How clean water has transformed a village in Nepal

AdvocacyCommunityFamilyHealthcareLivelihoodsSelf-help groupsWASH

In the Surkhet district of Nepal lies the village of Gadi. The village was one of the least developed in the area, so the community struggled to meet their basic needs. One of the biggest challenges they faced was obtaining clean drinking water.

A woman washes her clothes at a community water supply. Photo: Tom Price

Poor water supply

Tearfund partner International Nepal Fellowship (INF) began working on community health and development in Gadi, with a view to helping improve conditions for the villagers. As part of its work, INF helped establish several self-help groups (SHGs), which met to discuss the issues in their community each month. 

The Pariwartansil SHG identified drinking water as their priority. Most of the year, villagers spent between two and three hours a day collecting contaminated water from a nearby stream. Water for the herds of animals and the people came from the same place. As a result of drinking the dirty water, villagers frequently contracted water-borne diseases. School attendance was low as parents often sent their children on the long journey to collect water. 

‘We used to start early in the day to fetch water and it would be late morning by the time we brought it home,’ says Devisara Thapa, a local villager. ‘There were no green vegetables; we had to wait for monsoon season to see green vegetables and to grow them.’ 

Making a plan

The SHG developed a plan to address the situation. Through regular contributions the group collected 2,000 Nepalese Rupees (NPR), about 18 USD, from each household, and then approached governmental and non-governmental organisations for financial support to add to their fund. Using the money they had collected, the group began to build a pipeline from a clean water source – a stream, 7km away from their village. Unfortunately, before the project could be completed, the money ran out. 

Disappointed but undeterred, the group made regular visits to the Village Development Committee (VDC) office to present their case and try to secure further funding. After persevering with their advocacy efforts, the SHG finally obtained 54,000 NPR (about 485 USD) from the VDC, as well as 600 metres of plastic water piping from the District Development Committee. INF also contributed 900 metres of piping and four bags of cement to construct a water tank.

A fresh water supply has transformed the lives of local villagers. Photo: Tom Price

‘Householders are now able to keep kitchen gardens where they grow fresh fruit and vegetables’

Village victory

Contrary to many people’s expectations, the SHG achieved its goal of bringing clean water directly into the village. As well as providing drinking water for 17 households there was enough left over for their cattle. This meant that children in the community were able to start attending school regularly, and villagers’ health improved significantly. 

‘Now, a lot of our time is saved,’ says Devisara. ‘Water is available all year round, and we are able to grow vegetables in our backyard as well.’ 

Managing hygiene and sanitation has become much easier, too, according to local resident Pavitra Hamal: ‘[Separate] Water is available for the cattle and herds which are no longer infected by leeches.’ 

There are now two water tanks and water is available for small-scale irrigation, adds SHG facilitator Deepa Hamal, who helped the householders to resolve their water supply problems. ‘Only a few families had goats before, but now most have goats in their house and the buffaloes have enough green grass to eat.’  

Steps for starting self-help groups

Self-help groups grow gradually, like plants: 

  • a group outside the community that knows how to set up self-help groups visits a community (preparing the soil) 
  • the poorest people in the community are identified and invited to join self-help groups (planting a seed) 
  • facilitators from the outside group help establish the self-help groups (the small plant is nurtured and watered) 
  • over time, less intensive facilitation is needed (the plant begins to strengthen and eventually produces fruit). 

Find out more about World Water Day here. 

Read more about Tearfund’s approach to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

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International Nepal Fellowship staff
INF is a Christian mission serving the physical and spiritual needs of Nepali people through health and development work.