Her Farm, growing hope in the Himalaya

by The Mountain Fund
Vetted
Work on the village road
Work on the village road

Dear Her Farm Supporter, 

So much has happened recently at Her Farm that it's hard to know where to begin. As our last report said, our family grew with the addition of more women and children and there's now 28 people living full-time at Her Farm. As many of you know, following the 2015 earthquakes our village sustained a lot of damage. Most homes were destroyed, the water supply for the village failed and left us with barely enough drinking water and no water for crop irrigation, the road to the village, a lifeline for supplies in and farm products was damaged and even if the road hadn't been damaged, the single truck that brought supplies up and took crops out broke down. That's a lot of challenges to face all at once. The women of Her Farm are some of the most extraordinary people you will meet anyplace on earth. They faced each and every challenge head on and solved them all, with your financial help. The women are in charge of the community loan fund which provides zero interest loans and flexible repayment terms to anyone in the village wanting to rebuild their home. The Government has been slow to respond and only a handful of those who lost homes have received any assistance from the GoN to date. But the women of Her Farm have managed over $50,000 in loans to those who chose not to wait on the government but to rebuild now. One family not only rebuilt from these loans but added to it's herd of dairy cows and dairy buffalo and is now selling paneer to buyers in Kathmandu and supporting themselves well from the sales.

Buying and selling of land in Nepal is considered a man's job. Few, very few women even own land, (unlike the women of Her Farm who own the farm) so when we needed to negotiate the purchase of a parcel of land that had a very productive water resource on it, you can imagine what the landowner first thought when tiny, 22 year old Usha showed up for the negotiations. The landowner of course wanted to know where her husband, or brother or some other male family member was and was at first reluctant to believe this demure, young woman could possibly be a serious buyer. In the end. he capitulated and the deal was done. The land, and the precious water resource it held became part of Her Farm. But, that's not the end of the story. The women of Her Farm still needed to get the water from where it was to where it needed to be. They contracted 38 local men to trench and lay pipe so the water would reach a 10,000 gallon water tank at Her Farm. From that tank nearly the entire village is once again supplied with plenty of water. Amazing undertaking. 

Next, the women tackled the road issue. Again, with support from GlobalGiving we were able to completely regrade the road to the village and in the process also made it twice as wide as it had been before. To widen the road required that the private farm land on both sides of the road be given up by its owners. Convincing a struggling Nepali farmer to give up precious farm land for the greater good of the community is no mean feat, but it happened. Every single landowner cooperated. 

Her Farm is about to begin it's final post-earthquake project which is to prepare for the next disaster. In Nepal, there isn't a system of "safe places" that are stocked and ready to take in those impacted by quakes, landslides or other natural disasters such as we have in the West. There isn't a disaster response agency, emergency radio network or designated gathering place. There soon will be at Her Farm. We are about to start construction on a 5000sf facility that will house a medical clinic, small medical lab, food supplies, tailor and clothmaking shop and provide room for 150 people to live in times of disaster. The disaster center will have solar and battery back up systems for power, water and food stores and even a community FM radio station (owned and operated by the women of Her Farm, of course) to disseminate critical information to the villages served. 

Funding for the building of the disaster center has been secured. Funding for cots, cooking equipment, blankets, emergency food stocks and for the radio station has not been secured so we are counting on all of you at GlobalGiving to lend a hand and help us create one of the very few disaster preparedness centers in Nepal. 

Cement stocked for Disaster Shelter Construction
Cement stocked for Disaster Shelter Construction
4.5 km road. Mahadavbesi to Mankhu
4.5 km road. Mahadavbesi to Mankhu
Her Farm. Women owned and operated
Her Farm. Women owned and operated
Some of the many new children
Some of the many new children

In the past week the Her Farm family grew substantially with fifteen (15) women and children moving to the farm. One woman alone has seven children. We are scrambling to get them all situated, cleaned (many came suffering from lice infestations) clean clothing, school supplies and to quickly repair some housing that was damaged during the earthquakes to be able to provide enough rooms for all. They are all adjusting to life at Her Farm well, despite the trauma's they've been through. Some are from families broken apart by abuse and drinking, others were displaced when their fathers brought home a new "second wife" and tossed their mother out. While technically against the law in Nepal, the practice of second wives continues unabated. The new wife in the home is seldom willing to accept the first wife or her children and many women are tossed out with no means of support. 

I am posted a couple of photos of some of the children that were taken with smartphones by the women working at the farm. I can't post the mothers until we are certain there are no safety risks for them. 

New children at Her Farm
New children at Her Farm
Already in school and doing homework
Already in school and doing homework
Family Time
Family Time

The women of Her Farm come from a variety of backgrounds; domestic abuse, sexual assualt, avoiding early marriage and single mom's with no where to go. They vary in age, they are of many different castes (Nepal has an active caste system) and have had varying levels of education. Some have children, some do not. What they all have however is each other. This seemingly unlikely collection of women, from across the entire spectrum of society have made themselves into a very close knit family. They raise children together. farm together, learn together and have a lot of fun together as well. The photographs attached are from one evening in the kitchen at Her Farm. Everyone, including visiting volunteers, were laughing, joking, eating and sharing a fun-filled evening together. These are deeply healing moments for these women who are now a real family.  It's inspiring to see how they've come together and support each other, care for each other, for each other's children as well. Gives me goosebumps to see the love at Her Farm. 

Volunteers Join the Family Too!
Volunteers Join the Family Too!

Links:

Minally and daughter Barsa
Minally and daughter Barsa

The number of women and children living at Her Farm is growing. We've partnered with a mental health program in Kathmandu called Koshish. Koshish rescues women from the streets. Each woman has a different story of how they wound up on the streets. Some have suffered mental illness for years and were kicked out of their homes by family members, some were discarded by thier spouse, many are victims of rape and have children who are products of those rapes and at least one was a drug abuser. Koshish provides counseling and rehab treatment at their facility in Kathmandu, but once these women have completed all the programs and treatments, there is no place for them to go. Families refuse to take them back and in many cases, the whereabouts of family members is unknown. Our partnership provides a "next step" for these women. Once Koshish determines their treatment is complete, many are moved from the institutional setting to Her Farm. 

Her Farm is providing a safe home and meaningful work for the women. Farming and especially caring for livestock gives direction and meaning again to their lives and daily routine that is within their ability. There are many such women and their children now living at Her Farm and thriving there. We now have a waiting list for other women wanting to graduate from institutional care to farm living. The April 2015 earthquakes destroyed some of the housing at Her Farm so our capacity is now limited, and we are currently out of space to accept more women. We are hoping to rectify that soon and create the additional housing needed to accomodate the 10plus women and children currently waiting to move to Her Farm. 

Rana
Rana
New Arrivals (on left)
New Arrivals (on left)
Providing food to the villagers
Providing food to the villagers

There are 16 women living and working at Her Farm right now. Though they were also badly shaken by the April 25th earthquake, and Her Farm had sustained considerable damage as well, they jumped into action for the entire Mankhu community. Teams were sent out to assess damages in the village and phone calls were made to arrange to bring truckloads of food and tarpulins for the immediate needs of the entire village. Within a day these women had arranged for food and temporary shelter supplies for the entire village. Her Farm quickly became the hub of support and information for the entire community. A solar system was obtained and put to use for villagers to charge cell phones so they could contact relatives in other villages. An inventory of who needed what was compiled and all arrangements made to get the most necessary items to the village asap. Six families moved into housing at Her Farm as they'd lost their homes and a number of young girls from the village were brought to Her Farm with a request from the parents to look after them until they could arrange for shelter. These women were the rock of the community and selflessly gave their all to secure the needs of everyone in the village.

Be sure to visit the link below for video of the earthquake and the women of Her Farm in action providing help. You may also visit www.herfarmnepal.org and meet the women of Her Farm. 

Links:

 

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Organization Information

The Mountain Fund

Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.mountainfund.org
Project Leader:
Scott MacLennan
International Director
Sandia Park, NM United States

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