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17 Aug 2017 | Blog

Connecting Pixels to People: A case Study of the Gandaki River Basin

Ishaan Kochhar & Amina Maharjan

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Nepal is experiencing a massive out-migration of the youth and labour migration is becoming an important factor in securing an alternative livelihood. Census data of 2011 indicates that 13 of the 19 districts of the Gandaki Basin have an absentee population of over 10%. It is a well-known fact that agriculture and remittance are the two main pillars of the economy in Nepal contributing to over 60% of the GDC. There is attribution here of the current state of agriculture in Nepal, to the absentee population in the basin.

There is a common Nepalese saying: ‘Panch padhyo halo chhodyo, Das padhyo thalo’, which literally translates to: ‘Those educated up to Grade Five leave the plough and those educated up to Grade Ten leave the village’. In a country like Nepal, where agriculture is the backbone of the economy, it is the main livelihood source for more than 80% of the rural population. Agriculture is portrayed as the occupation of uneducated and unskilled people. Therefore, educated youth prefer to migrate in search of better employment opportunities. A worrisome phenomenon has been observed in recent years, especially in the mid hills, of fertile agriculture lands being abandoned. At the same time, rural-urban mobility is having serious implications for downstream areas. Whatever studies on human mobility exist in Nepal, they do not give a clear picture of its scale and also often fail to analyse ground realities. So, there is little scientific evidence to support this narrative. To make it evident, we have used a mix of macro-scale top-down approaches (using geospatial and remote sensing) and bottom-up qualitative methods (in-depth interviews, focus groups discussion and participatory research).

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