First off please excuse any dud spelling. I am using a keyboard circa 1997 and it and I – I also have a wondrous stomach bug right now that is proving rather challenging -are operating in opposition to one another.
Ten days ago in the Lamjung district of Central Nepal I had an experience that has become life changing for me.
A friend, a German doctor who has traveled and worked in Nepal since 2003, took myself and friend to the village of Katrechati.
Katrechati village sits on a hill in the center of a valley 200 Km’s outside of Kathmandu Valley. The village overlooks paddy fields, dry this time of year, and a river. Fruit trees surround the humble thatched and low ceiling homes of clay and brick.
Everything these people need they source from the land or the surrounding jungle and rivers. It is a subsistence life. If a family is well off they may own their land rather then rent, have a couple of buffalo, a goat and a bounty of chickens.(This is what some people and organisations define as living in poverty as they live on less then the United Nations poverty threshold of $2US per day.)Bhagwhati and her wondrous family took me into their home and into their hearts and they have totally stolen mine.They live subsistence lives, no TV, no fridge, no automatic setting washing machine – they have soap , a river, rocks and woman power.
I am beginning to have doubts that how these people live is as negative as rural poverty seems to be pitched these days in the media and by some NGO’s.These people generally speaking can support themselves and their families.They have shelter, food and Bhagwhati’s family is one of the most loving and open family’s I have had the pleasure of meeting.Yes it is a tough life and things can be improved (think access to medical care, clean water and education) but these people have something unique something I can’t quite put my finger on. This community have rich lives filled with love even if they are living without refrigeration.
Things seem to get more complicated for subsitance farmers etc when outside organisations come in and impose structures and economic plans to “develop” a country. There is a Western assumption, from my perspective, that a farm ( in a rural context) needs to be profitable to be viable – despite the fact it may provide for 20 odd people year round.
I feel this might upset some people, as yes this is a politically unstable country and there is serious need here, but Nepal is serviced by over 40,000 NGO’s. Technically this country should be environmentally pristine , poverty free – a golden child of the sub continent. But it’s not.Political infighting between Maoist’s, and the 23 other political parties cripples this place and the World Bank, IMF and the UN could do better.
This country has a huge water supply but Mia, a Nepali friend of mine, used to have to catch a bus to the Coke factory every day to buy water for her family. Mia and her husband Bhagwan have since moved back to the village I visited to have a better life -for themselves and their lovely hyperactive son Manor.
Water here is sold to India, as is electricity, so in the whole of Nepal there are power cuts (load shedding as supply cannot meet demand) of up to 16 hours a day for parts of the year.We are currently sitting on ten hours a day. (Most of the country also has water issues of some description – be it access or sanitation.)
I have heard from a number of sources that this on selling of power is due to World Bank/IMF restrictions placed on the coalition govt which are conditional to on-going aid. This means that the World Bank is some ways is liable to the worsening political,environmental, electricity and water conditions in Nepal.
It might seem a bit of leap but if the population had a reliable electricity and water supply the political instability here would have a chance to settle. The population wouldn’t be constantly aggravated by what they don’t have. Or what they should have and could have if water and power didn’t need to be on sold to outside competition to meet aid conditions for the country. It’s bunk!
Sorry, I got lost in a bit of a tangent here but I will continue my village story another time and continue my dialogue on Nepal and poverty at a later date.
In other news tomorrow I am off to deliver more Xmas presents to another group of children…yes a late Chrissie …but yay I get to have it twice!