Khamba’s Story: filtering his way to progress


December 8th, 2015

Khamba Prasad Gharti (42) migrated from his village in hilly Jajarkot District some fifteen years ago to Surajpur, Gulariya-11, Bardiya District in the terai plains due to the ongoing armed conflict at that time. Life in the terai was not easy for his family of five, because of the language barrier, climatic conditions, cultural differences and economic constraints.

“It was not easy to settle down at a new location. Altogether 28 families from our village had come here to settle after life became increasing difficult there. But we had to struggle really hard to keep our families fed,” shares Khamba. He used to go to neighbouring country India to do odd jobs, but it was quite difficult to make the ends meet for the family.

But now, things have changed remarkably for him and his family.

“My life changed after attending that one training,” Khamba shares happily.

Khamba remembers attending a five day bio-sand filter making training six years ago. “When I heard about the training, I thought why not?” says Khamba.

The training was provided by SWASTHA project which was implemented by Practical Action from 2009 to 2012. It worked in Bharatpur, Butwal, Gulariya and Tikapur Municipalities of Nepal with the main objective of improving the health and wellbeing of the urban and peri urban settlements. A major objective of the project was to improve the access to safe water in the communities. Since, the underground water in these communities have high levels of arsenic, bio-sand filters were an appropriate solution. Bio-sand filters not only filter impurities like bacteria and iron but also arsenic which does not get filtered by other common filters available in the market. It is also low maintenance and can used for years.

Khamba making filter in front of his house few years ago

Khamba making filters in front of his house few years ago.

“After the training, I wanted to start a small enterprise to manufacture bio-sand filters but I didn’t have enough money to start a business on my own. I asked a few friends who had attended the same training to initiate a joint venture, but they all refused. No one thought that making filters could actually be profitable. I felt quite discouraged at that time,” remembers Khamba. “But the project team encouraged me and supported me with some equipment. They provided me a mould to make the filter. After that, I took a loan of NPR 25,000 (1 GBP=159 NPR) and started making bio-sand filters.”

Khamba made 100 filters in the first batch and the cost of one filter was NPR 2,500 at that time (it now costs NPR 5,000).

“As people were becoming aware of the benefits of safe drinking water due to different activities of the SWASTHA project, it was not difficult to sell those 100 pieces. I was able to pay back the loan, right after selling the first lot,” says Khamba happily. “After that I was motivated to manufacture more filters, I made 300 and 400 pieces in second and third lot respectively. As I made the filters very carefully, everyone liked my products. People from communities and different organisation bought my filters.”

Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter

Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter.

After the SWASTHA project was over in 2012, Khamba saw a bit decrease in the demand for his filters. “The sales were not rapid but it was regular enough to keep my income inflow ongoing regularly. I have not faced any financial difficulty after starting this filter making enterprise. All three of my children are going to good schools,” shares Khamba. But it is not just economic progress that is keeping Khamba happy, he also feels a sense of service to the community after delivering each filter. “It is like giving a gift of pure water to the families. I feel like I am serving the community as well while earning my own living. This is way better than going abroad for work.”

One of Khamba’s customers, Pansara Rawal (53) was among the first buyers of the filter. “There was a government official who came to test water filtered by bio-sand filter, the results showed that there was almost no trace of arsenic, so I ordered one from Khamba immediately,” says Pansara. “Our family has been using it since the last five years, and there is absolutely no complaint as yet. The water tastes good and we have not suffered from water borne diseases like we used to do before we used the filter.”

Another project, currently being implemented in Gulariya Municipality by Practical Action, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015), is helping to promote Khamba’s work and effort. This project is presently conducting orientations on bio-sand filter maintenance for fulfilling one of its objectives – ‘achieving healthy communities’.

“I feel a sense of satisfaction that I am helping the community become healthier through my enterprise. I plan to set up a shop at Nepalgunj (the nearest city) to promote my business,” says Khamba. Fourteen other bio-sand filter makers like Khamba, many of them trained by SWASTHA have formed a network of bio-sand filter makers called Bio-sand Filter Association of Nepal (BFAN) with members all over the country. They conduct meetings two times a year and collect NPR 200 monthly for the progress of the network. “We want to promote the bio-sand filter collectively all over the country, the network has been doing quite well until now,” says Khamba.

“I used to live in a hut, now I have made a concrete home and this year bought a motorbike too!” Khamba beams with happiness. Khamba has come a long way since SWASTHA and is a shining example of what a small initiative can lead to. He has not just done well for himself but also promoted the very cause of the project even years after it has been over.

Khamba explaining about his filter in front of his house presently.

Khamba explaining about the filter in front of his house.

 

Khamba sharing his story.

Khamba sharing his story.

 

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