SISTEER Nepal Day 4: Ecoprise

Today was a long day of travelling, longer than this piece of cloth in the photo. We chanced upon this place as we stopped here to transit to another bus for a ride up the mountains. The bus ride was bumpy and precarious as the bus had on several occasions needed to make sharp turns on mountain roads without fenced edges. Though a scary experience it taught us to trust the driver and showed us that he has the skills to bring us up (and down) the mountain safely. It took us a few hours to travel from Kathmandu to the mountain top and another 45 minutes to trek up the mountain to reach a secluded village. We were thus really exhausted and late for our scheduled arrival at the village. 

Nearing the village entrance, we could hear music being played on traditional musical instruments. As we approached the entrance, we first saw three ladies performing a dance to welcome us, and as we got nearer we saw that a group of villagers had come to give us a big welcome into the village. 

It was an elaborate procession. First, an elder dotted our foreheads with red powder, a red scarf was then hung on our necks before presenting each of us with a small stalk of white jasmine. We were really surprised and touched by their generous reception as we did not expect the villagers to welcome us so warmly. 

Furthermore, we learned that the villagers had been waiting for us for three hours as we reached the village entrance. We were all tired and feeling a little down after half a day of travelling and the unprecedented trek up, but seeing how the villagers waited so patiently and welcomed us with bright smiles just made our fatigue fade to the back of our heads.

Ecoprise Solar Powered Drinking Water Project

After the procession, the Ecoprise representative proceeded to brief us about the Solar Powered Drinking Water Project implemented in this village. This village in Tanahun was approved for the project for three main reasons:

  1. Accessibility of the village (the only possible route is the 45 minute trek up; highlights the problem of accessibility for other villages in the mountains)
  2. Village Participation (in the project)
  3. Consensus on a community maintenance fund (reserved in the bank)

The ingenuity and success of this project lies in the element of community ownership incorporated into the project plan. Villagers have to submit an application for the project to be implemented in their area, and have to take up a 20% stake in the project itself, be it in contributing money, manpower, or materials for construction. This 20% clause is the crux of the project, as it ensures that only villages that are committed to maintaining the facilities will be awarded the project. This also gives the villagers a sense of pride and ownership of the project as they had a part in building it, therefore making them want to actually use it and upkeep the facilities. Villages which do not want the 20% stake will be rejected in the selection process. 

After the insightful sharing, we were warmly treated with with traditional milk tea and big plates of village delicacies - mutton and what looked like fried dough rings. With our bellies filled, we began our first ever trek in Nepal - descending terraces of corn crops.

The trek down was long and arduous, mainly because it was our first trek here and we did not expect the steps to be so steep and slippery. It was teamwork that helped everyone to get down safely, as the people who were faster helped the people who had difficulty coming down the steeper slopes. I personally struggled alot on the trek down, and one of the guides had to help me down all the way. This made me really grateful for all the help and encouragement I received, be it from friends or the guide, for it made the trek down more of a memorable experience than a bad one for me.

Where the Ecoprise representative stands on is a water tank underground from which water is channelled up to the village households. It is a simple design, powered by rows of solar panels. Little machinery was needed for this facility and much of the construction relied on human labour, which impressed us. Trekking down the terraces made us experience first hand how laborious it was for the villagers to walk down to collect raw, unfiltered water, which would take them 2-3 hours back and forth. The reason for investing in expensive solar panels was because other means, such as rainwater harvesting, was impractical in the mountainous terrain as it requires the construction of large storage tanks. 

Other KAAA Built Community Projects involved providing new stoves with a system that channels smoke out through the chimneys and providing training for returned Gurkhas without pension (i.e. Gurkhas that retired before 25 years of service).

We ended the day trekking down the mountain in the dark as the sun had set by the time we climbed up from the water plant. It was slightly regretful that we could not stay for the night as the villagers had originally planned an evening programme for us. However, we had to leave in a rush as it was already night time and we had to make our way to Pokhara. Tired as we were, we left the village with a sense of achievement as we conquered our first trek in Nepal.

Written by
Jing Qi