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8 Sep 2015 | News

A Paramount Rural Experience

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Traveling to the remote far western district of Darchula for the first time put me in a state of pandemonium as rumours of people not having enough to eat there consumed my mind. In spite of my concerns, I mustered up my strength and participated in the socio-economic survey in three wards of Khar VDC, Darchula. During the flight and two days of driving, I pondered if the rumours were indeed true. I even stocked up my bag with two-week supply of chocolates, just in case. However, upon reaching Darchula, I was relieved to find good local foods with remarkably friendly people.

As we started the survey, the most common questions we encountered were about the earthquake and if our houses and families in Kathmandu were safe. I couldn’t comprehend the Doteli language as spoken by the majority of women, and could only understand two words — earthquake and Kathmandu.

Most household members had gone to Byans and Satganga to collect Yarsagumba as it was peak season to pick the fungus. Yarsagumba collection was one of the main sources of income for people through seasonal migration. The risks associated do not outweigh the potential economic benefit so some houses were deserted with the entire family gone for the harvest.  Children took part in collection as there was a traditional belief that children were lucky — their young eyes were believed to spot the Yarsagumba fungus tip more easily than their older family members.

My quest of conducting household surveys took me to the house of a Dalit who represented the lowest strata of social classification in Nepal. He offered me jaggery and some local wild berries called as ‘Ganeulo’. It tasted really good and his children were happy to offer me more. The Dalit family was happy that I had eaten what they had offered me, unlike some of the conservative elite castes of the locality who considered them untouchables. There is still caste-based discrimination in the area, particularly among the older generation.

The biggest problem I faced was the lack of proper sanitation. The people in the villages were courteous and always offered me food and drink (lassi). I accepted their hospitality despite the presence of houseflies swarming over the food. Adjusting to the situation was one of my biggest learning experiences in field work.

Many of the men in the villages were either in India or Gulf countries for better employment opportunities. I could differentiate between rich and poor households by having a glance at their rooftop. Homes with satellite dishes were the ones with disposable income. I was also told about poor and schedules castes groups, who in desperation, stole stones intended to control the stream flood to construct toilets. Another example of the grim economic condition of marginalized people.

Overall, it was an eye opening experience for me as I witnessed and experienced rural Nepalese livelihood. I walked for hours along the slopes of the mountains, and in the end, I returned as a fully determined girl. Lastly, I made a promise to work relentlessly in the community development sector of Nepal.

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