeldhura to capacitate the staff of BICAS project.  One of the topics of the workshop involved ‘storytelling’, which was presented by Sanjib Chaudhary.  The workshop included a wide range of topics from story writing, photography, videography to social media.

    The quest– The beautiful Mount Saipal greeted us with a smile as we embarked on our week-long journey to collect stories from the BICAS project sites.  BICAS project is funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas. The project aims to build the capacity of 45 local organisations to promote inclusive and sustainable growth and increase the income of 7,000 households from agriculture and forest based enterprises in the remote mid and far western districts of Bajhang, Bajura, Jumla, Kalikot and Mugu.

    Wheat field in Achham– On the way to Bajura, spotted this amazing field covered with wheat.  According to CCAFS report, the wheat production in Nepal is expected to increase by 2.6 per cent (1.78 million tonnes) in fiscal 2016-17.

    The intermediator– Shanti Katuwal serves as an intermediator in bridging the gaps between the farmers and the market.  Goods are often collected at her collection centre in Bamka Bazaar which are then transported to the market areas.  Katuwal’s collection centre is centrally located which makes it accessible for both the farmers and the buyers.  She makes NRs 15000 (115 GBP) per month from her collection centre.

    Barefoot– Ganesh Bahadur Thapa is the most in-demand man in the village, wandering from door to door treating animals.  Sometimes he gets dozens of calls; he hardly finds time for himself.  His service as a barefoot is highly recognised and appreciated in and around his village.  Thapa is content with life.  He is able to send two of his kids to school in Kathmandu.  In the future, he hopes to learn artificial insemination, so that he will be able to offer more services to his clients and make more money.

    A happy farmer– Gokul Giri of Budhiganga Municipality- 6, Bajura received commercial farming training from the BICAS project and started growing chilly, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, tomato and peas.  This year he hopes to make around NRs 200,000 (1540 GBP) profits in total.

    Vegetable farming under a poly house– Kailasmandu VDC-5, Bajura was deprived from water facilities until the intervention of BICAS project.  The Multi Use Water System (MUS) project provides farmers the access to safe drinking water and irrigation facilities.

    Agrovet– Dambar Saud supplies quality seeds and agricultural inputs to almost 10,000 farmers.  His service is well received in Bajura district.  With the support from BICAS project, he was able to expand his business by starting an agricultural produce collection centre and a poultry farm.

    Smooth operator– Prem Saud of Badimalika Municipality, Bajura is the proud operator of gravity goods ropeway.  Before the intervention of BICAS project, the produce of Bajura district used to go waste, only very few produce used to reach the market due to lack of transportation.  However, after the installation of gravity goods ropeway the community is taking full benefits of the ropeway.  The produce reach the market on time, likewise, the goods and basic amenities are easily transported back to the communities.  Saud collects NRs 20 (15 pence) for every 10 kilograms of goods transported.  The money collected is for the maintenance and sustainability of the ropeway.

    Face of Bajura– A beneficiary of BICAS project.

    Face of Bajura– A beneficiary of BICAS project.

    Dry tree– Waiting for the spring to come.

    Face of Bajura– A beneficiary of BICAS project.

    A lead farmer– Tek Bahadur Thapa of Triveni Municipality- 8, Bajura built a multi-use water system with support from BICAS project.  He was recently awarded the best farmer of the region.  Thapa has been an influential figure in making his community a vegetable production pocket area.

    Daily chores– A beneficiary of BICAS project with her baby on the back grazing cattle in the field.

    Family business – Deu Singh Saud of Budhiganga Municipality- 10, Bajura (first from left) attended training on vegetable farming facilitated by the BICAS project, and soon after, along with his brothers and sister in law, started onion farming as a family business.  He recalls the times when he struggled a lot finding good quality seeds, they did not have any agro-vets in the area but after the intervention of BICAS project, his life became much easier, he can easily get quality seeds from the nearby agro-vet (in Bamka Bazaar). Saud spent 17 years in India working as a daily wage labourer before starting his own business as a lead farmer.  He is very happy with how the life is treating him at the moment.  Last year his profit was NRs 100,000 (770 GBP).  He is earning more than what he used to earn in India.  He is glad that he made the right decision to come back to Nepal and thankful that he does not have to go back to India anymore.

    Mother and daughter– Beneficiaries of BICAS project.

    Mother and daughter– Beneficiaries of BICAS project.

    The young guns– Beneficiaries of BICAS project.

    Them innocent eyes– Beneficiary of BICAS project.

    Ready, steady and go– Wait! I am not ready yet. Let me fix my hair first before you take my picture.

    Resting in the shade– An elderly woman resting by the side of a road on a sunny day.

    The road to home– After a long week on the road, finally the time has arrived to go back home.  I shall definitely come back to document more of the progress of the BICAS project.  Until then I bid adieu.

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  • Telling better stories

    May 26th, 2017

    After a long 1.15 hours flight and 5 hours ride in a pickup truck, we reached Dadeldhura, which will be our home for the next three days.  Dadeldhura lies in the far-western district of Nepal and holds many historic significance.   As I was told by one of the locals, Amargadhi Fort in Dadeldhura was built in 1790 AD by General Amar Singh Thapa to serve as a military base.  During the unification of Nepal by then King Prithvi Narayan Shah, General Amar Singh Thapa fought the British troops from this very fort.  That’s some interesting piece of information there!  I really didn’t know about this until now.  The story somehow was vaguely embedded in my head, I guess we read it in our history class, during our primary days but now the story became as fresh as a daisy.  I just couldn’t wait to see the fort.  I wonder if that’s when the world knew about the bravery of we Nepalese???  Made me scratch my head.  Nevertheless, I was not here to dig the history, neither was I here to find the answers to my own questions.  I was here for a training workshop on “telling better stories” for BICAS project staff and partners.

    BICAS project intervention in the far west

    Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Capacity of CSOs in Agriculture and Forest Sectors (BICAS) project is funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas. The project aims to build the capacity of 45 local organisations to promote inclusive and sustainable growth and increase the income of 7,000 households from agriculture and forest based enterprises in the remote mid and far western districts of Bajhang, Bajura, Jumla, Kalikot and Mugu.

    Building capacity of staff is an essential part of an organisation

    Telling better stories- A family photo

    A well-trained and well-qualified workplace definitely boosts the efficiency of an organisation. Therefore, to enhance the abilities of staff and to encourage them to reflect their attitudes and beliefs; a two and a half day workshop was organised in Dadeldhura. The participants were from the Nepalgunj cluster office and partners/ project coordinators from BICAS project. The workshop included a wide range of topics from story writing, photography, videography to social media.

     

    Day 1- Nepali Braveheart: A thought tickler

    The session kicked off with an introduction, followed by a story writing session; which was later followed by photography and video making sessions. I could sense a strong enthusiasm amongst the participants. They seem very eager to learn the practical hands-on tips. We tried to make the sessions as informal as possible, as we did not want to restrict the workshop within the PowerPoint slides and lengthy speech. It was more of an open platform where one could ask questions and/or share experiences on similar topics. The first day went by in a blink of an eye. I could tell from my previous experiences that the first day is always fun and easy-going. The most challenging is always the next day, as the participants start to wear off – lose their focus and things start to get monotonous. It was in the back of my head but I did not bother to think about it. As the clock ticked five, we wrapped up the session and called it a day.

    L-R: Statue of Amar Singh Thapa, Secret tunnel of Amargadhi Fort

    A bunch of us decided to go for a walk to refresh ourselves after spending the whole day inside a hall. I would never dare to go for a walk while I am in Kathmandu, thanks to the pollution and the crazy traffic of the K-town. But the air in Dadeldhura was so fresh and clean. We walked out from the hotel and went all the way up to the Amargadhi Fort. We spent more than an hour walking around the fort. One of the police guards was generous enough to show us around and explain the details of each and every corner and the architectural built. The most interesting part was the tunnel which was built in such a way that it was connected to a water resource. As we were told, this passage was used by then queen whenever she had to go for a bath or by the armies to fetch water. You can never tell from the outside that the tunnel leads to a water source, it was quite fascinating. The whole tour seemed surreal to me, I felt like I was one of the soldiers from the Anglo-Nepalese war.  I read about brave Amar Singh Thapa during my school days and now I was at the same place where all the magic happened. Seeing his statue at the main entrance even left me awestruck. There are so many similarities between Amar Singh Thapa and the character of William Wallace from the movie, “Braveheart”- the same determination and resistance. I was just there staring at the statue of Amar Singh Thapa and seeing him as a Nepali William Wallace. After dinner I was just hanging out in my room and a random thought came in my head – how cool will it be if I was to make a Nepali Braveheart? I am sure it will be epic – easier said than done. That can go in my bucket list AKA fantasies (I’m just a dreamer).

    Day 2- The unpredictable weather of the far west

    I woke up to the sound of a thunderstorm. I checked the time on my cell phone and it read 6:30 am. I could hear the heavy pour of rain from inside the room. I just wished I did not have to get up at all. After aimlessly staring at the ceiling for half an hour, I finally managed to get off from my bed. I opened the door and it was raining cats and dogs. In the corner of the balcony, there was a big pile of hailstone, which looked like a mini Mount Everest. I took out my camera and started taking pictures of the magnificent landscape of Dadeldhura from my balcony. I did not bother about the rain; I was going crazy with my camera. There was something very unique about the landscape; it was priceless. I just could not get enough of it. Before I realised it was actually raining, I was already half soaked. I am glad my camera was water-proof though. I felt like a stubborn kid enjoying the early monsoon rain.

    Clouds in motion as seen from the hotel roof

    We were informed that we would not need any warm clothes for the trip. During March usually the weather is nice and pleasant. But somehow I did not want to take a risk. I had my warm jackets and boots with me. The last time I visited the far west (two years before); I regretted not caring any warm jacket. One of our partner office colleagues was kind enough to lend me a jacket- that was a life saver. “Once bitten, twice shy.” I was well prepared (just in case). The rain was battering the roof like a bullet. There was no sign of rain stopping anytime soon, it was hammering down relentlessly. I could feel a gust of cold wind on my face. At least for once I was glad I made the right decision. Usually, I tend to over pack and half of the stuff I never use it. What’s even more interesting was that the field office colleagues were also fooled by the unpredictable weather of the far west. They thought the weather would be pleasant, so they did not bring any warm clothes. As the day progressed, it became even colder. By evening, it was crazy; the rain kept pouring and the temperature dropped like a rock. It was freezing cold. So, these three blokes had to go buy a sweater for NRS. 1500 (11 GBP) each. They said it was the best buy ever (with a satirical smile).

    The second day was a bit mellow and less hectic. My colleague Sanjib Chaudhary opened the session highlighting the importance of social media in the development sector. It was well received by the participants. The later session was followed by hands-on tips on film making. After lunch it was more of a practical session. The participants were divided into three groups and were sent to the nearby location to collect stories, pictures and videos of their interest.

    Day 3- Here comes the sun

    I slept like a baby. It always takes a while to get used to the new hotel bed. Finally, after two days, I guess I slept well. When I woke up it was already 7:30 am. I peeped through my window curtain and much to my surprise there was the sun shining bright. I was so happy that the sun was here, FINALLY. Now, I can relate why George Harrison wrote “Here comes the sun” with the Beatles. Ever since we stepped in Dadeldhura it was raining like crazy and finally we were able to see the sun. The feeling was just amazing. I was already late for breakfast though. I had to rush myself, got ready and met the folks downstairs for breakfast. By 8 am, I was all ready and having breakfast with my colleagues.

    Today was the final day of the workshop. We reviewed the stories, photos and video clips of all the groups and gave feedbacks and comments.

    Adieu – Until we meet again

    Our two and a half day workshop was coming to an end. All of us enjoyed our stay in Dadeldhura amidst the crazy weather. I hope the workshop was a fruitful one. We never know until we see the end result from the participants. Fingers crossed, I hope our effort will be an aspiration for all the participants to produce the quality output that we are aiming for the BICAS project. I just cannot wait to read the first post-workshop story/ blog and/or see the pictures they send. Until then all I can do is wait patiently.

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  • Technology changing lives – Transformation of Surajpur, Gulariya from abysmal to a model village

    July 25th, 2016

    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.

    Mr. Pabitra Rana & Mrs. Gita Rana

    Mr. Pabitra Rana & Mrs. Gita Rana

    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.

    Surajpur VDC being declared a "healthy community"

    Surajpur VDC being declared a “healthy community” on 12 April 2016

    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.

    Technology Justice
    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.

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  • Nepal earthquake: my country one year on

    Gorkha, Nepal, Gorkha
    April 25th, 2016

    Today marks the year anniversary since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated my country. I have just returned from Ashrang – a village in Nepal that was near the epicentre of the earthquake. One year on, houses still lie in ruins and children are terrified – too scared to sleep.

    A house lies in ruins in the village of Ashrang, Gorkha, Nepal

    A house lies in ruins in the village of Ashrang, Gorkha, Nepal

    I still remember the last time I visited Ashrang in Gorkha back in 2014. I was up on the roof of one of the schools overseeing the entire village. The view was just amazing. I could not get enough of it.

    It was early morning and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Kids were playing with a ball, dogs were barking and men were singing and laughing as they walked down the hill with a shovel and a plough. I sat there for a while gazing at the scene.

    Fast forward two years and I was at the same place but this time things had changed dramatically. Life here was at a complete halt. After the massive earthquake in April 2015, Ashrang was completely shattered.

    As I walked down the streets, I could see ruined houses left unattended and piles of rubble at every turn, as if it just happened yesterday.

    I spotted an elderly man sitting alone in front of a small transitional shelter (t-shelter). His clothes were shabby, eyes were blood-flecked and face was timeworn.

    Nepal earthquake victim Khadananda Bhatta, 79, in front of his shelter in Ashrang, Gorkha

    Khadananda Bhatta, 79, in front of his shelter

    Mr Khadananda Bhatta, aged 79, has been living under the t-shelter since his house collapsed in the earthquake.

    “One of my sons is in Canada and the other one is in Malaysia,” he said. I am waiting for their arrival. Until then I am taking refuge under this shelter.” His voice was weak and fragile.

    “Sometimes I go to bed on an empty stomach…Lately it’s too cold to even sleep at night.”

    “Sometimes I go to bed on an empty stomach because it is too much work for me to cook.  If I feel like eating, I cook; if not then I just ignore it. Lately, it’s too cold to even sleep at night; I can’t wait for the sun to come out.”

    I can see the feeling of despair and loneliness in his eyes. He is counting days until he is reunited with his sons but it seems to be a battle for him to keep going.

    I came across another small t-shelter where a family of eight people was taking refuge. I asked a mum who was holding a small baby about the earthquake.

    Sajida with her family inside her emergency shelter.

    Sajida with her family inside her emergency shelter.

    Mrs Sajida Khatun, aged 27, was eight months pregnant when the first earthquake struck. She was feeding her four-year-old son when suddenly everything started to shake. “I thought this was the end and I was going to die. The thing that bothered me the most was the baby inside me who hadn’t seen the outside world yet,” she said.

    The roof of the house started to crumble and the walls fell apart. Sajida grabbed her son and rushed towards the exit. Her in-laws and brothers in-laws were already out. They ran to the nearby open space and sat there as they watched their house turn into rubble. “It was very surreal,” she said.

    “The only thing that that kept me alive was hope.”

    There were many aftershocks that followed. Sajida recalls the following months to be the worst of her life. “The nights were long and cold and we had barely anything to eat. The only thing that that kept me alive was hope.”

    On 17 May she gave birth to a baby boy. There were continual aftershocks and they were still living under a tarpaulin. She was more worried about the baby than herself. “I tried to keep the baby warm by covering him up with whatever I could find, from bed sheets to rugs but I was not able to prevent him from getting jaundice,” she sobbed.

    For almost a week, she did not even get medicine for her little one. The village health post ran out of supplies. “We would wait inside the tarpaulin hoping for someone to appear with food and medicine supplies, it was like building a castle in the air,” she said. She was embittered against the odds of nature but was thankful to the relief effort shown by Practical Action and our partner Goreto-Gorkha.

    “If it was not for Practical Action, who knows, I wouldn’t be chatting with you at this very moment,” she said.

    Practical Action’s emergency relief and recovery work

    Practical Action emergency relief supplies arriving in a village in the Gorkha district at the epicenter of the earthquake.Practical Action emergency relief supplies arriving in a village in the Gorkha district at the epicenter of the earthquake.

    Practical Action emergency relief supplies arriving in a village in the Gorkha district at the epicentre of the earthquake.

    Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to provide life-saving food, repair drinking water systems and footpaths and construct temporary shelters and toilets for more than 7,000 households at the earthquake’s epicenter. We also trained people in activities to improve their livelihoods.

    But what has worried me is people’s lives after we completed this recovery work. What will happen to Sajida and Khadananda? Will their lives be normal again? I am sure there are many people who have been having sleepless nights in extreme weather conditions, hoping for a better shelter and basic living standard.

    All they need is a simple house

    It is time for us to place ourselves in the shoes of the vulnerable ones and help them achieve what they deserve. I do not want to see their basic rights of human survival being denied nor do I want to see their hopes being washed away. We are not talking big here; all they need is a simple house with a basic living standard where one can enjoy a good night’s sleep.

    The monsoon season is not far away. The thought of children having to shelter from its deluge under just a few windblown tarpaulins fills me with sadness.

    People like Sajida and Khadananda have suffered so much, which is why it is vital to build earthquake-proof houses now. This is a once in a generation chance for people to build safer, stronger homes like the ones we had already built in the Kaski district, which withstood last April’s earthquake.

    Practical Action’s long-term work to rebuild lives in Nepal

    We’re embarking on the next phase of our earthquake work in Nepal – helping families Build Back Better. This not only means building homes that will withstand future earthquakes, but also stopping families from inhaling smoke from open fires in their homes that slowly kills them, by installing smoke hoods into the new homes.

    We will improve agriculture productivity and rural income, food and nutritional security. We also intend to rebuild and improve drinking water supplies and provide energy services.

    How you can help people Build Back Better in Nepal

    You can find out more on what we’re doing here. But we can only do this with your help. Please support our Build Back Better programme and give families like Sajida’s hope for the future.

    I hope to see the same smiling faces of those innocent kids, the never ending humours of those hardworking men, and the village that once was the beauty of Ashrang Gorkha. Amen!

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  • Nepal earthquake: “another agonising night”

    Kathmandu 44600, Nepal, Kathmandu
    April 27th, 2015

    The day was 25 April 2015. It was the second day of Association for International NGOs Futsal (modified form of 5-a-side football) Tournament. Practical Action was through to the second round unbeaten and was playing for the knockout round against Handicap International. The game was getting really competitive.

    The futsal court in Kathmandu, Nepal, where we were when the earthquake struck.

    The futsal court in Kathmandu, Nepal, where we were when the earthquake struck.

    All of a sudden, I heard some noise and shouting. To be precise, it was 11:56am. I turned around to see what was going on but I just could not quite figure it out. Then I heard someone say “Earthquake”. That’s when I felt the tremor. For a second I didn’t know what to do, I just followed the crowd. The earth was shaking like anything. All I could hear was people shouting, screaming and crying. The only thing that came in my mind was “save your life”. I know there is a bit of selfishness in me (and everyone), but what else was I supposed to do than save my life first. I saw people running toward an open area just next to the futsal court, so I followed the bandwagon.

    It was the most scariest shake I have ever felt; it went on for quite a while. After some time when the shake subsided, I could see the fear and panic in everyone’s eyes. Almost everyone were on their cell phones trying to reach their family members. I was in one corner along with some of my friends from other organisations scanning the whole scenario: chairs scattered everywhere, walls crumbled to pieces,  people shouting – it was an utter chaos. Then a second one came, then the third, fourth, fifth, sixth……and after some time we just lost track. As of now, we have felt more that 40 shakes and still we are not sure if it is over or there is still more to come.

    This is the open space in Kathmandu, Nepal, where I am taking refuge with hundreds of my neighbours. following the earthquake.

    This is the open space in Kathmandu, Nepal, where I am taking refuge with hundreds of my neighbours following the earthquake.

    Today is the third night and still I am taking refuge in a nearby open space with hundreds of my neighbours. On the flip side, I am so amazed and grateful how one single disaster can bring everyone together. The people I share the shelter with are the ones I see quite often but don’t even bother to say “Hi” or “Hello” but now everything has changed. It has brought all of us together like a family; we share, food, water, tent, anything we could to help each other.

    We just felt another shock!

    While I write this blog, I pray for us as we go through yet another agonising night. #NepalQuake #Pray4Nepal

    Practical Action has launched an earthquake appeal. Please help our work in Nepal today and donate now.

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  • Giving voices to slum dwellers – a step towards reducing inequality

    October 17th, 2014

    The rapid urbanisation over the past decade does not go unnoticed in a developing country like Nepal.  As a result of fact, it not only brings economic instability but also a reasonable rise in slums and squatter settlements which needs a proper attention.  By 2030, about 3 billion people will need proper housing and access to water and sanitation systems, states UN-Habitat.  According to a study conducted in 2008 by the United Nations, 47 settlements were identified on the banks of different rivers in the Kathmandu Valley with a precarious living condition which were prone to landslides and flood.  The majority of people living in slums are mostly affected by a decade long conflict which forced them to flee their homes and enter the city hoping for a better job opportunity. While rest of Kathmanduites live in concrete houses, the slum dwellers have to spend their entire lives in shanties along the ever-bad-smelling river sides. And they have nowhere to go, to put forth their voices. They have no access to the facilities provided by the municipality like drinking water connection. That’s a case of sheer inequality.

    iud2On the occasion of World Habitat Day, a one day national workshop on “Voices from slums” was organised jointly by Ministry of Urban Development, UN-Habitat and Lumanti in Jawalakhel on 10 October 2014.  Representatives from different slum/ squatter areas, municipalities and government offices participated in the workshop. The objective of the workshop was to give a platform for the slum dwellers to voice their experiences, knowledge and ideas on improving their living conditions.  “In Nepal, the voices of slums are often unheard by the municipalities and the government officials, hence the workshop aims to serve as a bridge between slum dwellers and the concerned parties,” said Mr. Padma Sundar Joshi, Habitat Program Manager- UN Habitat.

    In addition, Practical Action is also actively involved in promoting systems of decentralised urban governance in Butwal and Bharatpur municipalities through “Delivering Decentralisation- Slum Dwellers’ Access to Decision-making for Pro-poor Infrastructure Services”.  The project aims to empower slum dwellers so that they are engaged effectively in decision-making and delivering improved urban services.  The cases of Butwal and Bharatpur municipalities are also not different from that of Kathmandu slum dwellers.  The slum/ squatter areas are on the river banks and on the foot of a hill which can be easily struck by natural disasters, such as landslides and floods.

    “Slum dwellers who are from marginalised community cannot afford to buy land and also the ones who are living in squatters have not received any legal land certificates,” claimed Ms. Durga Shakya, a representative for Butwal slum dwellers.  Ms. Shakya urged the government to take an immediate action on the issue.  Likewise, Mr. Binod G.C, a representative for Bharatpur slum dwellers shared, “In 2011, the government distributed a temporary land certificate to some of us and more than 50 percent are yet to receive the certificates.  On top of that, with the temporary land certificates, we are unable to apply for loans and credits from banks.”  Mr. G.C voiced his frustration and sought justice from the government.

    In spite of the burgeoning urbanisation, ensuring a proper living condition, water and sanitation is one’s rights.  Therefore, if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goal, it is “Our” responsibility too.  I pledge we all join hands together and listen to their voices.  I hope the voices of slums will be heard and justice be served.  It will be a major step towards reducing the inequality faced by them. Hallelujah!

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  • Rice duck farming – an early adopter’s story

    July 21st, 2014

    Last month, during my field visit, I met with a farmer and an early adopter.

    Rice Duck Farming Beneficiary

    Rice Duck Farming beneficiary in Nepal

    Raj Mani Chaudhary, a resident of Khaireni-7, Chitwan in Nepal is all smiles when asked about Rice Duck Farming. Before, he did not have any idea about rice duck farming. He used to plant paddy in his field in a traditional way like he always used to do. But it was not until last year when he found out about Practical Action’s Rice Duck Farming Pilot Project. He was really curious, so he attended the training. He says, “I found the concept of rice duck farming very fascinating, you not only benefit from the duck meat but also the droppings which is used as organic fertilizers, and at the same time the ducks in the field save your time and labour for weeding and manuring.”

    “Addressing Malnutrition through Integrated Rice-Duck Farming in Nepal” is being implemented in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts since April 2014. This is 1.5 years project funded by Grand Challenge Canada. The rice duck method for growing rice involves releasing ducklings into paddy fields about one or two weeks after the seedlings have been transplanted. The ducklings help rice grow by eating insects and weeds. It eliminates the use of pesticide and the farmer saves his time by avoiding the manual work of pulling out the weeds from the field. The ducks also stir up the soil in the paddy fields with their feet and bills which creases the oxygen content of the soil, making it more nutritious for the rice seedlings.

    In April 2013, Mr. Chaudhary attended training on rice duck farming, where he learned about raising the ducklings, space transplanting the rice, integrating duck in the rice field, fencing and so on. As an initiation, Practical Action provided him with 81 ducklings for his 4.5 Kattha land (1 Kattha= 0.33 Hectare).

    He recalls the very first day of releasing the 15 days old ducklings to his paddy field, “I was very anxious and curious, I did not know how the combination of rice duck farming work. I used to watch the ducklings play around in the paddy field for hours.” After exactly 5 months, his patience paid off. The yield rose by 20 percent and he was able to make extra money by selling the duck meat.

    Being an early adopter, Mr Chaudhary cannot stop sharing the benefits of rice duck farming – higher yield, organic rice that can be sold at a higher price, the duck meat which fetches extra income, the droppings which act as fertilisers and the ducks which assist by pulling out the weeds and eating the insects.

    He is a role model for fellow farmers in his village and urges them to adapt rice duck farming in their land. “I cannot wait for this year to start my rice duck farming,” he chuckles.

    Although Practical Action’s innovative rice duck farming is in its early days, we believe the innovation will benefit more farmers financially in the future.

    Rice Duck Farming

    Rice Duck Farming

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