Although small in size, Nepal is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, giving rural villages unique natural characteristics that mould their identity – even if only a couple of kilometres apart. There are three different ecosystems that spread across Nepal: the Terai – tropical valleys located in southern Nepal, the mountains and the hills. Gorkha, where our expeditions will be based, is predominately in the hills region which covers 68% of the total land mass. The villages of Gorkha are in the midst white snow-capped mountains and luscious green highlands. The scenery is spectacular. But don’t take our word for it:
Rural villages are largely self-sustaining due to their remoteness and the poor infrastructure that connects them to urban areas. Because of this, subsistence farming – growing crops for personal consumption rather than for profit – is fundamental to the livelihoods of local people, and takes up a significant proportion of the day. According to US Aid, over 70% of the population work within agriculture. This has an impact on the aesthetics of the landscape. Wherever you turn, arable lands of paddy field and pasture lands popularised by cattle will be in sight.
The responsibility for agriculture production commonly falls on the women, with 62% of making up the workforce. The lack of economic opportunities in rural Nepal is a significant reason for this, giving the men of the family little option but to migrate to urbanised areas to pursue economic stability – leaving the women to take care of household responsibilities. In 2014 alone, 2 million Nepali citizens re-located in search of employment (that’s 1 out of 4 households), and they contributed towards 29% of the national GDP.
The dependency of subsistence farming makes the cuisine in rural villages somewhat simple. In contrast to the urbanised areas, where there is a much larger variety due to the demands of tourism for internationally imported foods. However, regardless of where you are, Dal-bhat-tarkari will be a staple food in your diet. It is a simple dish made of steamed rice, lentil soup and steamed vegetables. We asked Charlie, who works at Raleigh and has visited Nepal, what the food was like. He paused for a minute, and simply said “simple, but delicious”.
There is one commonality between the Nepali food and housing in the villages; can you guess what it is? They are both basic. The insufficient road networks and limited access to modern building materials are reasons for this. Houses are commonly built with stone or mud-brick with corrugated iron for roofing. Access to electricity is also limited, with only 10% of homes having a regular supply.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake had a catastrophic impact on housing, destroying a total of 490,000 homes and damaging 265,000 which have been deemed temporarily inhabitable – affecting a total number of 9.4 million people. This has left many families living in basic accommodation – adding to the importance of our community resilience projects this summer.