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Nepal earthquake: building resilience with dignity

by Ramani Leathard, Christian Aid regional manager, Asia and Middle East

On my recent visit to Nepal, I was put to shame by 90-year old Annapurna, a Tamang woman from Rasuwa in Nepal.* As I huffed and puffed up the hill to the village of Chaurkharka from Manigaun, Annapurna displayed the nimbleness of a mountain goat as she navigated the inclines aided by her stick on a journey she does almost daily. 

We were on our way to a community supported by Christian Aid partner Sustainable Enterprise and Environment Development (SEEDS) in Rasuwa. A four-hour journey north of Kathmandu, Rasuwa is known as one of Nepal's poorest districts.

Hira Maya has been supported by SEEDS.

Many of the households were displaced by the 2015 earthquake and are dependent on daily wage labour. Agriculture is the mainstay, but given its seasonal nature, most families do not have a steady income. The daily wage is approximately $1.50 per day and many are at risk of becoming food insecure. A large number of families migrate in search of a livelihood. Women’s participation in social activities has been limited.

SEEDS through its Sampanna – Resilient Nepal project, supported by Christian Aid since December 2018, works on creating sustainable livelihoods, ensuring that gender and social inclusion are integrated. They have experience in community mobilisation and creating economic opportunities for the most vulnerable through skill building and innovative technologies.

The project also focuses on linking community women to larger markets and encouraging collective bargaining for their products by  establishing co-operatives.

Hira Maya was displaced by the earthquake. The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) provided her with a grant of Rs.300,000 ($ 2,750) to re-build her house. She is the primary carer of her 16-year-old daughter who is disabled and an elderly mother in law, with no means of income. SEEDS has assisted her to generate vital family income through goat rearing.

 

'With the money I got from SEEDS I bought four baby goats – today I have eight goats and can sell them in the market and provide for my family.'

Hira Maya

With Christian Aid support she was also given a goat shed to protect the animals from weather and wild animals. Goat rearing is lucrative as there is grass freely available in the area where they can graze. She also owns two cattle that can be hired out during the ploughing season.

SEEDS is helping women like Hira to link in with others as part of a co-operative, and provides training in business skills, so they are able to improve their access to markets and develop entrepreneurial skills.

The Sampanna project is meeting the livelihood needs of poor communities in Rasuwa and building their resilience to withstand shocks and disasters. Communities are also being strengthened by coming together in groups to claim their rights.

This initiative of moving from humanitarian recovery to longer term development affords women a degree of choice and more importantly a voice at local municipal level in accessing basic services such as health and safe drinking water.

Women like Hira Maya are gaining strength from the co-operatives to demand technical services such as veterinary skills for their income generating enterprises.

There is evidence that through the creation of livelihoods, local authorities are being challenged and voices raised in claiming rights and services. This can be strengthened further to bring about greater policy changes, especially around inclusion focusing on people with disabilities and climate adaptive livelihoods.

Christian Aid’s support through the Samapanna project is building resilience with dignity among these marginalised displaced communities. They also have their own in-built resilience to help them along, as witnessed in 90 -year old Annapurna, whose indomitable spirit sustains her through adversity.

*The Tamang are the largest Tibeto-Burman ethnic group within Nepal and traditionally Buddhist by religion.