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Nepal Earthquake: Why We Must Pay Attention to the Rural Poor

It’s easy to focus on urban Kathmandu and prestigious Mt. Everest in the wake of the earthquake that hit Nepal last week. But what about those who live in less visible places? Two researchers at the University of British Columbia wrote a powerful piece in The Globe and Mail about the importance of reaching the rural poor.

Far away from Mt. Everest’s glamorous peak, early reports suggested high casualty figures and tens of thousands left homeless in the central-western districts of Gorkha, Dhading and Lamjung, where the first quake’s epicenter lay…

They continue:

Calls to our research partners in hill and mountain districts across the country revealed that villagers are reeling from injuries, death and the destruction of already precarious livelihoods on a massive scale. One villager told us that although his family and many others were unharmed, his home of mud and stone, like the entire village, was a pile of rubble. For many of the rural poor, a two-story home is a most prized asset. While their plight may not make the international headlines, rural Nepalis across the country will need long-term support to rebuild their lives.

LWR has been working in Lamjung — a rural district northwest of Kathmandu — for years. And with our local partner, COPPADES, we have committed to continue working in Lamjung and are assessing the needs in nearby Gorkha.

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These rural areas are harder to reach, but we cannot only focus on the easiest solutions. We need lasting solutions that incorporate local voices.

While LWR’s relief efforts ramp up over the coming weeks and months, we will continue to invest in long-term, sustainable development. We will continue our work in Lamjung to help farmers become more resilient through climate-smart agriculture and natural resource management.

And we’ll continue helping citrus farmers and other small-scale farmers in southcentral Nepal improve their incomes, as well as building resilience to seasonal flooding along the Nepal–India border.

Recovery in Nepal is about more than short-term needs. It’s about more than the highest-profile areas. At LWR, we agree with the authors when they say:

Between the creativity of Nepalis at home, and the resources and global networks that their compatriots abroad can marshal, there is an opportunity to make this a model relief effort. Nonetheless, donors will need to work carefully to ensure that aid is distributed equitably and that the process is owned by Nepalis from all backgrounds who know their own grassroots needs the best.

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REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar, courtesy trust.org
Rescue workers search for bodies as a stretcher is kept ready after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar, courtesy trust.org

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