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Nalbung Smokeless Stove Project

Written by Exodus Leader Lakpa Lama

On the 22nd of Feb Kedar had 49 stoves sent to Seti river camp. The villagers were told to get hold of the stoves and to carry it up to the village. One stove was not sent as one family had not provided their Nagarikta ID.

Installing a smokeless stove

On the 23rd of Feb at 6.30 am five of us left for the village in our company bus . Stoped on the way to have our breakfast and lunch. It took us nearly four hrs to Ghumaune from where we left the bus. We walked over to the other side of Trishuli river and thought of taking the local bus. The bus was leaving after one hour so we decided to walk. It was two hours gradual walk on gravel road to Saharan. Then we crossed a suspension bridge to go to the other side of Seti river. The day was too hot so we decided to stop for a while by the river. Sukman and Gum got into the river to swim while Chewang, Kedar and I just took of shoes and cooled our feet. Walk from the river to the village was another 2 hours .First hour the route was easy but the last one hour was a killer, steep all the way up. I was feeling extremely hot and a bit nausea, thought I might throw up any moment.  It had been few days I had come down form minus temperature of Khumbu. Sukman was of great help. He carried my rucksack which I think was about 20 kgs. I was foolish to carry so many stuffs which I did not use at all.

We reached the village about 3:30 pm. Went to Bal Bh sir (head master of Kalika School) house had tea and rested for a while. We sent message to the villagers to gather at the head masters place by 4.30 pm. There were few stoves stocked here, few in the middle village and most of it at the school. Once the villagers came we introduced ourselves and the reason why we were there. We talked about the stoves and the benefits of using it and that it was all funded by Exodus Travel. It was very handy to have Sukman and Chewang with us as they had already fitted similar stoves in their respective villages. We made Jyoti one of the school teacher  as the representative of the village so that  she could deal with any problems arising from the stoves later. She had come to Kathmandu with her husband and visited Sindhu Urja the manufacturing place. There she got some ideas about the  stoves and  the maintenance.

Whatever we explained to the villagers Jyoti would then explain it in the local language. We demonstrated how it would be fixed and allowed the villagers to have a go by themselves. If they had any doubts we were there to explain everything.

It was getting dark so we fitted one near head master’s house. We had the stove lit and the lady from the house immediately started to make some popcorns for us on her new stove. She was really excited while the stove was being fitted and we sensed she was very happy. It made us happy too. Looking at the house I knew they were very poor. Hardly could see anything and I knew their life was difficult. In fact there were few more house which we saw the next day were in miserable state too. We felt bad. The lady then offered us Rakshi. Since I was the only who drank alcohol I didn’t refuse the offer and I felt great having it after that torturous climb to the village.

After having Dinner we split into two groups for the night .At dinner time we discussed the next day’s program. Kedar told the people to gather at the school at 10:30 am the next day. It was a sleepless night coz I was on the floor cold and  near the chickens . Next night I got a bed outside.

Next morning we had tea and popcorns .Breakfast was not common in the village so it was decided upon brunch straight away. Since there was plenty of time till brunch we decide to fix some stoves .By brunch  we fitted about 7 stoves .  At Most of the houses we had to make a hole on the wall and in few we had to raise the ground level to place the stove by putting stone slabs and mud. It was hard working in the dark room and getting covered by the dust while making holes on the wall and doing kindda weight lifting carrying stone slabs.

It was relief for a moment while having our brunch. We then proceeded towards the School. Most of the people from the upper village and middle village had gathered already. We repeated the talk on the stoves as there were few not present the previous evening. We had to introduce our selves again, actually four of us as Kedar was well known by everyone from kids to Grandparents. Surprisingly  There were few who knew me also as I had visited the School I think four times while leading the TNX group. Kedar stressed to the villagers to make use of all the things that we were providing and not to leave things just lying down like the plastic water pipes which he had taken and was not being used. The excuse they gave was the water source dried up. Kedar told them to be active and try and find another source. I guess it has been fitted now . We discussed a lot of other problems and anything that we could do in future.

Smokeless stove and the proud new owner

Demo of the fitting was done again. Jyoti then went on to distribute the stoves as it had the number for a particular family and collecting their ID. That day we fitted about 28 stoves or so. Few of the villagers were confident and had it fitted by themselves. We went later and inspected it and to our surprise it had been fitted perfectly. At few houses we had to do little bit of adjustments. There was about three houses which was In a bad shape . It had to be broken down and rebuilt but I think I would be while to make coz they  were in no position to rebuild their houses due to financial crunch .We then told few confident chaps and Jyoti bahini to help  fit the stoves once their houses were ready. There was one house while making hole on the wall we didn’t realize there was a bee hive suddenly we were being attack by them. We left the house quickly to allow the bees to settle down. In the meantime  We went & fixed other stoves and later came back to the house and fitted it.

For dinner dinner local chicken was prepared with our all time favorite Dhendo (Polenta). I am not sure if it was actually Dhendo coz I make it myself. I think it was a mixture of everything. Another great problem was the water problem. I discussed this with Kedar and what we could do regarding it. We saw the fields which looked very fertile but due to the scarcity of the water they couldn’t grow much. It was problem for us to freshen out before dinner coz the water was just a trickle. Took nearly 5 minutes just to fill a steel glass.

Before dinner everyone from the village gathered at head master’s place. We talked with them about their problem, things we have been doing for the village and the possibilities of doing more things in future. One thing we also found out was the guys were a bit lazy drinking all the time. So, we requested them to stop that habit and to pull their socks up and to compete with the other villages near by which were better off. It also meant the younger generation would follow the same example and make life miserable coz we wouldn’t be able to do everything for them and make them dependent. They had to do some things by themselves too.

Kedar sir as he called in the village delivered a good one and half hour long speech. He was straight forward and frank and at times people might have thought it to be a little harsh but we could hear them saying  Ho sir! and  Hoina sir !. We all think he would make a good political leader in future. Sukman and Gum  shared their thoughts. Kedar requested me to say a few words but I declined as I told him I was not good in delivering Nepali  speech. At the end people realized we were a bit tired and hungry so they gave speech turn by turn and thanked Exodus for helping them and departed. We then enjoyed our Dhendo and local kukhra ko tarkari.

Next day we got up a little early had tea & popcorns and fitted the left over stoves. We left the village before midday and on our way down we inspected houses where few locals had fixed stoves by themselves. It was just one hour to Saharan. Few section of the trail below the villages were tricky, steep and narrow. Any mistakes meant down into the Seti with having no chance to arrest the fall. We stopped for  wai wai (noodles) and boiled eggs at Saharan. From there we took the local bus to Ghumaune. As the bus started to get packed up like canned sardines I decide to go on the roof didn’t want to take chances. Sukman followed me to the roof.

From Ghumaune we got in our company bus and come to Kathmandu stopping at Malekhu to enjoy our Dal Bhat with the famous Machha (fish curry) of the area. It was good fun and experience in the villages I think it was same feeling for the rest. Looking  forward to the similar project & experience soon, probably my village next.

Read more about Exodus' Himalayan community support project