Back in business in Nepal
by: Kamal Raj Sigdel and Lei Phyu
Two years have passed since the earthquakes struck Nepal in April and May 2015. The country is now well into recovery and reconstruction, but a great deal of work remains to reach the most remote communities.
We first met some of the survivors over a decade ago in trainings and workshops to develop small businesses as part of a partnership funded by Australia to reduce poverty in the region.
After the earthquake, we re-visited them to help them rebuild.
Cardamom: The spice of success
“This change is like a dream to us. I’m so proud I can pay for my eldest son’s bills for engineering college with my own money,” says Saraswathi. She and her family earn a million rupees (US$10,000) a year just from selling one of the most expensive spices in the world, cardamom, in the remote mountain village of Kubu Kasthali.
After completing a training with us 10 years ago, Saraswathi became the first farmer in Kubu Kasthali to make a profit from cardamom farming in harsh, rocky mountainous terrain. Because of her success, many of her neighbours became cardamom farmers and formed a successful cooperative.
The April 2015 earthquake destroyed the stability they had all worked for. The entire village was made homeless in a matter of seconds.
Drought followed by intense monsoon rains and landslides in the following months had obliterated their cardamom bushes. A special stone oven purchased with pooled money to process large quantities of cardamom pods was damaged beyond repair. What worried them most was a stream they depended on to water their cardamom bushes. The earthquake had caused this lifeline to disappear.
Two years later, the Kubu Kasthali Cardamom Collective is back in business. With our recovery assistance, funded by Australia, they now have a new oven to dry and roast cardamom pods, a water plant and pumps, and more. Read their full story here.
“I was plucking strawberry leaves when the earth began to shake. Even now, when I am in the field, I am often haunted,” says Sukumaya, a 52-year-old strawberry farmer from Hillevite. She lost 10 kilogrammes of strawberries in the April 2015 earthquake.
Sukumaya is one of 160 strawberry farmers from our earthquake recovery project funded by Australia. They were one of the first groups to be back on the farm, just five months after the earthquake.
Each farmer received 1,500 strawberry runners. In their first year, each farmer produced an average of 500–750 kilogrammes of strawberries. Many had recuperated from losses as early as 2016, because Nepali strawberries are often exported abroad and yield more income for local growers.
Organic fabric made of stinging Himalayan nettle
“To the rest of the world, it may be useless shrubs, but to us, stinging nettle is bread and butter,” says 30-year-old Chhiring Doma. She’s one of 13 women in the remote village of Jhyaku who turn stinging nettle into fabric.
The women inherited the skill from their ancestors, who came to Nepal centuries ago from Tibet. Though not immune to the burning pain, they mastered the art of spinning stinging nettle it into yarn and fabric. But like countless other villagers throughout remote parts of Nepal, they lost everything in the quake.
After the earthquake, Chhiring learned through our small business development project that there was money to be made in the global market and tourist trade for organic and vegan fabric. To earn more, the villagers had to learn newer methods to produce softer yarn and design bags and other ready-to-wear products.
With financial support from our recovery project funded by Australia, Jhyaku village now has a centre where the women can spin and store their yarn, a washing machine to shorten processing time and a strategy to earn market price.
A plastic-free Nepal, one bag at a time
Januka and her friends dream of a plastic-free Nepal. Years ago, through our small business development project, they set up a sewing centre to make re-useable bags that were good for the planet.
“Plastic has polluted the environment everywhere. It’s not biodegradable,” says Januka. “Fibre decomposes easily in mud unlike plastic bags. We want to encourage many shoppers to ditch plastic bags.”
Even the earthquake served only as a temporary roadblock. See how they rebuilt their place of work in this short video.
The progress toward recovery is truly evidence of success in global partnerships. Thanks to funding from Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, Germany, Japan, Mauritius, Nepal, Norway, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the World Bank and other partners, UNDP will continue to assist communities as they rebuild lives in the worst-hit areas in 14 districts in Nepal
Help us to help families continue to rebuild life in Nepal. For as little as $20, you can make a difference. Donate now: https://give.undp.org/give/123313/#!/donation/checkout
For more information on our work in Nepal, please click here or follow @UNDPNepal on Twitter.