A tale of the West…(Part III)

This is the final post in respect of my recent trip west, and, having had some time to reflect on what I’ve seen, this is an attempt to try and show how a ‘sustainable livelihoods approach’ fits in. The securing of land rights is just the beginning of the journey. The roots of poverty, injustice, exploitation and oppression lie in the unequal distribution of land. However, the acquisition of land rights on its own won’t automatically lead to an amelioration of these circumstances. The villages that I visited mirror much of what is going on throughout rural Nepal. The majority of communities survive primarily through subsistence agriculture, with productivity levels remaining low as a result of limited access to new technologies and resources. Lack of economic opportunity and the recent conflict resulted in many of the most productive members of households migrating, with families becoming increasingly dependent upon remittances sent back by family members working overseas.

Planting out rice seedlings near Naukhuri. John Callaway 2011

Planting out rice seedlings near Naukhuri. John Callaway 2011

A sustainable livelihoods approach offers a way of thinking about the objectives, scope and priorities for development. It places people and their priorities at the centre of development. It focuses poverty reduction interventions on empowering the poor to build on their own opportunities, supporting their access to assets, and developing an enabling policy and institutional environment. There’s plenty of documentation ‘out there’ which explains the concept in far greater detail than I have space for here. The UK Government/DFID documentation is as good a starting point as any. (Click here).

So, at a micro level, a few indicators of how it works, or could work in practice. Masurya has a small area of land given over to ‘community’ farming. The village was given seed by the local Village Development Council, and so there is a collective input into the process of growing it. The scale is insufficient to generate a substantial amount of income and/or produce but it does illustrate a principle and leads on to questions of what could be developed on a slightly larger scale. Does the collective growing of some crops ensure greater food security? Does this process suggest that further income could be generated by growing things that could be sold at the local markets? Are there high value cash items that could be produced for sale further afield? ( I saw evidence of beekeeping here, and honey certainly fits the bill as a high value, reasonably non-perishable product that could be sold further afield). And so on…

'Community Farm', Masurya. John Callaway 2011

'Community Farm', Masurya. John Callaway 2011

Key to everything though is sustainability. Does the action increase over the time the assets of the community, or does it deplete them? At its most fundamental level, will it work? Cash crops are all well and good, but is the crop in question suitable for the local growing conditions? How accessible is the market given that the roads and infrastructure are likely to be limited. Does the activity require special tools or equipment, and if so can they be easily maintained by the community? (At Tilki some of the villagers had built a fish pond with the express aim of selling all the fish on to a single buyer. The fish were in due course sold on, but at present the pump which supplies water to the pond is broken, with a new and costly pump seemingly needing to be purchased if the enterprise is to continue).

How good is transport and infrastructure? John Callaway 2011

How good is transport and infrastructure? John Callaway 2011

‘Food for thought’ seems an apposite phrase to end on…

2 responses to “A tale of the West…(Part III)

  • carol

    Am enjoying reading the posts, although I don’t leave many comments they offer a real insight to such a different way of life than ours here in Alresford!
    Just makes me want to come and visit all the more. So now going to look at flights etc.
    Keep well.

  • Jerry Rigg

    John, As always you put things so eloquently. This piece in particular. is very high quality writing. Ever thought about taking up journalism?
    Spoke to Lesley recently on the phonem which was nice, and I told her impressed I was with your work. Keep it up, and enjoy the rest of your time out there. Take Care

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