Dhading, May 2:
Perennial sufferers of starvation every nine months a year, Chepangs in Dhading district are on the threshold of starvation once again.
Hit by the shortage of food grains, Chepangs in Dungmang of Dhusha VDC-4, Kalanga and Masarkh of Mahadevsthan VDC-1, Takthali of Ward No 2, Bruswang of Ward No 3, Kurini, Ochrang and Mangrang of Jogimarra VDC-5 and Aiwang of Ward No 7 have fallen back on the traditional means of appeasing hunger.
They are foraging for roots, tubers and berries in the forests near their homes. The Chepangs collect gittha, bhyakur, ban tarul, kera tarul, bharlang, pyaguna, bhalayo, dumri, khanayo, taanki and sisnu and make these their victuals.
However, due to the ban on entering community forests and conservation measures taken by vigilante groups, the Chepangs are hard beset to gather enough for two square meals a day.
Most of the able-bodied Chepang males are away working for daily wages and it is the elderly, expectant mothers and children in the Chepang community who are facing a severe food shortage, said Nepal Chepang Association central member Jeetendra Chepang.
Chepang said most of the children in the community are affected by viral fever and diarrhoea due to the hard-to-digest forest fare.
It is learnt that 80 per cent of the Chepangs living in the district do not have any land in their names till now.
Those who do own some land have enough only for small houses or backyard gardens, not enough to grow crops on.
NCA Dhading president Madan Chepang said those Chepangs, who have started growing vegetables in their backyards, manage to muster enough food grains to tide them over for six months at least. According to NCA statistics, only four per cent of Chepangs all over Nepal manage to stock food grains to last them a year.
Chepangs are living in 10 VDCs of Dhading â€” Kumpur, Goganpani, Naubise, Thaanke, Pida, Gajuri, Mahadevsthan, Dhusha, Benighat and Jogimarra. Dhading has an over 15,000-strong Chepang population, according to statistics.
Though government and non-government agencies are working for the financial, social and educational uplift of the Chepangs, not much headway has been made in this direction, said NCA central secretary Tilak Chepang.