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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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  • With improved agricultural practices, farmers in far-western Nepal are avoiding the seasonal exodus to India


    May 25th, 2017

    The scene was heart-breaking. A group of women and children were running after a bus while the men were waving goodbye from the vehicle. I was witness to this scene almost two years ago during a field trip to Achham in far-western Nepal. The women and children were crying and so were some of the men. They kept on running after the bus till it was out of sight.

    Relatives of foreign-bound men running after a bus carrying the seasonal migrants. (c) Bishnu Paudel

    According to my colleague Bishnu Paudel, the men were leaving for India. He said, “The belief is that the more people come to see off a foreign-bound man, the more fruitful will be his stay in Mumbai and other cities in India.”

    It’s not an unusual scene here in this part of Nepal where hordes of men leave for India every year to earn a paltry income. This practice of seasonal migration hasn’t done much good to the people of this region. In India they engage in and hold petty jobs of a janitor, dishwasher, porter, and a factory worker among others and get harassed, despised and scolded at a drop of a hat. When they return from India, they bring a meagre amount of money but also the dreaded HIV and AIDS with them, not to mention the Hindi words and accent that’s ubiquitous in the far-western Nepal.

    This year, when I returned to Bajura district, the scenario was a bit different. I interviewed some beneficiaries of BICAS (Building Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Capacity of CSOs in Agriculture and Forest Sectors) project. They have resolved not to get back to India but to work in their own land for a better future.

    Here are their stories – straight from the horse’s mouth and how the project has supported them to lead a dignified life.

    Dambar Saud chose to stay in Nepal. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    Supplying quality seeds and agricultural inputs to farmers

    Dambar Saud, an agro-vet at Bamka Bazaar, chose to stay in Nepal and start a business selling agricultural inputs, equipment and pesticides. With support from BICAS, he expanded his business and later diversified his business by starting an agriculture produce collection centre and a poultry farm. He now earns enough to lead a contented life.

    I was lured to go to India but now I’m happy with my income,” he said. “My peers want to copy my ways.

    Providing technical support to farmers

    Chitra Bahadur Bishta, a farmer from Bail of Budhiganga Municipality-7, went to India 22 times and each time he worked in different localities as a watchman staying awake throughout the night and washing vehicles. He also worked in restaurants.

    When everyone slept, I had to stay awake and many times I cried,” he said.

    However, he hasn’t returned to India after he started growing vegetables one and half years ago. Having received technical support from BICAS, he has been growing tomatoes and other vegetables.

    Now I feel happy to see the plants bearing fruit,” he told with a twinkle in his eyes.

    Tek Bahadur Thapa, an award winning lead farmer, is an inspiration to fellow farmers. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    Building irrigation facilities for better productivity

    When we went to Tek Bahadur Thapa’s farm in Triveni Municipality – 8, he was tending to the saplings of bottle gourd and bitter gourd. Nearby were rows of fruit trees.

    Thapa, a model farmer who recently received an award from the President for being the best farmer in the region went to India at an early age of 8 years. One night while he was sleeping, the ‘seth’ (master) he was working for knocked on the door but he didn’t wake up immediately. When he woke up, his master slapped him for not getting up on time. He was meant to drive a rat that was running around in his seth’s bedroom!

    He then returned back to Nepal. When everybody was leaving their homes during the Maoist insurgency, he started growing vegetables. And he hasn’t looked back since.

    We built a multi-use water system with support from BICAS,” he said, pointing to the reservoir. “We now have sufficient water for irrigation.

    The 25 families in the area are planning to turn it into a vegetable production pocket area. An inspiration to other farmers, he has vowed never to return India for work.

    Delivering services at doorsteps

    Deu Singh Saud, a lead farmer from Budhiganga Municipality-10, is farming vegetables with his fellow group members Dan Bahadur Budha, Kamala Saud and Buddhi Singh Saud. He worked in India for over 17 years and since the last 10 years he hasn’t returned back to India.

    Deu Singh Saud is happy with his group farming. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    According to him, when he started farming there was no agro-vet and it used to be a hard job getting good quality seeds. Then he started getting the seeds from Saud Agro-vet in Bamka. Thanks to BICAS, now he gets quality seeds at his doorsteps from barefoot agro-vets, paying only 20 per cent of the actual price. He also gets technical advice from these agro-vets.

    Although he can’t read and write, he easily earns over NRs 100,000 (1 USD = NRs 103) per year from the farming.

    It’s better to farm here,” he said. “I could only earn around IRs 2,000 (1 IRs = NRs 1.60) per month in India.”

    Ignorant of the seed varieties earlier, he told us name of several varieties of vegetables suitable for farming in that region.

    I can do anything here,” he quipped hinting at the long working hours in India. “I can work as per my plan and I can rest whenever I get tired.

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  • Bio-dyke protects Bangalipur community


    April 26th, 2017

    Healthy natural capital provides a buffer between flood hazards and communities. In flood emergencies it provides protecting ecosystem services and in normal time it is a livelihood resource. The vegetation growing along the strengthened river bank in Bangalipur, Bardia brings hope to at least 40 households and provides a site for others to ‘see and learn’.

    There are 135 households living in Bangalipur; 40 households in this community are at risk of flood from the Aurahi Khola, a tributary of Karnali River.

    The flood affects the community in three ways: it erodes the bank away and destroys agriculture and settlement; deposits sand and silt which damages harvests and makes it difficult to cultivate crops in the future; and during high flood events, the flood can inundate settlement leaving people homeless. Over the last 15 years the river has eroded three bigha (2.028 hectare) of agriculture land owned by 10 families rendering some of them landless. If this issue is not addressed the remaining 40 vulnerable household will be displaced.

    Working in isolation, communities did not have the capacity to construct any kind of embankment. The Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) brought communities together and a representative body was formed – the community disaster management committee (CDMC) of Bangalipur.

    The committee led a vulnerability and capacity assessment (VCA) which identified the Aurahi Khola riverside and nearby households as the most vulnerable to flooding. To address this problem the community identified the need to strengthen the embankment and flood defence structures and included it in their disaster risk management plan.
    Although initial community priority was for high investment concrete structure or a pile of stone filled gabion boxes, they agreed on vegetative measures of bio-dyke technology using locally available resources and mobilising communities through the leadership of the CDMC. The project supported the communities in survey and design, cost estimate, funding for materials that needed to be purchased or hired and the communities provided the locally available materials and labour. A written agreement was reached in between the CDMC and the project outlining the objective, roles and scope of work for both sides.

    River bank before constructing bio-dyke

    The bio-dyke building
    A junior engineer was brought in to technically advise and guide the work. Members of the community worked together to smoothen the bank slope between 30-45 degrees. A base foundation was dug out at the bottom of the bank slope. Then, grip walls were built in the foundation of sand bags supported with bamboo poles and systematically interlocked by gabion iron (GI) wire. These tow walls used 12 ft long bamboo poles in two rows running parallel at one metre and each driven into 8 ft deep holes dug by a driller and sand bag piled in between.

    Piling sand bags along the slope to construct the bio-dyke

    At every 20 m intervals along the bank, bamboo spurs (3 m long, 1.5 m wide and about a metre high) were constructed in the same way – filled with sandbags to deflect water flow away and to prevent water directly hitting the embankment. Sand bags were then piled up along the smooth bank slope – they were guided and interlocked with bamboo poles and GI wire. Lastly, the sandbags along the bank slope were covered with top soil in between hedge rows at 1-2 metres. Before the onset of monsoon (the growing season), locally available seedlings were brought from nurseries and transplanted on the slopes. The plants included bamboo, Napier and bushes that establish and extend their root systems rapidly. Bamboos were chosen at the face – the tow wall side. The community put a hedgerow of plants to prevent the slope from grazing and trampling. The community members monitored the area and prevented grazing.

    Opportunity to test
    The bio-dyke aimed to stabilise the 220 m river bank protecting about six bigha (4.056 hectare) land of 10 families. On the 26 July 2016, one of the biggest recorded floods in the river occurred, providing an opportunity for the community to test the strength of their structure. Although the dyke is yet to naturally stabilise to attain its full strength, it defended the flood well without major damage. The flood was 3 m high and rose over the bioengineering structure but there was no bank cutting and the land at the back was well protected. “There’s also less sand and silt brought in our field,” said Namrata who is one of the land owners. The coordinator of CDMC is ‘pleased to see the success’ and said, “We will extend the dyke further.”

    After bio-dyke construction at Bangalipur, Bardia

    The process built capacity within the community on how to build a bio-dyke. One hundred and thirty five community members worked on the process and have learned how it is done, increasing their awareness on the importance of riverbank protection. “We are now confident, we can do it,” one of the CDMC members said. He informed us that they are approaching local government to advocate for funding allocation to extend the embankment but the ongoing restructuring and elections may ‘lead to waiting for another fiscal year’.

    All information of this story were collected by Buddhi Kumal, Lok Pokharel, Narayan Ghimire and Prakash Khadka.

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  • Gender Transformative Change Is Our Priority


    March 31st, 2017

    The gender is at the center in our new Strategic Business Plan (SBP) 2017 to 2020. In terms of gender, the main shift in the strategic period is gender mainstreaming to gender transformation.

    The gender transformation process dedicates to rigorous gender analysis on capacity enhancement, institutional strengthen, research and development of gender responsive policies through meaningful participation of women and men. The transformative change process goes beyond identifying and exploring the symptoms of gender equality, socially constructed norms, attitudes, and relations of power that underline the cause of limitation of men and women.

    In context of Nepal, women are confined to the domestic spheres mostly in rural areas due to socially embedded and culturally accepted gender roles and responsibilities. So, this process examines the questions and seeks to change the rigid gender norms that causes power imbalances by encouraging critical awareness. The change process of gender transformation mainly focuses to unfold the causes and consequences of existing gender values and addresses them accordingly. This change process further encourages the society to promote the position of women by challenging the unequal distribution of resources and allocation regarding the power relationships. There are four different pillars for gender transformative change, they are:

    Pic. 1

    The first and foremost area that needs to be focused is capacity of women’s leadership. It helps to respond to the need and requirement of an organisation’s future strategy. The development of new policies and strengthening of existing policies from gender perspectives support women in leadership and decision making positions. Such policies support including the socially excluded, economically poor, and vulnerable in terms of disaster risk reduction and those deprived of access to information and resources. It further encourages partnering with like-minded government, non-government organisations and civil societies, additionally, the research on GESI helps to provide evidence for the areas of concentration to bring the gender transformation change in an organisation.

    In context of Practical Action, Nepal office, there are two areas that need to focus. They are;

    1. Capacity strengthening and women’s leadership
    • Focus on Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) through project activities
    • Capacity building on Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) of staff and partners
    • Initiate the Gender Audit through our existing projects
    1. Inclusive policies and partnerships
    • Focus to implement of existing policies and development of new policies/ guidelines if required
    • Partnership with like minded organizations to contribute on GESI areas in the implementation level

    This comprehensive understanding of empowerment requires, not only the increase of women’s individual agency, but also changes to transform the structural barriers in order to shift social and cultural norms. This can be measured by examining three broad  domains of transformative changes on empowerment, they are:

    Agencies: Individual and institutional knowledge, skills and abilities

    Relations: Complex and multi-dimensional and pervasive relationships to analyse through diversified tools and techniques

    Structures: Power relationships governing collective, individual and institutional practices

    Pic. 2

    These dimensions help re-frame the discourse of empower to focus on women’s individual agency to collect responsibilities and actions.

    Overall, the gender transformative change impacts on institutional and individual level through gender inclusive policies keeping the women in front line positions in development interventions. This leads to rights of women along with gender related expectations. Eventually, it provides insights for gender transformative actions at organisation and programme implementation levels. Gender is so central to our new strategy. So, considering our organizational priorities, gender tansformative change is one of them.

     

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  • Technologies for bringing back roofs over the heads of earthquake victims


    March 23rd, 2017

    Simple technologies can bring down the cost of house construction and enable the poor earthquake victims build their houses within their means.

    Chhabilal Acharya’s house reduced to a pile of rubbles in less than a minute when the powerful earthquake stuck his village in Laharepauwa Rasuwa on 25th April 2015. His poultry farm, his major source of income, wasn’t spared either. Acharya (62) and his daughter narrowly escaped from the collapsing house.

    Chhabilal explaining how he escaped from the collapsing house

    Chhabilal explaining how he escaped from the collapsing house

    He had built the house in 1995.

    “I gave up even the smallest indulgences in life to save money for the house,“ he said.

    It took him five years to save money for the house as his job at Lagtang National Park would pay very nominal.

    He has been living in a temporary shelter since the earthquake. With his poultry farm gone, his family is scarping by on his meagre pension of $101 a month.

    Government of Nepal has decided to provide $2778 grant to affected households for building house in three instalments. The house should be compliant to the government approved designs to secure the grant. Chhabilal has received the first tranche ($ 500) of the grant. However, he is yet to start building the house.

    “The money is not enough even to prepare ground for foundation and I have no other means to supplement the grant“ he mentioned.

    Chhabilal inside his temporary shelter

    Chhabilal inside his temporary shelter

    Building simple 3-room brick masonry house costs more than $5000 in his village. Stone masonry buildings are equally expensive as the stones are not available locally.

    Chhabilal is planning to take loan from a local money lender by mortgaging all his land at half the value to top on the grant.

    Banks don’t accept farm land in the village as collateral. Hence, for people like Chhabilal who don’t have any other fixed assets, the local money lenders are the only resort for the loan. The money lenders rip them off with the exorbitant interest rate.

    “If my son does well in life, he will be able to pay the loan and release the land,“ Chhabilal said with misty eyes. He knows he may never get the land back as his son is just 16 years old now.

    Two hundred and forty two households in Laharepuawa lost their houses in the devastating earthquake. Only 11 households who are well to do or have family members abroad have built their houses so far. Rest are facing the impossible choice, roof over the head or the land that feed them, like Chhabilal.

    However, simple technologies can save them from this predicament and help them rebuild their house within their means.

    Cement Stabilised Earth Block (CSEB) is one of such simple technologies. It is a very good alternative to bricks. It can be prepared from a simple mixture of local soil, sand and cement (10%). It costs almost three times less than the brick. Besides, it requires less labour and cement mortar to build a house with CSEB. And, it provides better earthquake resistance as the blocks are interlocking. A CSEB compacting machine costs around $ 7000 including installation and all the accessories. The machine can produce up to 450 blocks per day. The pictures below shows the CSEB production at Kalikasthan, Rasuwa. The enterprise was set up with the support of Practical Action.IMG_1508

    IMG_1511

    Another technology which can save cost is a simple stone cutting machine. It can reduce cost of through stones and corner stones, which are mandatory inthe government, approved stone masonry buildings, by 2 to 3 times. A labour can prepare maximum 6 corner/through stones in a day manually whereas as the machine can produce up to 200 pieces of corner stones.

    A simple one story house requires more than 150 corners/through stones, which approximately costs $300, if prepared manually. However, with the machine, the cost can be reduced to $100. The stone cutting machine costs only about $1200.

    Stone cutting Machine set up with the help of Practical Action at Bhorle Rasuwa

    Stone cutting machine set up with the help of Practical Action at Bhorle, Rasuwa

    Practical Action has been promoting the technologies in Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts through a DFID funded project in a small scale.

    It is an irony that better-off households are better poised to receive the government housing grant as they can fully comply with the government standards. Poor households, who are solely dependent on the grant, are at the risk of losing it as the grant is not enough to build government design compliant house. The technologies can avert the risk by reducing the cost of building house.

    Likewise, the technologies can  provide alternative livelihood opportunities to the people in the earthquake affected districts as they can be promoted as the local enterprises. Hence, larger diffusion of such technologies is across the earthquake affected  districts is important not only for accelerating reconstruction but also improving livelihood.

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  • Story of Kopila Chaudhary — how knowledge transformed my life


    March 20th, 2017

    The gift of material goods makes people dependent, but the gift of knowledge makes them free”, these profound words of E.F.Schumacher still hold true today. In fact, they are the foundation of Practical Action’s last mile knowledge service, Practical Answers. Knowledge sharing, skills development and capacity building allows vulnerable communitieMushroom farmings across the globe to improve their own livelihoods and thrive in future years to come.

    Meet Mrs Chaudhary, a mother to five. She lives in the far west rural region of Nepal. This area has a past. The 17th July 2000 was a milestone in Nepalese history, the day the Government of Nepal abolished the Kamaiya systemthe abolishment of bonded labour. Kamaiyas were freed, Mrs Chaudhary was freed. Yet, life remained difficult. These families were sent to live in Mukta Kamaiya,­ communities of freed bonded labour set up by the government. Life remained difficult for Mrs Chaudhary, although she had been re-housed the promises of rehabilitation had not be fully fulfilled. Wage labour was essential if she was to support her family and change her livelihood for the better:

    “The government had provided us four Kathha (approx. 14,500 sq.ft) of land with some money to start our new life as a freed Kamaiya, but it was insufficient to fulfil the daily needs of the family. I along with my husband worked as daily wage labour for 15 years but still struggled to make ends meet for our family and fulfil our children’s basic needs. Many organisations came to us in past; they sympathised on our situation and showed us hopes and inspirations but almost to no effect.”

    Gyanodaya Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC), supported by Practical Answers, is located in the area. Owned by the local community, staff knew that the Kamaiya community must be supported through the gift of knowledge. Social mobilisers encouraged individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, to join their training and learning sessions. These participatory trainings focus on income generation activities and diversification; key skills to improve the livelihoods of these vulnerable communities. Sceptical at first, participants of these sessions are now thriving commercial farmers specialising in agribusiness. Mrs Chaudhary is one of them. Social mobilisers from the CLRC Mushroom farminghad encouraged her to participate, sharing the benefits that neighbouring communities had gained since joining the training. During the training, she learnt how to write business proposals to apply for government grants:


    “Surprisingly, I got a grant of NPR 40,000 (£300) along with some machinery for mushroom farming and now I have started commercial mushroom farming. I was able to produce 50kg of mushroom. With the money, I am building another tunnel to grow 200 more bags… CLRC has built hope on us to change our lives”

    Knowledge sharing and skills development for individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, enables vulnerable individuals to improve their own livelihoods by their selves, to grow and prosper without handouts. Knowledge empowers. Knowledge empowers women like Mrs Chaudhary to be business women supporting their family, community and growing their own confidence day after day after day.

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Mrs Chaudhary!

    Want to help women like Mrs Chaudhary this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here

     

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  • Life as a Barefoot Agro-vet; Govinda Khadka’s Story


    March 14th, 2017

    Things were bleak for Govinda Khadka (47) of Gajra village in Achham District a few years back. After being a primary school teacher for over a decade until 2014, Khadka quit his job due to low remuneration and instability. Before being a school teacher, he was a migrant worker alike most of his fellow villagers. He lived and worked as a labour in India for many years. His meagre income never paid enough for his family of five including his wife and three sons. With mere three ropani (1 Ropani = 508.83771 m²) of land and Indian labour job, there was no way that his children could be educated and well brought up. Hence, just like most of the youths in Achham, two of his sons were off to India to manage two square meals. At his mid-forty’s, Khadka had no job and just a small plot of land. All his sons had to take care of their own families. He and his wife barely had a source of income.

    Alternative? Taking an Indian labour job!

    Still healthy and fit, taking an Indian labour job crossed Khadka’s mind many times. But it was not an easy decision to leave his wife Rajyaswari Khadka (45) all by herself. Just like Khadka, many of the Achham dwellers opt for Indian labour jobs. Every year, 28,323 men and boys of Achham District leave to neighbouring India aspiring for a better living. In absence of better livelihood options back home, India seems most palatable platter in their plate. However, migrant labourer is not a great choice of life given the hardships and consequences that come along. Khadka, despite bearing a School Leaving Certificate (SLC) level education had such a thought; we can imagine the livelihood choice of more than half of Achham population who are not literate.

    Transformative Barefoot Agro-vet Career

    Khadka might have to leave as an aging migrant worker but thanks to POSAN, he was offered 35 days agro-vet training when things were at edge for him. After the training, he was able to pass test to receive an official agro-vet license. He was also supported by the project to establish an agro-vet shop with financial assistance of NPR 25,000 (£ 193). His fellow villagers came to a great sigh after his agro-vet was established to cater them veterinary and agriculture related services. Since many villagers residing uphill and away from his agro-vet shop also started demanding his service, his wife started looking at the shop while Khadka started providing a barefoot agro-vet service whenever he is called. Khadka shared with us, as a barefoot agro-vet, he found more satisfaction than any other profession. It has not just been a source of income for him but he gets to socialise with fellow villagers. He also thinks the profession has given him more happiness than ever as he loves to interact with people.

    Govinda Khadka providing barefoot agro-vet service on an urgent call by fellow villager at night

    Govinda Khadka providing barefoot agro-vet service on an urgent call by fellow villager at 8:00 in the night

     

    “Being a barefoot agro-vet, I am able to make above NPR 40,000 (£ 310) annually. This is a lot of money for me. I have been saving most of the income for my retirement and possible medical expenses for me and my wife in future. However, it is not just about money, I get to socialise in every nook and cranny of this village and sometimes even beyond. People regard me for my service which means a lot to me. I imagine, only if I was not given this opportunity, I would not be leading such a respectful life.”

     

    A Sigh that POSAN Brings….

    Khadka is also supported by the project in vegetable farming techniques. While the Khadkas never grew enough vegetables for their own consumption due to lack of knowledge, now they barely spend any money in buying food. This also in a way has helped them make more saving. In fact, they sell the surplus once or twice every week in nearby Bayelpata market through which they make enough for their day to day expenditure. All in all, Khadka’s plans to save the income made through barefoot agro-vet service for his retirement explains how a small contribution from POSAN has helped ensure social security for him and his wife. His service is not just a business for him but is also associated to his wellbeing.

    The Khadka couple today leads a happy life with least things to be worried about. They have food growing abundantly at their backyard and an agro-vet shop as a small scale enterprise. Above all, Khadka has his barefoot agro-vet profession which gives him pleasure and decent pay at the same time.

    Almost every other household in Achham rear goats and barefoot agro-vet is high in demand

    Almost every other household in Achham rear goats which clearly signals high demand for barefoot agro-vet

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  • Knowledge matters and it empowers


    March 13th, 2017

    Three female Muscovy ducks were splashing in greenish water kept in a small concrete tub when we reached Bhumisara Poudel’s house. The drake was tethered to a post near the coop and the area was covered with a mosquito net. Nearby, a manure yard measuring 6 ft x 4 ft made from cement blocks was also covered with a mosquito net.

    I wondered why they had mosquito nets everywhere around the manure yard.

    The net stops rats and moles from eating earthworms,” said Baburam Poudel, Bhumisara’s husband. “These are not ordinary earthworms, each one costs NRs 3. We bought half a kilo of earthworms for NRs 1,500 (Around 15 USD) and these creatures have been helping us produce vermicompost enough for our seven kattha (1 kattha = 338 sq. m) farm.”

    Demand-driven training to farmers

    Jyoti Ale Magar, a social mobiliser at the Sauraha Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC) told us how Bhumisara started raising the earthworms for vermicompost. “We trained 20 farmers from this area on vermicomposting,” she said. “We organise the trainings as per the demand from the community.

    With the support from Practical Answers Knowledge Services Programme, 22 CLRCs in 15 districts of Nepal have been organising trainings for farmers, interaction with agriculture experts and practical sessions at regular intervals.
    Linking farmers to government and non-government organisations

    During one of the interaction sessions, the CLRC connected Bhumisara with the Agriculture Service Centre in the area. The service centre provided a grant of NRs 25,000 to Bhumisara to construct a shed and a manure yard, and buy earthworms for vermicomposting.

    As we were talking about the benefits of organic fertiliser, Baburam dug out a handful of vermicompost from the pit. Two small earthworms wriggled out of the dark brown compost. Putting them back to the pit, Baburam showed us how to determine whether the fertiliser was ready to use.

    The ready-to-use compost is like a handful of dry CTC tea (black tea made by crush, tear, curl method),” he said. “It’s easy to carry and administer to the soil – not like the wet livestock manure.”

    All they needed to do was to add livestock manure, dried leaves to the pit, keep it cool by sprinkling water at regular intervals. The earthworms would do the rest of the work.

    Improving food security and livelihood

    Learning how to prepare and handle vermicompost, we went to the adjacent farm to see how the vegetables were faring. The couple had recently harvested a crop of potatoes and the newly planted bitter gourd saplings were climbing up the stakes, with their tendrils coiling around them.

    We harvested 10 quintals of potatoes in this three kattha plot,” said Baburam beaming with joy. “Earlier the plot yielded not more than 5-6 quintals. We sold some and have stored a quintal of potatoes in a cold store.”

    The manure pit produced vermicompost enough for the potato cultivation. In addition, they had applied the compost to the bitter gourd saplings and the flowers at the front of their house.

    Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others.

    Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    Spreading the knowledge

    Close to the vegetable farm, I could see an outlet protruding from base of the manure pit and a reddish brown liquid dripping from the pipe. The water sprayed on the manure yard converts into a nutrient after getting in contact with the manure and earthworms. And according to Bhumisara and Baburam, it is more nutritious than the compost and can be collected in a bottle.

    Bhumisara quipped, “Earlier the fertiliser used to be carried in truckloads, then in sacks and now in bottles.”

    Appreciating his wife’s knowledge, Baburam said, “She learnt all this at the CLRC and I learnt from her.

    Many people come to see how we are raising the earthworms and producing vermicompost,” added Bhumisara. “We are happy to teach them all the tricks of the trade.”

    Now, they no more need to carry truckloads of wet livestock manure. It used to be a back-breaking chore before cultivation and lasted for 5-6 days at a stretch. The vermicompost can be stored and stacked in sacks and the liquid nutrient adds to the productivity of the crops.

    Practical answers to the farmers’ queries

    As we were having coffee after the snapshot of the manure yard and vegetable farm, Baburam let go the tethered drake. It started chasing the other three ducks and the place became lively with the ducks’ quacks.

    The social mobilisers at the CLRCs respond to the queries of the farmers. They provide the related knowledge materials and invite experts to interact with the farmers.  This gives the farmers a better idea on managing their land, cultivating crops and starting alternative income generating activities.

    I’m planning to dig a pond by the side of the coop,” told Baburam. “So that these ducks can swim and we can get fish to eat.”

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  • Kamala Joshi — A woman who broke the cycle of discrimination


    March 9th, 2017

    Mother’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Not because of all the festivities or pastries (which I don’t mind!), but because it reminds me of all the amazing women I have met, but I haven’t had a chance to tell you about yet.

    Meet Kamala Joshi, a Nepalese single-mother who, like many other women in rural communities, got married in her early twenties. She had a baby soon after wedlock, sadly, kamalaher husband left her shortly after the baby was born. Kamala struggled to provide for herself and her child, and had to move out of her home. She found a temporary refuge from a women’s shelter (‘maiti’) but knew that she could not stay there for long. A fear to end up homeless was strong.

    In Nepal, especially in rural areas, women’s fate is still linked to that of their husbands. A broken marriage leaves a social stigma that most of the women will have to carry for the rest of their lives – no matter what the reasons led to the separation. Women with unlucky marriages, often face discrimination and social exclusion without much hope for the future.

    Kamala, however, refused to accept this and wanted to fight for a better life for herself and her daughter. She started working in agriculture and with some time, determination and a bit of luck, she was selected to participate in a training programme in agriculture with Practical Action’s partner, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). From this, she gained the right tools and knowledge to establish herself as a self-sufficient small-scale farmer.

    In 2014, couple years after Kamala had started as a small-scale farmer, she had another training opportunity through Practical Action’s Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security project. This time, she learnt skills and knowledge to support other local farmers. Since then, she has demonstrated and facilitated workshops in her community to share her knowledge of small scale farming for the benefit of all.

    kamala2Kamala Joshi managed to break the cycle. Since she started to work in agriculture, she has no longer struggled to provide for her family and even managed to send her daughter to a boarding school. She is now one of the most respected women in the community, despite the social stigma of her marital status. Her story is an inspiring reminder that right knowledge, opportunities and determination have the power to break the social dynamics that cause discrimination against women.

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Kamala!

    Want to help women like Kamala this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.

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  • Hard work paid off!


    February 15th, 2017

    Chuunu Kathariya is a proud agri-entreprenuer who runs a commercial pig resource centre in Dodohara VDC, Kailali. Currently, he has 19 pigs in his resource centre. He makes a yearly income of NPR 7,00,000 (£5,243). Apart from the pig resource centre, he has recently started banana farming in 14 Kattha (4740 sqm) land.

    Chunnu Kathariya at his pig resource centre

    Chunnu Kathariya at his pig resource centre

    Kathariya  took us to his days back in 2011 when he had returned from Saudi Arabia after spending 26 months there as a labourer.  After his return, he was confused on what to do next in life. But thanks to wise advice he got, he didn’t remain in a limbo for too long.

    Practical Action’s staff from the ROJGARI (Raising Opportunities for Jobs in Gramin Areas for Rural Income) project advised him to invest in a pig resource centre. The idea worked well for him. Together with four friends, he initiated the enterprise. He partially received infrastructure support along with three day pig raising training from Practical Action. He still recalls how the support and encouragement brought a tremendous change in his life.

    Kathariya  clearly looks extremely happy and satisfied with the wise decision he took five years ago. He shared, “I have been selling piglets to Kailali, Doti and Bardiya. So far, I have sold around 700 piglets at the cost of NPR 3,500 (£26) per piglet. After the 2015 earthquake, I provided 42 piglets to affected farmers in Dhading District who had faced huge loss and damage. I was really happy to be able to support them. Besides selling piglets, I am also providing technical support to pig raising farmers. Many farmers have visited my place and have also sought technical support from me. This keeps me going on my business. I am very satisfied and happy.”

    Pig resource centre

    Pig resource centre

    Chuunu has realised that perseverance paid off. He believes support  comes to the door of those who keep striving for their aim. He will soon receive financial support of NPR 200,000 (£1,500) from the government’s pig and poultry promotion programme to further expand his business. He is thankful to Practical Action’s ROJGARI project who guided him to move ahead with this enterprise.

    I think Kathariya  is a remarkable outcome of Rojgari project. This project was implemented from 2011 to 2014 with the financial support from the European Union. The project aimed to provide gainful employment opportunities for rural youths in Nepal.  Looking at the experience of people like Kathariya  we realise ROJGARI has indeed transformed people’s livelihood.

    Two years after the end of the project, many enterprises begun during the projecthave accelerated momentum and are moving ahead sustainably. ROJGARI helped locals increase entrepreneurship skills, develop business plans, provided technical support and links with market actors necessary to lead a successful enterprise.

    Being a part of ROJGARI myself, I look back and think of all the hard work the team did to address youth unemployment.  We are now witnessing the positive change in the lives of people like Kathariya.  I can only say “all our hard work has been paid off.”

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