Gyan Bahadur’s wooden store for potato farmers in Gorkha

How a village shaken by COVID-led economic slowdown is using local skills to generate income for the community

Photo: nednapa/Shutterstock.com

Gyan Bahadur Gurung started farming potatoes about three years ago on a large plot of land about a three-hour walk from his village of Olang in Gorkha district, a remote region of Nepal. Gurung, along with other Olang locals, grew about four to five tonnes of potatoes every year.

But as production grew, they ran into a problem. They had no storage facilities for the potatoes and much of the large harvest was going to waste.

“We had been growing a lot of potatoes but as we didn’t have a proper storage facility, our potatoes were spoiling,” said Gurung, 56. “We needed something more, a safe place to store our produce.”

As a carpenter for more than 35 years, Gurung knew exactly what they needed — a storage house made out of wood that could safely house the potatoes until they were sold.

In order to build the storage facility, Gurung sought financial support from UNDP and the Ajirkot Rural Municipality. They provided him with a budget of US$8,500 and in July 2020, construction of a wooden storage house with a 10 tonne capacity to house the potatoes and seeds began.

Gyan Bahadur Gurung builds the potato house.
Gurung’s associates work on the construction of the potato storage facility. Photo: UNDP Nepal

Gurung himself took responsibility for the construction, building wooden planks, trusses, windows and doors. He was assisted by two associates, Bhim Bahadur, 26, Gurung and Jit Bahadur Gurung, 43, both from Olang. Bhim Bahadur worked in in Gorkha while Jit Bahadur worked in Kathmandu as a mason but had been out of work since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Nepal. The construction project provided them with a daily income to tide them over these difficult times.

The storage house was completed in September in 65 days and is now able to house all the extra potatoes that the farmers produce, along with seed potatoes for a future harvest. The storage house directly benefits 24 Janajati households from the village.

“I am glad I was able to utilize my expertise to help the community while also getting paid a decent salary,” Gurung said. “Now that we have a proper storage space, we can save our harvest and even some seeds. Going forward, we are now planning to extend the farm.”

Left: The interior. Right: The completed storage house. Photos: UNDP Nepal

Launched in June, UNDP’s livelihoods recovery programme, co-funded by the Nepal government and UNDP, aims to engage more than 5,000 women and men — especially the poor, vulnerable daily wage earners and migrant workers — in short-term manual work through small-scale community and tourism infrastructure projects led by the communities themselves.

“The livelihoods recovery program espouses a unique model of partnership among the local government, international development partners, UNDP, local NGOs and communities for rapid livelihoods recovery in the context of COVID-19. The programmes like this have impacts in multiple dimensions, as they promote collaboration, local capacity building, job creation, social cohesion and sustainable development at the same time,” said Bernardo Cocco UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Nepal.

Transforming our world #By2030. Visit us at www.undp.org

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