Chepangs in rural Dhading face acute food shortage

BRUSBANG, DHADING: Sanumaya Chepang of Brusbang village of Dhading district is worried what to feed her aging parents and three growing children.

Like her, members of the tribal Chepang community in the village, which is two hour drive from the highway commercial hub of Malekhu, are reeling under an acute shortage of foods for last two months.

They are living on different types of wild tubers and nettle shoots.

Now, the Chepangs are worried that even the gitthas (wild tubers of Dioscorea bulbifera) and shoots of sisnoo (nettle, Urtica dioica) are falling short to appease their appetite.

"Since mid-April, we have been living on just gittha and sisnoo," Dilmaya Chepang says, "Now, we are so tired that we even cannot go to search them."

Locals in the remote village grow maize in their farms. But the produce is so insufficient to meet their annual need.

"While it takes eight months to grow maize, it only lasts for next four months," another local adds.

On the other hand, the Chepang people have a very low income.

For example, Dilmaya's husband weaves dokos -- wicker baskets -- which are used to carry loads on backs; but he can earn only Rs 8,000 in a year.

"That is not enough, even for our clothes," he says, "How can we buy other things?"

"Also, other human settlements where we could work are also very far," he laments.

Local community leader, one of the very few literates of the village, Tek Bahadur Chepang, comments that the government does not help them make a decent living.

The government has introduced the Praja Bikas Karyakram, aiming to serve the Chepang people. It, however, has done nothing substantial, he claims.