Starting small, in Karnali


April 19th, 2019

(This is the first part of my photo story series on community-led small irrigation projects slowly turning the table for Karnali’s farming families)

It is almost needless to say, Karnali stands out in its exquisiteness for the landscape it flaunts is unparalleled to rest of the world. Spread across 9,441 square miles having possessed the largest lands among Nepal’s provinces, it is also the least populated of them all — seemingly because of the hardship its topography has to offer.

Somewhere near the border of Kalikot and Jumla/ Photo: Archana Gurung

The province named after Karnali River that originates from sacred Tibetan plateau revered by both Buddhists and Hindus runs down touching Nepalese Himalayas, eventually mixing up with the holy Ganges in India. The perennial river’s bounty though is not as remarkably harnessed as remarkable and colossal it seems to be.

View of Karnali River from a hill in Kalikot/ Photo: Archana Gurung

Mostly farmers, the Karnali dwellers’ access to irrigation largely decides their quality of life too. Better access to irrigation means the men won’t frequent to India in search of poorly waged labour jobs. It also means women who are victimized by feminization of agriculture could enjoy a shared labour burden in presence of their partners. But mostly, it means, the lands are lush with crops and vegetables while food is available year round. Above all, it means there is a better food security, children are less prone to malnutrition and its consequences and moms and their new borns are well nourished. This also means, many families will come up with surplus to sell and the income can ensure better access to vital services like education and health.

There is a hope for better future with every thriving plants in Karnali/ Photo: Archana Gurung

Eventually, better irrigation can even play role in helping a whole new generation to thrive and lead a healthier happier lives. Better irrigation can simply turn the table around for the people who live in poverty among the riches bestowed by nature, yet without getting to really use them.

Better irrigation can largely determine a better life for many in Karnali/ Photo: Archana Gurung

Karnali River’s potential is much deeper if we not only relate the river giant to massive dam and hyro power projects. Yes the enormous projects will cater the country (and its neighbour’s) demands. But if only we see the very micro and engrained aspects of Karnali dwellers, the river and its tributaries can help lives of men and women prosper in a million different ways. Eco tourism, white water rafting, religious tourism, among others to name just a few of them. One among them is through irrigating the dry lands of farmers, herders, nomads and of the emerging small enterprises which might be casting a faint light at the moment but can outshine their existing fate soon.

A farmer from Kalikot heading towards enterprising future/ Photo: Archana Gurung

This photo story is based on field trips to Karnali Region where The European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid funded project named BICAS has enabled smallholder farmers to thrive and head towards an enterprising and empowered future.

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