Where We Work
Pelkachour, in the Syangja district, is situated at a height of 1696 meters on a hill top facing the southern slope and is about 45 kilometres from the main town, Pokhara. The weather ranges from cold in winter to hot humid tropics in the summer. A gravel motorable road has recently been constructed which has provided easy access to the village, and which is about 5 km from the main highway. An Indian Mahendra jeep is the most commonly used public vehicle in this area.
There are 247 households with a population of over 2,000 people, of which just over a third are aged between 0-16 years. Over the last decade, one hundred households have migrated to the towns (mainly Pokhara) due to a lack of drinking water, quality health care services and effective education for the village children.
In addition, 16% of this population is working abroad and making regular remittance to their family in Nepal. This migration has had a negative impact on the local economy as the migrated families were economically better off. Their departure has also created financial constraints, decreased economic activity in the village and notably contributed to social changes in the village.
In Pelkachour, agriculture and domestication of animals is the main occupation, with 97% of households owning their own land. In addition, there are nine shops around the centre of the villages, a pharmacy, and several services (tailor and CDMA phone). Since this village is located at the top of a hill, the sloping land, low soil fertility, lack of irrigation and natural catastrophes such as the dry season, landslides, floods and hailstones have significantly reduced the quantity and quality of crop production and meant that there is insufficient production of major crops. Millet, maize, wheat are the major food staple. Although the local people work in the field for most of the year, the grain yield is still low forcing most villagers to buy food, mainly rice, from the low land. The village is also home to a considerable number of retired soldiers with a pension.
Home and Family
The housing structure is very simple and traditional: the houses are made of local materials (stones, mud and timber) except the roof which is made of steel. Most of the recently built houses are two stories with a separate kitchen. Cement and iron are now commonly used in building. Poorer families are not able to build such well equipped house and live in a single story house where they cook and store food, and sleep family members together.
Over 50% of all families have toilet facilities. The biggest challenge for the villagers is an inadequate supply of drinking water. Currently the entire village relies on a cement-lined watering hole fed by a spring. Water in this well is not clean and hygienic as it is open without proper fencing and management.
Although electricity is the main source for lighting and cooking, it is not a reliable supply source. Solar panels can be found on some rooftops. There are very few households using bio-plants and improved cooking stoves which significantly reduces their consumption of firewood, which is been the main source for fuel.
Local people collect both dry and green fire wood annually from the forest areas. The area has set up regulations for fetching the firewood as local people had concerns that the forest area was decreasing due to over exploitation of forest resources. The average age for marriage is 16-17 years and the average life expectancy is 60 years.
Education within the Village
In the village, 23.8% are totally illiterate and 10.43% have only basic literacy skills. There are five pre-primary schools and five primary schools and only one secondary school. As there is no facility for higher secondary level education, this results in 10-15 students migrating to the towns every year.
The Pelkachour Secondary school was built by the Pahar Trust Nepal in March 2007, and is educating 487 students from pre-school day care centre to grade 10. It contains 14 good sized class rooms, a play ground, an office, toilets and a drinking water tap. Although the school runs the government recommended national curriculum which includes English, Nepali, Math and Science as compulsory subjects, the majority of students find English a challenging subject. The school is run by a nine member school management committee, who are a legal body responsible for monitoring, supervising, developing strategies and making decisions. There are 19 teachers in the school of which five are from the local community and 14 are from outside the area.
During our initial assessment of this village, 269 children were identified as needing financial support to go to school. The CAIRN Trust is currently sending one hundred of these children to school through the CAIRN Educational Awards. These children receive the basic educational supplies to equip them to go to school. Their performance and progress is monitored quarterly through trained social workers. Our aim is to raise further funds to support the remaining children long term through CAIRN Awards.