Utilizing the lockdown as an opportunity - Testimonial from SCLC

participants making organic manure

In this unprecedented situation, the person in charge of our project with SCLC wanted to testify about the crisis and the work of its organization on a daily basis. They are continuing their actions as best as possible in the face of a complicated and constantly changing social and economic situation.


Chepang, an indigenous Tibeto-Burman ethic group, is one of the poorest communities in Nepal. Majority of inhabitants of Raksirang village in Makwanpur area of this ethnic groups. For ages, this community has been living in very harsh conditions and in extreme poverty and one can still observe poverty and primitive living today. It would not be an exaggeration that even today the government and non-government organizations have not been able to provide basic required facilities for the upliftment of those tribal groups.

Since 2018, the Shikharapur Community Learning Center, support project of ONGD-FNEL has enrolled students from Raksirang in a residential study and learning program at the organization's agricultural project. As there isn’t any good school in the village and sending children to the nearest developed district, Chitwan, is next to impossible amid the expenses, Shikharapur CLC has brought opportunities to them. Shikharapur have started working for upliftment of the community by enrolling school dropouts to open school and training them in the Shikharapur Sustainable Farmers' School, an ONGD-FNEL specific support project. Silas Chepang is one of the first students who have passed SEE from open school and is currently studying in Arunodaya in grade 11. Presently, out of 14 participants in bottle house 4 are from the Chepang community including Silas.

Late 2019 Wuhan province in China was affected by a new type of virus named Covid-19 but very few, including Nepal, had imagined this would take the form of a pandemic. While the virus had started to spread outside China things in Nepal were normal for some time. In the bottle house too, students were busy in their daily errands. But all of a sudden, fearing of importing the virus, Nepal also declared closure restricting international flights followed by restriction of public transportation. The country was completely locked down on an immediate basis. People hoped and waited for a few weeks for things to get better. Unfortunately, there were no chances of the situation of getting better and people started anticipating a prolonged locked down. In despair, people began to make arduous journeys to their respective villages and hometowns. Nepalese are generally very helpful and courteous. But this time the situation was different. People started seeing others, new faces with skepticism, suspicion and fear. In fact, with no help for travelers, the situation was terrible.

Most of the people decided to be with their family and were eager to return home. Even though, the students in the bottle house were safe, due to pressure from family they decided to leave to be with their family. Those living nearby walked up to 4 hours to reach home. This wasn’t quite possible for 4 people from Raksirang village. Thus, with an assurance of their health, we asked them to stay at the bottle house.  

Among those 4, Nosman Chepang was one of them. He was to appear for secondary examination, an examination known as an iron gate to one's carrier. After the examination he was supposed to get on the job training at the sustainable farm and also study high school (+2). For this he would be staying at the bottle house for 2 years. Now, as the government is also unsure of conducting the examination, he seems very frustrated and disappointed. We have encouraged him to keep on preparing for the upcoming exams.

Amir Chepang is the youngest student of Raksirang studying in grade 8 in the open school at bottle house. He is waiting for the final result of grade 8 basic examination. Although the results of other levels have been published, the result of this grade is on hold. The result is published by the municipality. Amir is very content and excited for getting an opportunity to study in the open school and after completion of grade 12 with the technical knowledge on agriculture, he aspires to be self-reliant.

When the virus started to appear in Nepal, we were a bit confused and worried about its spread. But after a while, realizing the importance of agriculture, the government showed some leniency towards the agricultural sector. The authorities granted assurance for the full functioning of the agriculture sector which provided a ray of hope to everyone associated in this sector including us. They even started distributing fertilizers and seeds to the farmers. This was a very good initiation taken by the government.

After sometimes students, who had gone to the village, gradually started to return. Amid the lockdown we had already started commercial farming in about 30 ropanis of land. Nosman Chepang shares his experience and quotes "Before, I didn't know about lockdown. When all my friends went home, I also wanted to go. It was not possible to go. I stayed happily in this bottle house but was worried about the virus and I felt like I was going to die. At the same time, we finished all the farming work. I feel happy now. " Nosman loves to operate a power tiller. He has also learned to operate it too. He has also utilized his spare time using computers. At times, when he sees a lot of friends playing games on mobile phones, he also likes to play games on mobile. Whenever possible he never fails to play games on his mobile phone. He seems to enjoy it a lot and has fun doing so.

Another student Amir Chepang quotes "I go to herd goats. I missed home a lot. The examination results are yet to be published. What to do? During this time, I was busy looking at the goats, selling milk in the bottle house and keeping accounts. But I'm also happy to see my work."

Those non-returnee students Nosman, Amir and Silas have started planting tomatoes, creepers vegetables, maize, soya bean, pumpkin and cucumber in the bottle house. Taking the advice of agricultural technicians, they have also been informed and trained about diseases, pests and fertilizers. With all those jobs completed they have also been able to take good care of cattle viz cow. All in all, everyone seems happy at the bottle house.

The fear of uncertainty still exists, the cure for the virus seems farfetched and epidemic being contained seems impossible. Amidst all those uncertainties, we are busy with regular work in the bottle house. The production is expected to be good this year due to good rain. Even though the production is good, we fear restrictions not being lifted soon. If so, it shall be very difficult to find the market for selling our produce. Earlier this year too, the production of potatoes are good but we had to sell it directly to the customers through social media.

Overall, we are trying our best to be engaged and productive. People like Nosman, Amir and Silas have been holding their hopes for better future and spending time learning and doing things they like. They are trying to find light on the other side of the tunnel but the role of government plays a very crucial role in this scenario.  At the community level, organization like ours can assimilate agriculture and mobilize young farmers. If done right, it is certain that this sector shall be self-sufficient with its agricultural produce. There isn’t any alternative to agriculture and no doubt this period can be used creatively to fetch a long-term benefit in coming days. In this case, we find our project's mission very much effective in every situation. Education, Skill, Agriculture and self-sustaining models are been set as example for community, which Shikharapur CLC is doing in support of ONGD-FNEL, Luxembourg. Moreover, for this, the government needs to be proactive in bringing plans and implementing them to control the spread of the virus. We, the citizens, can only help the government. It shall be very difficult for the government to control if the virus spreads at the community level especially due to lack of sufficient infrastructure in the hospitals. Let's hope for the best to happen and remain positive at this hour and never lose hope.


Niroj Shrestha

Executive Member/Project Coordinator

Shikharapur Community Learning Center, Kathmandu, Nepal