Chepangs facing food crisis

Dhading, February 11

The Chepang community in Brushbang of Dhading has been reeling under acute shortage of food for long.

Brushbang is a village home to 31 Chepang families. It takes two hours’ bus ride from Malekhu via Prithvi Highway and five hours’ walk from the district headquarters Dhadingbesi to reach Brushbang.

Tek Bahadur Chepang of Brushbang said locals faced food crisis for nine months a year. They are forced to live on wild roots and maize flour porridge, he said. “Whenever any guest visits my house, I don’t have food to feed them. It is even difficult for me to manage two square meals a day for my own family,” said Tek Bahadur.

At daybreak, Chepang children set out to collect green vegetables while the elderly move to the nearby forest to pick stinging nettle and wild roots. “We even have to struggle for drinking water. It takes almost three hours’ walk to fetch water,” Tek Bahadur said.

Another local Prem Bahadur Chepang said despite the shortage of food and water, they did not want to move out of the village as it was their birthplace.

As it is cold in Brushbang throughout the year, only potatoes and maize can be grown in the area. “We do not have any alternative source of income except farming and maize takes a long time to ripen. Growing maize and potatoes once a year is not enough to feed our families,” said Prem Bahadur, adding that they had choice but to collect wild roots and live on them.

The government has been running Chepang Development Programme for the past 39 years, while Poverty Alleviation Programme is also in operation in the area. However, these programmes have failed to solve the perennial problem of food shortage facing Chepang community of Brushbang.

Children in the village have been deprived of educational opportunities due to lack of schools. Nepal Chepang Association central member Tilak Chepang said Child Education Centre established in the village was closed down after they could not hire a teacher.

Lawmaker Rajendra Pandey of Dhading Constituency No 3 said efforts were under way to find an appropriate place to resettle Chepang families in coordination with the DDC and VDC.