SINDHUPALCHOK: Sanghachok VDC in Sindhupalchok district in central Nepal lost 161 people in the devastating earthquakes last year.

The villagers also lost something else that was largely unaccounted in the immediate aftermath when the focus was on saving human lives – 2000 livestock including cows, buffaloes and goats.

While coping with the loss of human lives has been hard on the survivors, moving on has also not been easy as the loss of livestock and cattle sheds continues to directly affect their income.

“We had collected up to 320 litres of milk everyday from 168 farmers until the day before the April 25, 2015 earthquake,” said Nawaraj Giri, chair of Pashupati Milk Production Cooperative at Panichaur, Sanghachok.

Milk collection stopped for over a month after the earthquakes. When the cooperative resumed its operation from a tent, it could collect meagre 20 litres a day.

In October 2016, about 70 farmers were selling 140 litres of milk a day. This was possible with support the cooperative received for rebuilding the collection centre.

“Our initial goal was ensuring that people have safe houses and therefore our focus was on housing grant distribution. Now we are ready for expanding support to rebuild livelihoods,” said Ram Thapaliya, Spokesperson at the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA).

“We were aware that some partners were supporting livelihoods, and could therefore focus on housing grants,” he added.

Thapaliya said the NRA has also been releasing funds for rebuilding heritage sites, schools, roads, health posts and other local infrastructures all of which will support livelihoods. Further, different ministries have also been directed to monitor the progress.

Similarly, the NRA has made arrangements for facilitating the work of I/NGOs that need to sign general agreements with the Social Welfare Council and project agreements with the NRA to undertake activities to support earthquake victims.

UNDP Nepal had provided the Pashupati Cooperative with about Rs. 611,004 (about USD 6000) to rebuild the milk collection centre, the cooperative put up about Rs 184,000 and the local people who sold milk provided about Rs 90,000 as labour contribution.

Many donors have been supporting livelihood support activities in the earthquake-hit districts and among them so far UNDP has supported over 2350 micro entrepreneurs in 53 VDCs in Sindhupalchok.

"While rebuilding houses is very important, restoring livelihoods and ensuring that the victims have a decent and sustainable source of income is as critical,” said Renaud Meyer, Country Director, UNDP Nepal. “The quicker the victims become again economic actors, the faster the recovery will be for Nepal,” he added.

Many of the cooperative members still live in temporary shelters and do not have proper sheds for cattle but they have managed to resume their main economic activity.

“The money we received for housing is in the bank and most of us will start rebuilding houses after we bring in the crops,” said Giri. “The banks give money to only a certain number of people every day and that also caused some delay.”

It may be some time before the houses are complete but the villagers already have something to work on.

A poster on the wall of the milk collection centre says the next steps are to obtain livestock insurance, encourage members to buy more cattle to increase milk production, install a 1000 litre milk chilling vat, and to purchase milk also from non-members in the VDC and from neighbouring villages.