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Her words stopped me in my tracks.
“After the earthquake, when all the food was buried, we had to go and find work.”
There’s a lot in that short sentence. The 25 April 2015 magnitude 7.8 earthquake completely destroyed Roshani Ghimire’s home in the hills above Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. The stone roof and walls crashed down on all the family’s belongings – including their food. All their farming tools and seeds were buried. They had literally no food left and no way of earning any money from their usual farming work. To make matters worse, their neighbours were in the same boat.
With the help of some seeds lent by neighbours, Roshani and her husband Rishiram managed to eke out an existence. Things got a lot easier with a grant of about NZ$68 from the Nepal Red Cross Society. The grant enabled the family to buy seeds and tools, part of a Red Cross recovery package now underway following the huge emergency relief phase.
It’s a small amount of money but a huge boost. With the first crop, the family were able to sell some vegetables to earn cash and save seeds for the next planting.
“It would have been very difficult for us had the Red Cross not helped us at that time,” Roshani told me through an interpreter. “We would have had to look for loans. We could at least buy seeds and plant them. Then we were able to sell that crop and buy more seeds.”
They’re almost outside the money economy – but not quite.
“We work hard so we can send our children to school. Children ask money for lunch, for notebooks and books and so much more. We have cattle so we need to buy feed for them - we have to buy hay as we didn’t have rice straw this year. We have to buy rice and we need money for a lot of things.”
Roshani’s farm is only an hour’s drive from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, but it’s another world. Gorgeous green terraces of wheat, spring onions, cabbage, potato, dotted with charming stone and mud houses.
Only, look more closely and the houses aren’t right. There’ll be a wall missing. Or a giant crack from roof to ground.
So, nearby, are the sheds. They’re made of corrugated iron and plastic donated by aid agencies including Red Cross, and bamboo. For a year, since the April earthquake, families have lived in these sheds, through cold, heat and rain, waiting to rebuild.
Roshani, her husband and their kids, aged 6 and 8, are living in a shed they built on their farm. It’s under an agricultural tunnel house – a bamboo frame they lash plastic on to, to form a greenhouse. Because of this, they have less land to farm.
They’re desperate to rebuild, but are still waiting to hear from the government what they’re entitled to. I hope they get help to rebuild properly soon. If they don’t, their plan is to find some money for plywood, which would at least insulate them from the cold in winter and heat in summer.
Too many families like theirs in Nepal just scrape by at the best of times. When disaster strikes, there’s precious little fat in the system and they suffer. I’m glad Red Cross has been able to help them too. As our recovery work picks up speed, we’ll be able to help with training on earthquake-resistant building techniques, setting up clean water, toilets and better hygiene, and improving access to healthcare. The aim is to leave people in a safer and more resilient position – because this earthquake won’t be the last one.