Changing the future of 72,000 youngsters in remote Nepal

October 24, 2014

Our Adolescent Development and Participation programme alongside UNICEF in Nepal is on track to help 72,000 young people in six of Nepal’s poorest districts escape a future of poverty. 

Renewable World has installed four renewable energy systems as showcase technology and is working with UNICEF, Restless Development and Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) to invest significantly in teaching 10-19 year olds livelihood skills, micro-enterprise training and vocational training. Our goal is to give these young people the skills and energy to power themselves and their families out of poverty.

In the rural parts of Nepal where Renewable World is working, less than 35% of rural households have access to electricity, and in the few areas where grid electricity is available, the poorest cannot afford access. There is also limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities, with open defecation, contaminated water and poor hygiene linked to a high incidence of ill health and premature death.

Many communities here depend upon subsistence farming for their livelihoods. The low food production levels mean that poor nutrition and food insecurity are major concerns and half of children under five are malnourished.

Because of the need to collect fuel and water education is not a priority in these areas and the literacy rate in Nepal’s South and South East, reaches just 48%.

This lack of energy, and shortfall in livelihood skills, drives poverty and impacts on lives and entire communities.

Children and young people, especially  girls, between ages 10-19 are particularly at risk, many enter child marriages, face exploitation and human trafficking. With limited prospects in their villages they often migrate to seek opportunities elsewhere, further placing them into vulnerable situations. This creates a drain in communities and endangers young people, as under skilled and vulnerable they often end up living precariously, far from family and friends.

Our programme is designed to offer young people an alternative and a chance to create wealth, improve health and increase food production close to friends and family in their communities. The goal remains to keep adolescents, especially girls, in school and help them become valuable and productive members of their families and communities.

We are developing the livelihood skills of  adolescents aged 10-14, teaching them about how renewable energy provides income, explaining  climate change and its impacts on rural life and introducing them to the basics of enterprise development. With 14-19 year olds we are giving more advanced enterprise training and providing the opportunity for them to set up their own micro enterprises linked to renewable energy, services and credit.

In order to teach students with varying levels of literacy we have developed teaching methods based on visual learning, play and performance with the aid of our implementing partner Chance for Change. The learning takes place at child clubs. In the next phase we will travel to reach 2,500 very remote vulnerable and out-of-school youngsters and 50 teachers using Yurts as portable classrooms.

The four showcase pieces of renewable technology we have installed allow students to learn about the functioning of the technology, how to install it and how energy can create opportunities for improved livelihoods.

Two of these showcase sights are based in the Muslim community of Saptari. Here villagers depended upon expensive fossil fuel and dung cake to meet their energy demand, spending up to 8 hours daily collecting firewood. Now the 68 members of this community get their fuel from a community biogas plant, saving themselves from the huge health risks associated with indoor cooking on stoves, with household air pollution responsible for 4 million premature deaths annually.

The biogas digester is fed by cow dung and other waste products so the community here is now totally self-sufficient in terms of energy. The slurry by-product is used as fertiliser for agriculture, increasing food productivity.

A solar water pump has also been installed in Saptari, to provide water for the biogas plant as well as to the school, households and a community fishpond.

The successful Saptari installations are a testament to the value of renewable energy in rural Nepal, demonstrating its beneficial impacts upon health, sanitation and livelihoods. By training and empowering the young generation to work with and profit from renewable technology we are giving them an opportunity to build a new future for themselves and their communities.

Read more about our work in South Asia