Power Up Nepal: You Can Make a Difference

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July 25, 2016

The village of Dhapsung, Nepal may seem worlds away from where you sit right now reading these words. In fact, GRID Alternatives’ headquarters office in Oakland, CA is situated more than 7,500 miles across the Pacific. But thanks to Chris Fearon, a dedicated volunteer and supporter of GRID, Dhapsung feels much closer. In this remote community nestled in the Himalayan hillsides, a visitor is rare, much less a tourist. After a long drive and several miles trekking from the nearest road, Chris received a warm welcome into the village for his overnight stay last December.  

While you may not have the opportunity to personally set foot in Dhapsung, you too can make a difference for this community that was rocked by last year’s devastating earthquakes. The Power Up Nepal campaign gives you a chance to contribute to a sustainable project that will  jump-start recovery and provide a foundation for long-term development.

Chris offers us a glimpse into the resilience, vibrancy, and humanity of Dhapsung through his own eyes:

Tell us about your experience in Nepal and in the village of Dhapsung. Can you talk about the community and the people you met?

Nepal is a fantastic country! Breathtaking views and beautiful, friendly people. I had the fortune to drive and trek into Dhapsung for just one night. Upon arrival they warmly greeted us with home-brewed whiskey and beer and fried up a chicken -- quite a sacrifice for that community -- deliciously seasoned with butter and cardamom.

The next morning they showed us how they brewed whiskey and gave us a walking tour of the village. Before we left, they held a town meeting where the new school would be located. There they set up stools as seats of honor for us visitors. At the end of the meeting, just before we departed, the village leaders took turns ceremoniously draping our necks with white silk scarves and strings of orange flowers as a sign of honor. It was a beautiful sight to behold!

Dhapsung was heavily affected by the earthquakes that struck Nepal last year. Did you witness reconstruction efforts while you were in the community?

I was in the village for less than 24 hours. I arrived one evening and left the following afternoon. When I woke up in the morning, I remember seeing some of the villagers already at work rebuilding their homes. I was told that this was a 2-3 year effort to completely rebuild their community. Nevertheless, they diligently worked at it every day, sawing timber beams, digging foundations, constructing walls and roofs, building furniture, etc. all by hand. (Of course, this rebuilding effort is in addition to their routine agricultural and animal husbandry chores!)

What was interesting is that even the makeshift homes seemed well constructed to me. The way to tell the difference between temporary homes and permanent homes is that the temporary homes had corrugated metal walls and roofs. Even so, they were comfortable by the country’s standards. Given time, it will be interesting to see how solid the permanent homes they build will be.

What needs were apparent in the community? What are some ways people’s daily lives might be transformed by access to electricity?

Education: When I visited Dhapsung, they told us about their plans to build a new school so their children wouldn’t have to walk for several miles to the nearest village to attend class. The electricity we provide will help power their school so that they can have classes or other community events at night and power computers.

Grain Mill: One of the main crops in this region is millet. The process of separating millet from the stock is extremely laborious, as I witnessed first-hand. It involves laying the millet on a blanket on the ground and beating it with over-sized wooden rakes. I only observed women performing this duty, which I suspect is common in the region. Utilizing a grain mill to accomplish this will improve their productivity, thereby improving the communities income alleviate the women of the community from such a physically exhausting task.

Saw Mill: When I visited in December, the villagers of Dhapsung were still rebuilding their homes that were destroyed in the earthquake. All they had were hand tools and long saws to cut timber into beams and planks. In a neighboring village that is tied to the national electrical grid, I observed an electric saw mill. Needless to say, if Dhapsung can power an electric sawmill, the time to rebuild their homes will be substantially reduced.

Why are you personally excited about the Power Up Nepal project?

This project is particularly exciting because it’s an example of providing the next level of electricity for an off-grid community. Prior to the earthquake, Dhapsung had enough electricity from a micro-hydro plant to illuminate a light bulb in each of the 40+ houses in the village. The earthquake destroyed the micro-hydro plant, but shortly thereafter, an off-grid solar system was installed to replace the electricity that the micro-hydro plant once produced.

In September this year, we intend to install a substantially larger solar system (16kW) that will allow the villagers to power computers and machinery (i.e. “productive loads”). This will make a manifest difference in the livelihood of the villagers. Beyond having a light bulb in each home, they will be able to power computers in their newly constructed school, operate an electric grain mill to process millet and operate an electric saw mill to dramatically speed the reconstruction of their village.

Why should others support this project?

This is an opportunity to have a very direct and manifest impact on the quality of life for the people of Dhapsung. The electricity we provide this year will lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth in their community. It will be fascinating to visit Dhapsung in a few years to see how they creatively harnessed this power and how their lives have improved. Please join us in this noble effort!

You can help power up Nepal. Give now to transform the Dhapsung community with the power of electricity!

 

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The Power Up Nepal pilot project leverages GRID’s expertise with solar energy and sustainable international development to install a 16KW solar micro-grid in Dhapsung, Nepal. The project will power local businesses, the school, and all 40 homes in the community while providing jobs for women and supporting local entrepreneurism. The project will provide a model for successful micro-grid projects that can be replicated in other communities to meet Nepal’s long-term rural energy needs.

Learn more about the pilot project and find out how you can help build a brighter future for the people of Dhapsung.