Mishru Chalise stands in front of a pair of goats as they quietly nibble at a bundle of green leaves suspended from a bamboo stake.
“I’ve always liked goats,” she says. The animals, both adult and kids, seem to share the sentiment as they nuzzle against her and clamber over her mother, Shivakumari, sitting on the ground nearby.
But for the family, with eight children between Mishru and her sister, who live on a scrub-covered hilltop in Khavre, about 2 hours east of Kathmandu, keeping the livestock is not a matter of sentimentality, but a vital plank for their economic survival.
Cash grants for the most vulnerable
Classified as among the most vulnerable members in their community, Mishru’s family qualified for a 40,000 Rupee cash grant from the Nepal Red Cross Society, which they have used to buy four new animals and upgrade their goat shed. This is located in an old temple building, where the family also lives as they own no property or land.
Although the family has been raising goats for years, a three-day training was also provided during which they learned some useful tips such as how to hang the goats food up so the animals don’t trample on it and how to spot common diseases among the goats.
Other households in the area, such as that of Shyam Bahadur Bhujel and his wife Savitri, used their cash grant to buy an additional cow. They also acquired new know-how in digging a drainage channel for the animals’ waste in their cowshed. Meanwhile, Sharmila Regmi, has upgraded her tiny business from a snack stall under a tree to a little corrugated iron shop, which attracts a crowd of hungry school children as soon a classes are over.
Building economic resilience
These projects are part of a wide-ranging programme led by the Nepal Red Cross which has been helping thousands of families improve their economic resilience across the 14 districts that were most severely affected by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015
The quake left nearly 9,000 people dead and its aftershocks destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, including the house of farmers Gun Ratna Mali and Gun Maya Mali in Bungamati, a village just a few kilometres from Kathmandu. The family’s precious store of rice and vegetable seeds was buried under the rubble.
They were given seeds by the local government. “But the seeds weren’t good at all”, says Gun Maya Mali. “Some yields were very short, some taller - not consistent. Then the Red Cross gave us money and with that we bought new rice saplings and it’s been good,”
Human Dignity – a common thread
“Human dignity is the crucial common thread in this work to improve livelihoods. This in itself is part of an integrated approach”, says Umesh Dhakal, Head of Earthquake Response Operations with the Nepal Red Cross. ”We are also prioritizing health and hygiene, shelter and clean drinking water and improved sanitation after the earthquake,”
One question is whether such support to survivors to make a better living might encourage some to stay in their villages, rather than seek a living in the big city or abroad, as millions of Nepalis currently do.
“Some families told us that possibly in three or four years’ time if their livelihoods improve sufficiently, they might be able to reconsider whether or not their menfolk would need to leave,” said Anirudra Neupane, NRCS District Coordinator in Kavre.
Cash for community projects and a daily wage
An important facet of livelihoods support is the provision of cash for work, an approach that helps communities to both carry out projects which benefit them while also earning a daily wage.
In Okhaldunga District, a day’s journey eastward from Kathmandu, villagers from Chuplu, worked together with Red Cross support to dig a new access path from their village, located at the bottom of a hill.
“Now people who are ill can be brought to the clinic much more easily and it’s much more convenient for the children to get to school,” says one villager in his sixties.
The villagers have been trying to boost their incomes even more by putting up plastic canopies to grow vegetables more effectively. “But we don’t have enough water to make proper use of them,” he says. In keeping with its integrated approach, the Red Cross is currently conducting a feasibility study on what can be done to improve the water supply and allow the villagers to further improve their livelihoods. ENDS
*Among NRCS’ international partners supporting livelihoods programmes are the Consortium of Danish Red Cross, Australian Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross and Finnish Red Cross (Kavre), British Red Cross (Kathmandu Valley) and the IFRC (Okhaldunga).