VILLAGE LIFE IN PICTURES
The illustrations on this page provide a brief graphic description of the villagers' way of life within the southern Mahabharat region of Kabhre Palanchok district. The photographs on the page Beneficiaries of NSP Aid illustrate some typical southern Mahabharat village homes. The illustrations on this page shall focus on the villagers' activities and the way they live.
Spreading the manure is women's job. They are very skillful in the way they toss the manure onto the field while carrying the basket. The manure is a mixture of animal dung and dry leaves collected in the jungle. Chemical fertilizer, although available in Nepal, is totally out of the reach of the region's very poor population. The next picture illustrates plowing and seeding corn. Both the plow and the harness are home made by the villagers. This applies to all agricultural implements needed to cultivate their fields.
Once the crops start to grow, keeping the weeds from the fields becomes a daily task. The work in the fields goes on rain or shine. As a protection when working in rainy weather, the villagers wear a home made umbrella made from bamboo and several layers of dry leaves.
In the picture on the left, the green fields are millet, the yellow fields are mustard. Mustard is grown as a source of cooking oil. Another daily chore, usually taken care of by the children, is grazing the goats.
Only goats are taken grazing. Large cattle such as cows, oxen and water buffaloes are kept within the household compound because they are not as agile as goats and could slip and fall while grazing the steep hillsides. Every day early in the morning, one or more members of the family must cut the fodder for the family cattle. This task may require a long trip into the far off jungle. Dry leaves for the manure compost must also be collected in the distant jungle.
Harvesting millet, this is a very time consuming task by having to cut the seed clusters stem by stem. When the harvest time approaches, as well as during the harvest time, family members must to keep a round the clock watch to keep the predators such monkeys from prowling the fields and feeding on the villagers' crops. The picture on the right illustrates a permanent field observation post.
After the crops have been harvested comes the task of threshing the grain clusters. There are no mechanical devices available for this purpose in rural Nepal. It is all accomplished with the help of animals or large poles. This form of grain threshing is not unique just to southern Mahabharat but is in common practice throughout all rural regions of the country.
Once the grain reaches the people's homes, the next step is grinding it into flour. On the left is a water propelled corn flour mill. These mills are usually constructed by the villagers in the valleys and are propelled by water diverted from a nearby stream or river. Even the mouth of the bamboo basket that discharges the grain is ingeniously designed to discharge one grain at a time into the hole of the upper grinding stone. On the right is a foot operated home-made grinding tool that grinds grain into flour by pounding it with the heavy wooden pole. In the illustration, the woman is grinding millet.
Above are two views of the interior of a village home's kitchen, which also serves as a living and dining room. The main family rooms lack furniture, the family members just squat on bamboo pads on the mud floor. The meals are also eaten without any utensils in plates also placed on the mud floor. In the picture on the left, the housewife is cooking the family meal of corn paste. Near the wall are empty corn cobs that substitute for firewood. The goats and chickens are also kept near the entrance inside the house for the night. The reason for this is that animal predators, such as jackals and mountain lions may be prowling the hills for prey during the night.
When the villagers are not busy with agricultural work, they engage in other activities that may be related to household needs as the baby basket on the right, or as income generating activity. The main income generating activities are bamboo basket weaving and broom making, both from raw materials that grow in the Mahabharat jungles. However, the earnings from such activities are very modest. For instance, it takes a man about two days to make one sturdy basket. When he takes the baskets to sell them in the market, he will probably be paid no more than about two dollars a piece.
The villagers also make headbands and ropes needed for carrying loads from the very strong cactus fibre. They also make their own fishing nets.
The tools needed in agricultural work - hoes, sickles, the metal parts of plows, khukuri knives - are all made by village blacksmiths. The village blacksmiths also make certain unique tools used by village tradesmen. The picture on the right shows a village nursery. The main purpose of nurseries is reforestation. The sad testimonial to the government's past neglect of the region is that there are virtually no fruit trees within the southern Mahabharat. By contrast, all other regions of the district located to the north of southern Mahabharat abound with citrus, mango and banana trees that generate considerable economic benefits to the people in those parts of the district from the sale of fruit.
Both men and women fish in their spare time. Every person that goes fishing wears a small bamboo basket to store the catch. The men fish with large nets and in deep waters. The women fish in shallow streams with small nets attached to bamboo bows. Everything they catch, even tadpoles is taken home to enhance their simple diet.
There are no shops within the southern Mahabharat. If the villagers need to obtain some personal or household necessity, they must make the long trip on foot to the nearest urban centre. Occasionally, a traveling tailor makes a tour of the villages to sow or mend clothing. On the right is a blind man walking the steep mountain trails alone unassisted. He has to rely on the compassion of fellow villagers for the donation of food. In Nepal, there is no such thing as welfare support payments to the poor by the local government. The poor and those unable to work must take care of themselves or rely on the generosity of equally poor relatives or fellow villagers.
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