Earthquake in Nepal devastates lives and small businesses

Apr 30, 2015

Ram Chandra Neupane's hard-fought poultry business, that he built over 10 years with UNDP support, was destroyed by Nepal's earthquake. Photo: Narayan Parajuli/UNDP Nepal

Bidur, Nepal—About 10 years ago, Ram Chandra Neupane worked hard to lift his family out of poverty. His small poultry business afforded him and his extended family a decent living. Then in a flash last week, it all fell apart. 

Last Saturday was typically slow. It was close to noon, and Neupane was taking a break, napping on the ground floor of his two-story house. That’s when the powerful, 7.8 magnitude, earthquake hit the mid-hills of Nepal. As his cot rocked violently, Neupane instinctively ducked underneath for cover.

As tremors continued, clay and stone walls started to tumble, and then the whole house came crumbling down. He said, he was buried in rubble up to his neck.

The quake not only destroyed his house, it also left his poultry business in ruins, killing 600 of the 1000 chickens in his flock. He had nurtured the business after participating in a Micro Enterprise Development Programme aimed at alleviating poverty, run jointly by the Government of Nepal and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), with funding from the Australian government. Now Neupane feels it could all be for nothing.  

When the tremors finally stopped, Neupane heard people yelling. He also heard one of his nieces crying. She thought he was dead. He said, he summoned all his strength and cried for help.

Eventually, people heard him. They clawed and dug through the rubble, and after a frantic 10 minutes, managed to pull him out. Neupane sustained minor injuries to his legs and an elbow.

Neighbours rushed him to a nearby hospital, where his wounds were treated. Later that day, he returned to his broken village, to reunite with family and neighbors who were still in shock, despairing about where they would spend the nights ahead.

Nepuane’s hometown of Bidur is located in Nuwakot district, one of 11 districts worst affected by the earthquake.

"Not only my home, but nearly all the villagers have lost their homes,” said Neupane, who is the general secretary of the National Micro Entrepreneurs' Federation of Nepal, which is a national federation of micro entrepreneurs that have been trained by the UNDP supported programme. He added that over 60 per cent of the 2,100 micro entrepreneurs in the district had lost their livelihoods too.

In the shadow of that devastation, he feels his future is shattered.

“I have lost whatever I had earned since I became an entrepreneur,” said Neupane, adding that he feels like all the benefits gained through the Micro Enterprise programme were lost. 

But Nabina Shrestha, a programme officer with UNDP’s Poverty and Inclusion unit, said that while physical losses are significant and painful, the business knowledge imparted by the programme remains intact, giving its beneficiaries the advantage to bounce right back. 

Even as it assesses losses suffered by its beneficiaries, the Micro Enterprise Development Programme is in ongoing discussions with the Australian government to divert resources to immediately help the small entrepreneurs rebuild their businesses.

“While we assess the situation, we are simultaneously working to provide rapid recovery and rehabilitation support, to put these small entrepreneurs back in business, as soon as possible,” said UNDP’s Nabina Shrestha.

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