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1 Dec 2016 | Blog

Transforming lives, empowering women: The allo value chain in Darchula

Lipy Adhikari

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“You won’t have to walk. I’ll drop you off at the doorstep of a homestay in Dallekh,” the driver said to me when we reached Khalanga in Darchula. This came as quite a surprise. Up until then, all research teams I had been part of had hiked for 45 minutes to five hours to reach Dallekh. And here I was being told I wouldn’t have to walk a step to reach our destination. It was a positive sign. A sign of progress, a sign of development.

I was part of a three-member team from the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI) that went to Khar on 10 November 2016. Our aim was to record changes that have taken place in the community since the implementation of programmes initiated by KSLCDI. Khar VDC in Dallekh is a pilot site in far western Nepal where a lot of work has been done with the local community to develop their allo value chain.

Familiar faces greeted us with welcoming smiles upon our arrival in Dallekh. “How long will you be staying for… what will you do this time… do you need our help?” they asked us. Their enthusiasm strengthened my determination to make the most out of this visit.

Researchers working on Component 1 of KSLCDI first went to Khar VDC in Darchula in 2014 to study possibilities for the promotion and diversification of the livelihoods of local people. At the time, everybody’s focus was on yarsagumba. For many, it was the sole livelihood option available. For three months, during harvesting season, the entire village would seem deserted. Almost everyone would leave, knowing they were risking their lives, to find that prized insect-herb. People from Khar still travel to higher altitudes to collect yarsagumba as a season’s harvest can yield enough for families to live on for a year. The Kailash project’s work on value chain development has, however, given locals a less dangerous, more reliable alternative, which the villagers, particularly the women, have willingly embraced.

“Women in our village are now able to think beyond their kitchens and livestock sheds”, says Govinda Singh Thagunna, member of the Bhumiraj Allo Samuha in Godhani, Khar VDC. With help from the private sector, KSLCDI was able to open people’s eyes to the potential of the allo business. Allo has always grown in the forests of Darchula and local people have traditionally known how to extract and use its fibre. The Kailash team built on that traditional knowledge, adding value to allo products through training and capacity building programmes.

I have personally observed the changes that have occurred in Khar over the past two years. As a result of the capacity building programmes initiated by KSLCDI, people here, particularly young and old women are now able to speak their minds. Teenage girls who were sometimes considered a burden are now respected as they earn for their families. “I used to knit with allo thread. The things I knitted did not look very nice, though. After ten days of training, I have learned how to knit beautiful mufflers in various designs. I am confident that I can sell these in the market at a good price,” says Beluli Dhami of Godhani. Likewise, Nanda Maniyal talks about becoming independent and earning enough for herself from weaving allo. Both Dhami and Maniyal are members of the Bhumiraj Allo Samuha in Godhani.

For many women, allo presents a whole new way of life. It has diminished hardship and offered ownership and independence. Jogini Maniyal weaves allo for a living now, and is an active member of the Community Facility Centre in Godhani. “I don’t want to remember the hardship I faced before I started working with allo,” she says. “Allo has not only simplified my life, it has increased my determination to work.” Other villagers say they are more accountable now than they were two years ago. They say that the trainings they received through KSLCDI improved their communication skills and helped ease their lifestyles. They are happy working in a group these days, learning from and helping each other.

Through properly targeted interventions related to sustainable harvesting, proper collection methods, thread making, knitting, weaving, product design and marketing, KSLCDI has been able to transform the lives of villagers and bring positive change. A shift has taken place here, a visible transition.

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