Gorkha, in Northern Nepal, is a region that has seen consistently high levels on multiple poverty indicators. The region was heavily impacted by the severe earthquake in 2015, cutting off villages and destroying vital infrastructure, leaving communities in Gorkha extremely vulnerable. Funded by the Big Lottery Foundation (BLF), PHASE began the delivery of a 5-year project in 2016 aiming to assist communities in Gorkha in their recovery from the earthquake, as well as achieve long-term benefits from the project within our main areas of work including healthcare, education and livelihoods. This integrated approach empowers communities to achieve a sustainable path to development that will last long into the future once our project work in Gorkha comes to an end.
Northern areas of Gorkha are extremely remote where issues of low food security, lack of road access, high levels of alcoholism, under-resourced schools, and harmful traditional practices are prevalent. The 2015 earthquake left the villages of Keraunja, Kashigaun and Manbu (amongst many others) extremely vulnerable as essential health and education infrastructure was destroyed, communities were cut-off and livelihoods were significantly disrupted. These issues often impact women and children disproportionately.
In the initial phase of the project, our aims were to assist the recovery and restoration of infrastructure and livelihoods in the three target communities. Moving into the latter stages of the project, PHASE has begun to target programs focusing on enhancing healthcare, education and livelihoods within the region, which aim to produce long-lasting substantial benefits for communities in Gorkha.
We are well into the fourth year of the project now and delighted to provide updates on various elements of the project’s successes for the last quarter. In terms of improved quality and access to education, PHASE been able to supply 29 computers to three different schools. We have provided 14 new beds to a school hostel in Keraunja which allows children from the most remote parts of the village to access an education where previously long distances made this too difficult. PHASE has conducted two teacher training events attended by 49 teachers (half of which were female) in order to implement best teaching practices, as well as ensuring their continual use through a peer mentorship program, benefitting future teachers too. We have also assisted in effective collaboration between the school management committee and local government in order to improve education standards – reflective in government board exams where pass rates as well as overall performance rates have improved since the projects implementation.
Healthcare provisions in Northern Ghorka have also seen improvements. We have been able to successfully strengthen multiple government health posts with PHASE-trained staff, which can now provide various essential medicines for free as well as operate 24-hour emergency services. PHASE has conducted 67 awareness events which have been attended by over 1,750 community members. Topics covered during these events include improved sanitation, personal hygiene, prevention of communicable diseases, improved nutrition and immunisation, as well as further workshops targeting women and children covering issues of care and check-ups during pregnancy, childhood illnesses, menstrual hygiene and family planning.
Regarding livelihoods, PHASE’s work as part of the project focusing on economic empowerment has seen significant agricultural progress, and we are beginning to see some of the long-lasting sustainable impacts that we strive to achieve. In the most recent quarter, we have continued monthly farmer group meetings, training and follow-up support which have reached 492 community members, of which 419 were female farmers. These sessions focus on various aspects of productive farming, such as technical support and off-season cultivation using polytunnels, to the nutritional benefits of utilising certain types of crops. PHASE have also provided Agri-mechanisation support in the form of fifteen electric corn thresher machines to each farmer group for use as common property. These machines will alleviate farmers from a time-consuming, tedious manual process and allow for more time to be spent redirected towards alternative productive means.
In the last quarter, farmers have begun to independently buy kiwi fruit saplings as an investment with their improved incomes as a result of PHASE’s support to empower more productive livelihoods. This has meant that farmers have been able to utilise previously un-used land in their villages, which will bring about further economic opportunities. This showcases the long-lasting impact we strive to achieve at PHASE and are delighted that our projects have been able to empower farmers to strengthen their livelihoods independently.