Power lights up lives of poor in rural Nepal

Date: September 19, 2001

Program REDP

Wednesday, 19 September 2001: Not long ago, people in Taman, a remote village in Nepal's Baglung district had no electricity and no radios or televisions. Using computers and accessing the Internet was only a dream. Now that all households have electricity and street lights illuminate the village, the dream is no longer far-fetched.

The Rural Energy Development Programme (REDP), an initiative by the Government of Nepal and UNDP, worked with the village development committee to bring micro-hydro power to nearly 200 households. Committee members villagers contribute time and labour to excavate the site. The plant on the river now generates 20 kilowatts of electricity.

"The programme helps us use the village's abundant water resources," said Thum Bahadur Pun, chairperson of the village development committee. Villagers pay only one Nepalese rupee, about one US cent, per kilowatt hour for electricity.

After working in their fields during the day, many villagers, including women, now engage in small business activities in the evenings, generating additional income. Children no longer have to study by lamp light. The project shows how social mobilization through community organizations can bring significant gains.

Women members of the village development committee in Arjun Chaupari in Syangja district have learned the importance of education through the efforts of the UNDP South Asia Poverty Alleviation Programme (SAPAP). Now all families send their children to school. They also take pride in building a water tap near their homes, saving themselves from carrying water over long distances and saving time for income earning activities.

Using their own savings, the women have started their own small businesses and avoided high interest charged by moneylenders. In fact, this helped cut the moneylenders' rates in half, to between 18 per cent and 24 per cent. Their businesses include off-season vegetable growing, fruit farming and livestock rearing.

Punya Prasad Poudel, chairperson of the Kaski district development committee, said local ownership of these projects can be early seen "in terms of mobilization of both human and monetary resources," and thanked UNDP for financial and technical support.

Dr. Jagdish Chandra Pokharel, a member of the National Planning Commission, endorsed the close collaboration between the government and UNDP in such efforts and commended the district development committees for "embracing the programme wholeheartedly and taking full ownership of the district level activities."

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