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"Village Treks are just one of several options to generate income sources and prospects: however, it is an option that is of great use to the villagers even aside from any commercial considerations."
- Marcell Nimführ

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Nepal

Modern travels in Archaic Country - village trekking in Nepal
by Marcell Nimführ and Martin Kramar, Kathmandu, Nepal
photos by Martin Kramar
Feb 18, 2000

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Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the Himalayas. Schools, quality-of-life, qualified jobs are exotic terms or distant dreams. Unlike malnutrition, crop failures and child labor, which are a bitter fixture of everyday life in Nepal, CCODER has developed a model whereby the villages can raise their standard of living through their own initiative and by their own guidelines. The DED has provided CCODER with the consulting services of geographer Martina Mäscher. She bases her work on two principles:

Nepal

"We never tell participating villages what to do, but only, what they could do. And above all, the village communities are never given money, but instead the expertise and the equipment to help themselves."

Raising the community's consciousness, improving the village infrastructure, and income-generating measures are the cornerstones of the paradigm. "Village Treks are just one of several options to generate income sources and prospects: however, it is an option that is of great use to the villagers even aside from any commercial considerations."

One of the greatest experiences for any trekker is to get talking with the sociable Nepalese. You may, for instance, run into someone like Mahila Adhikari wandering home along a mountain path of an evening, past irrigated palms and potato fields.

This mother of five children heads a CCODER Project women's group in Trisuli Bazaar. Work in the fields is tedious and exhausting, especially in times of drought. The women get water from the river in buckets and pass them along a human conveyor belt to the fields. Only areas directly along the river are cultivated, the rest of the fields lie fallow. But when Mahila speaks of the fruits of community work, her eyes light up. "In the vicinity of our village," she says, "there are five groups: we call them Community Development Centers. We all sacrifice 10 minutes of working time each day. That makes one hour per week or one week per year. In this saved time, we do volunteer work for the improvement of the village: continue building the community schoolhouse, mend paths. The mountain path I'm walking on," she proudly proclaims, "is four kilometers long. The whole village joined in building it - and it only took a single week!"

Mahila happily tells of the projects: CCODER also helped to build the local dairy. Its output not only safeguards the village's self-support, it even makes possible modest exports to Katmandu. As the dairy is managed communally, individual buffalo shepherds achieve higher proceeds and the profits are used to finance new projects.

Meanwhile, the village of Trisuli Bazaar is not yet equipped with the infrastructure required for community-based tourism. The villages in the Gorkha region, however, have already fared very well with their first trekking party. The natives have had very little contact with outsiders before, and the visitors will be hard put to find a place that has been less impacted by the negative influence of ethno-tourism.

Thus, a sense of the exceptional is present on both sides. Lynda Leonard, an American trek participant, still enthuses about her experience: "It was like in a National Geographic video: the villagers lined up along the path to greet us with flowers and singing. They danced as they escorted us into their village."

Commercialisation vs Preservation

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