Case Study: The Danuwar Rai- Dhading District

Community members work with Tevel volunteers to prepare the land for the community demo farm.

Community members work with Tevel volunteers to prepare the land for the community demo farm in 2009.

The Danuwar Rai are an ethnic group that traditionally settled on the banks of rivers and fished to make a living. For hundreds of years they preserved a unique culture, language and tradition. All that has changed in the past 50 years as the river dried up due to climate change and was re-routed due to the stone quarries built in its path. “Our grandparents used to support themselves solely from fishing”, one villager told the Tevel staff. “Now there are no more fish. We have no way to support ourselves.” When Tevel arrived in the area in 2009, the majority of villagers were doing harsh manual labor breaking stones into gravel. The crushed rocks they produced were sold by middlemen to create construction materials. Many community members were malnourished, and children were forced to leave school in order to help support their families.

The classroom in the demonstration farm where farmers receive training on improved and organic farming methods.

The classroom in the demonstration farm where farmers receive training on improved and organic farming methods. The demo farm was a joint project of Tevel and the Israeli Embassy in Nepal.

 

Helping the community achieve its own goals…

The Tevel staff noticed that the Danuwar Rai had land, but it was only being used to grow one crop of rice a year. In initial dialogue with the community, its leaders expressed an interest in learning better ways to utilize their land and increase their yield. Therefore one of the first interventions was to create a demonstration farm, supported by the Israeli Embassy and Mashav, where farmers were introduced to new crops and taught organic methods to expand their yield. The farm wasn’t created by Tevel. Rather the international staff used the project to catalyze the entire community into action – local staff, international volunteers and community members working side by side on the project. Tevel also placed an agricultural expert in the community full-time to lead the training and help farmers implement new methods in their own fields. The work in the demonstration farm was supplemented by the introduction of an irrigation system, a bio-gas technology project and improved cow sheds for clean cooking gas and compost. Tevel also worked with the village’s women, youth and children in women’s groups, youth groups, child clubs and schools to strengthen community leadership and empowerment and create community mechanism to manage the projects.

Community-lead Success

The fields in Mahdav Besi as they are today, full of a variety of crops for consumption and sale.

The fields in Mahdav Besi as they are today, full of a variety of crops for consumption and sale.

Now, less than four years later, the Danuwar Rai are growing a variety of crops, year round. There is an active branch of the Hami Yuva youth movement (Tevel’s youth movement in Nepal) active in the village, led entirely by local youth who have had leadership training and mentoring from the Tevel youth staff. Health and hygiene have improved significantly through the use of bio-gas toilets. Bio-gas toilets both provide a method of disposing human waste and a source of cooking gas preventing the respiratory problems due to smoke inhalation caused by cooking with wood. There is an active Village Development Council in which all sectors of the community, including women and youth, are represented. The council is responsible for the ongoing management of all projects.  Kids are staying in school, and the youth leaders in Hami Yuva even receive scholarships to continue their education. The community members believe in their ability to improve their lives.

Representatives of the Schusterman and Pears Foundations visit the demonstration farm in 2013.

Representatives of the Schusterman and Pears Foundations visit the demonstration farm in 2013.

Our intervention with the Danuwar Rai in Mahadev Besi has been an amazing success. It’s mind-boggling to look at the village today and remember what it was like four years ago. Our first youth leaders are now in college, there are women from our women’s group in local government, villagers are using toilets and cooking with biogas and most important PEOPLE HAVE ENOUGH TO EAT. Our challenge now is to take the Mahadev Besi model and scale it up to benefit other communities in Nepal and around the globe.  
Rabbi Micha Odenheimer, Founding Director