Cash is Key to Recovery for Most Vulnerable in Remote Nepalese Villages

Cash is Key to Recovery for Most Vulnerable in Remote Nepalese Villages

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Singi Bomjan thought he had seen it all. He had already lived through one earthquake and a lifetime of hard work and struggle. Three generations of his family had lived and died in his village of Banskhara, working the land and building a home for his children and his children’s children.

Singi is a charismatic and merry man, bent double by age but restless and energetic. He doesn’t remember his age - he estimates around 80 years old - but he does remember the first earthquake in 1934 which he says was nowhere near as bad as this most recent one. “[This year’s earthquake] felt like the earth was turned upside down,” he recalls.

With a huge toothless grin he tells me he can’t bear to be idle, which is why, on top of rebuilding his fallen down house he also weaves the traditional Nepalese baskets to sell. 

It is shocking, however, to see the change that comes over him as he recounts his earthquake experience. . He is unable to talk about it without breaking down into uncontrollable tears. His daughter and her 7 grandchildren were all killed during the earthquake; buried under the rubble of their collapsing house, while he, his son and daughter in law were out in the fields.

Singi is also one of Nepal’s landless or ‘Sukumbasi’ people who make up around 25% of the population. They have no land of their own, so live on and cultivate on behalf of a landlord for a wage. They are often some of the most vulnerable in a community as their position is insecure and easily exploited, with limited access to the resources they cultivate. 

For Singi, his earthquake tragedy, not only represents a huge personal and emotional loss but also a more practical economic one. It has placed a huge additional burden on him and his remaining family members when it comes to working the land. As he is a hired laborer he is expected to produce a certain amount of crop every year and give the majority to his landlord. Now, his available workforce has been decimated, making it very difficult for him and his remaining son to work the land to harvest the required amount of crops. 

However; always resourceful and never down for long Singi already has plans to use the money he makes from selling his baskets to hire casual laborers to help him cultivate the land. 

Singi has been identified by CARE as one of the people most in need of unconditional cash transfers to help them in rebuilding. With this money (around $150) people can choose for themselves where there biggest need is and spend the money on what is most urgent and what will be most helpful to them. These initial transfers are targeting the most vulnerable, but further conditional cash transfers will reach more of the population and focus specifically on helping people regain their livelihoods and build back homes. CARE plans to reach a further 1,110 people over the coming months. 

In Singi’s case he plans to use the money to build a shed to store his harvested corn as his previous shelter was destroyed by the earthquake.

He has also received a tarpaulin, hygiene kit, seeds and a storage bag from CARE. The storage bag, in particular, was very useful to him as all his crop storage facilities were destroyed by the quake, and he also likes the cauliflower seeds; “I’ve harvested cauliflower a lot before and I know how to look after it,” he says with a big smile.

Despite all that he has been through Singi is tough and resilient. It is not long before he is back to smiling and fooling around. He takes us to see his corn field, where he disappears into the vegetation; shouting and stamping to scare away the monkeys who come to steal his corn cobs. Even at his advanced age, Singhi is far from defeated by all the misfortune or perturbed by the long and difficult road ahead to recovery. His natural energy and pragmatic attitude means he faces all these obstacles full on and with a dry sardonic sense of humor.


Singi Bomjan doesn't remember his age, but does remember the last big Nepal earthquake of 1934 which he says was nowhere near as bad as the April 2015 one. © 2015 Lucy Beck/CARE