Where We Work
The village of Okhale is in the northern belt of the Mahabharat mountain range at a height of 1350 meters above sea level. Generally, two major seasons are experienced: summer and winter however the climate is considered mild in Nepal. Okhale is a five hour bus drive to the nearest town, Pokhara.
The village is made up of 390 people in 62 households, 25% of which are children between the ages of 6 and 16 and 52% of this population are female. The entire village is reliant on farming, yet only 24% of the households within the village are able to grow sufficient food for themselves each year. In Okhale, unlike other villages the domestication of animals is a key to survival. Almost all households raise animals including goats, cows, bulls and buffaloes. Villagers have several benefits from rearing livestock, including diary products and meat for the family and, more importantly, animal dung for use as manure the fields. Within the village there are 8-10 extremely impoverished Dalit families. These Dalits are very poor farmers who often have no land, but instead work on a sharecropping basis, in a continuing battle to survive. Among young people, the favourite career is to join the British, or if not, then the Indian Army.
Home and Family
The housing in Okhale is primarily made from local materials including stone, mud, and timber. Approximately 35% of villagers have toilet facilities in or near the home. There is a seasonal drinking water supply whose source is about 1600 meters outside the village. In the dry season, villagers must walk 1 ½ miles to collect water. There is no supply of electricity to the village. Some households have solar panels which provide a small amount of electricity for lighting. Villagers use firewood for both cooking and heating. They have easy access to forest areas close to their villages to collect firewood. In Okhale marriage usually takes place between the ages of 18 and 20. Both love and arranged marriages are prevalent in this village. The average life expectancy is 70-80 years.
Education within the Village
The surrounding areas have a relatively high number of educational institutions, with seven primary, three lower-secondary, and three secondary schools. The Santa Kanya primary school was built in 1996, through donations from Thomas’s Clapham and in partnership with the Pahar Trust. The school serves children from Okhale and the nearby village of Raipali. There are three good sized rooms but with only 33 students across grades 1-3. Although materials are well supplied in the school, they are often safeguarded and not used. The school opens daily except Saturday and public and school holidays. There are three teachers of which two teachers are from outside the village and one is from the local community, whose salary is actually paid for by the community. There is low attendance and enrollment of students in this school, especially children from Dalit communities (lower castes). This is something that we will try and address with the village community during 2008-9.