A journey to prosperity

The Chepang are a semi nomadic tribe in Nepal, numbering around 52,000 scattered across the country. These communities often live in very poor conditions and the Chepang in Hiklung village, Gorkha district are no exception.

Although the village is only 500m from one of the major highways of the country, it is a million miles from mainstream society. No road connects the village at top of the hill to the highway along the opposite bank of the Trishuli river and no bridge crosses the river. People from the village used to walk for several hours to reach the highway.

Access for Opportunities, an EU funded project, supported the community to install a gravity ropeway in 2009 and an improved tuin in 2011 to transport goods and to cross the river respectively.  At the same time, Practical Action undertook complementary activities to improve living conditions in the village. These included product diversification, training for farmers and micro irrigation. The village began to thrive as never before. A few weeks ago I visited the village and my chest swelled with pride to witness the change.

“We used to grow very little food, not even enough for 2-3 months. The rest of the year we lived on forest roots and tubers. Some of us used to work in Fishling Bazaar as porters to support our families and some worked overseas in India and Arab countries” Says Rantna Chepang, the Chairperson of the Jalapa Devi Agriculture Cooperative, formed with the help of the project.  

 “From this project we received improved seeds, micro irrigation technologies and new farming skills. Most importantly, we got the ropeway for transporting our goods to market. Now, we are producing surplus crops and each household earns NPR 120,000 ($ 1380) per annum from selling vegetables “

This income is nearly double Nepal’s average per capita income of $742, which is heavily reliant on remittances from abroad. This has triggered marked improvements in the living condition of the 56 Chepang households in the village.

Prem Chepang, 42, has suffered from tuberculosis for more than a decade. Previously his earnings were too small to afford medication for this curable disease. Now, like many villagers he is making a good income from selling vegetables and has saved enough money to seek treatment from doctors in Kathmandu. He is hopeful that one day he will be free from the disease.

Every monsoon, Basu Chepang, 36, struggled to keep his house dry.  Its straw roofing wouldn’t prevent the rain entering his house. Now, along with many others in the village, he has corrugated iron roofing – the most obvious sign of the prosperity in rural Nepal.

For, Devi Chepang, a teacher in a primary school in the village, the change unfolded in the form of improvement in children education and hygiene.  Before the project, attendance was low and the children’s hygiene was poor.

“Now parents have more time and money to invest in their children’s education and hygiene. The school introduced school uniform this year which would have been impossible before as the parents couldn’t afford it.” Devi told me.

Panmanya Chepang, 32, has never been happier. Her husband has returned home from Saudi Arabia where he had been working for 6 years. “Now, we are making more money from vegetable farming than he was able to send home from Saudi. I am determined not to send him back to Saudi and we are working hard for it “says Panmaya.

Panmaya is also the treasurer of Jalapa Devi Agriculture Cooperative.  The cooperative’s Capital has risen to $5232 in less than a year. The farmers are saving regularly $2.3 every month in the cooperative and it is providing credit to local farmers who need it.

This model village now showcases what a marginalized community can achieve if they have access to right skills and technologies. Chepang communities from elsewhere in the country visit to the village to draw inspiration.

The community deserves all the praise for taking responsibility for changing their lives and working hard for it. Practical Action is proud to provide a helping hand to their journey to prosperity.

2 responses to “A journey to prosperity”

  1. Mani Karmacharya Says:

    It gives me pleasure to read about Practical Action’s work. But would have been really better to see the photo credit.

  2. Ranjith de Silva Says:

    Excellent project and would like to know more about the improved Tuin. International Forum for Rural Transport and Development (IFRTD) would like to commend the efforts of improved transport options like these that helps the environment

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