Man Bahadur Shrestha, a native of Nayagaun recalls the exact moment the earthquake struck, “I was in the field, working alongside my grandchild when it started to shake. Then there was a loud noise followed by another loud noise. Because of the dust in the air it took me a while to realize my neighbors’ houses had collapsed. Although there was a lot of property damage, no lives were lost in Nayagaun because the earthquake struck at noon when everyone was in their fields. Seeing my house shake like that is an image I will never forget.”
Raleigh started its operations in Nepal in January 2015. Although the focus of its work is Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Livelihood and Youth Development, its initial contribution to Nepal was reconstruction work from the devastating earthquake.
Man Bahadur Shrestha lives with his wife in Nayagaun. He has four children, all who are all married and live away. As someone with a lot of experience of working in Kathmandu –Nepal’s capital city, he is an influential figure in the village, and he feels responsible for the wellbeing of the people in Nayagaun. “Raleigh was supposed to work in the village next to us.”, recalls Man Bahadur. “But there were some issues and they switched their focus to Nayagaun. I was in Kathmandu when officials from Raleigh came to my village. I came back immediately and spoke to them. I knew from the start Raleigh were about to transform my village for the better.”
Raleigh built nine houses and eleven toilets including Man Bahadur’s in their reconstruction project in Nayagaun. “If not for Raleigh many people would still be homeless even in 2019”, claims Man Bahadur.
During the reconstruction project, volunteers from Raleigh had to walk thirty minutes for drinking water and had to bring the water back in heavy jerrycans. The villagers had been doing the same all their lives.
“Raleigh came back to Nayagaun for their Water, Sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project a year later”, says Man Bahadur. “Life has been so much easier after the completion of the project. Raleigh built taps and water tanks for all houses and now we get water two times a day. We used to spend so much of our time fetching water before. Now, we utilize that time for agriculture work, refreshments and social interactions. This has allowed the various clubs our community to be more active.”, says Man Bahadur. He further emphasized that before the WASH project, most children used to spend majority of their time fetching water, but now they can use that time studying.
Immediately after the completion of the WASH project, Man Bahadur proposed to Raleigh to return to Nayagaun for their Livelihood project. In 2019 Raleigh complied. “It was a sweet reunion”, says Man Bahadur excitedly. “I knew it was the next step. I wanted Raleigh to come back not for my personal benefit but for my community members to flourish. A lot of raw materials were wasted because of a lack of technical knowledge in agriculture. When resources are scarce like in Nayagaun, it really becomes a problem. I believe agriculture through polytunnels, which helps us utilize our limited resources efficiently with large benefits, will allow us to achieve the next level in terms of income generation.”
Raleigh began its Livelihood program in Nayagaun in July, 2019. Having farmed using traditional methods all their lives, polytunnel farming is a major technological improvement for the residents of Nayagaun. Moreover, training and awareness programs on agriculture and livelihood diversification has helped the villagers learn valuable methods to maximize farming production through polytunnels and learn other avenues of income generation. Other trainings such as biopesticide use and natural resource management help them live healthier, more sustainable lives. All the community members including Man Bahadur are hopeful of a bright future.
Text by Sanjit Shrestha
Picture by Rowan MacDonald