Srijana Thapa, South Asia Regional Director of World Neighbors
Srijana Thapa is South Asia Regional Director of World Neighbors, an international development group that has worked in Nepal for 43 years. She spoke with Review Nepal about the trade embargo and its effect on her group’s rebuilding and other work in Nepal.
How are the women in the villages in which you work coping with the aftershocks and the long embargo?
City dwellers felt the largest impact when the unofficial embargo was imposed on Nepal. People in the villages were better off and less affected by the long embargo owing to their self-sufficiency with food and fuel.
Recurring aftershocks are obviously frightening as they trigger the fear of the past two big hits. From the recent visits to our working areas in Kavre, Sindhupalchok and Dolkha, the women in our projects are proving resilient. They quickly resumed their regular agricultural work.
However, there are many questions and concerns. These include single women being excluded from benefits and the distribution of reconstruction grants by the government. There is also concern about the design of rebuilt houses, the availability of wood and the reconstruction of schools damaged in the earthquake.
Can you tell us about the status of farms? Are they able to grow crops?
Fortunately farmland was not damaged by the earthquake and aftershocks. But houses are either completely collapsed or uninhabitable. Ninety five percent of the people in the three districts in which we work are still under temporary shelters.
While the land itself wasn’t damaged, last year’s rice plants were. But the farmers are resilient and this year they are on track to grow rice, wheat, potato and maize.
In addition to farming, communities we assist are engaged in goat farming, agroforestry, kitchen gardening, wastewater management and community-level organizing. For instance, in Mahadevsthan, Kavre, we helped the community build a plastic pond to collect wastewater to irrigate kitchen gardens. The earthquake closed their regular water source, which forced women to spend two hours a day to fetch a bucket of water. They now have a regular supply for their kitchen gardens, which are an important food source.
These are the kind of low-cost projects that result in sustained improvements in incomes, health and other key areas. We believe community-based development that uses appropriate technology will play a larger role in the future.
Is the unofficial embargo over? Has economic activity returned to normal?
The embargo is over but the effects are still being felt. Availability of fuel is still not easy. Black marketing is still a norm, with prices still high. While the roads are now safe, there are still protests in certain areas that will likely impact travel and other things there.
People have different views, and the right to express them. But actions that disrupt trade and other economic activity for long periods of time end up hurting everyone.
Is World Neighbors still committed to Nepal?
We’ve been working with communities in Nepal for 43 years. Our CEO Kate Schecter visited twice last year. We think we’re made a difference. We’ll continue to help communities improve their standard of living.