​EU and Finnish Ambassadors visit FCA projects in Nepal

FCA hosted the Ambassadors of Finland and the EU to Nepal, during a trip to visit Nepal’s Far West. They visited free Kamaiya and Kamlaris (ex-bonded labourers) and witnessed progress made by the communities toward self- sufficiency and increased incomes.

AMBASSADOR OF FINLAND to Nepal, Ms Riina-Riika Heikka and Ambassador of the European Union to Nepal, Ms Nona Deprez, saw the varied activities ex-bonded labourers undertake to generate or supplement their incomes. These included vegetable farming, pig rearing and tailoring, supported by FCA with funding from the Finnish government.

Two woman smile in a photo. They are both wearing large necklaces
The Ambassador of Finland to Nepal, Riina-Riika Heikka during a visit to FCA projects in Nepal. Photo: Deepika Naidu

They were also impressed by the impact FCA distributed bicycles had on farmers’ ability to transport their goods to market, decreasing their reliance on middlemen.

Said Ms Heikka, “I think what has impressed me the most is FCA’s work with women and women’s economic empowerment and linking it also to advocacy work.

But being very concrete on bringing sustainable solutions to the communities and also to women and girls, using local expertise, local knowledge and network and a good partner in order to really strive for sustainable solutions for the future.”

Watch Ambassador Heikka’s interview with FCA

Communities in the lead

Working closely with the community has been key in FCA’s success in the region. Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, 52, and his wife Janaki Chaudhary, 48, are a farming couple, who not only serve as representatives for their community but have also made significant strides towards adopting modern farming techniques to increase their yields.

A woman reaches through a trellis to tend a plant in a large field.
Gita Devi Sarki is an ex-bonded labourer from Kholibasti, who also received support from FCA for her vegetable farm. Photo: Uma Bista

Chaudhary was among the participants in an earlier training visit organized by FCA to Chitwan district. During the session, people exchanged knowledge and experience on sustainable farming, including using indigenous resources as pest control.

Since then, he has not only improved the family farm’s yield, but also disseminated the knowledge he gained during the visit to the other members of his community. Chaudhary’s family no longer needs to purchase vegetables from the market as they can produce enough for their own consumption, with a surplus that can be sold in the market to generate income for their household.

A number of people look over a wall into a pig sty
The Ambassadors visited pig farmers in Far West Nepal. Photo: Deepika Naidu

Another income-generating activity that ex-bonded laborers have undertaken with the support of FCA is pig farming. This project has helped the community members to rear pigs and sell them in the local market.

Tailoring is another initiative that FCA has undertaken to support ex-bonded laborers. Salina Chaudhary was one of the recipients of tailoring training in 2020.

A woman inspects a piece of clothing on a table.
Salina Chaudhary in her tailoring shop. Salina gives tailoring training after receiving tailoring training from FCA Nepal in 2020. Photo: Uma Bista

Three years later she now operates her own tailoring business and trains other women in her community. The Ambassadors were impressed with the quality and variety of clothes Salina and her trainees make. Moreover, they recognised the tremendous impact that the project has had on the communities, as it has facilitated the development of valuable skills through the training programs.

Finally, the Ambassadors visited a community group called REFLECT. The FCA supported project is an approach to adult literacy and empowerment which uses participatory learning methods to promote dialogue and critical thinking among community members, enabling them to identify and address their social, economic, and political issues.

“I think the most important thing for me has been to witness the warmth of the people and the atmosphere of going forward and really the atmosphere of movement,” concluded Ms Heikka.

Text: Deepika Naidu