In dZi’s partnership with mountain communities, everyone has a part to play. Whether helping dig a trench for a new drinking water system, joining a parent-teacher association, or donating surplus lumber to build a new school, each family contributes to the prosperity of their village. And in each community, there are those who are especially dedicated to creating lasting change. In the village of Sotang, Solukhumbu District, Dhan Bahadur Basnet has been a constant champion for his community. A local farmer and leader, Dhan’s tireless work has helped make Sotang an example for what is possible when a community is empowered to build the future they envision.
"After being involved in numerous dZi trainings, sometimes as a trainer and sometimes as a participant, I used to go back and sit my family down and teach them the skills. This changed our family's mindset."
As dZi began to develop our unique model in the aftermath of Nepal’s Civil War, Sotang was one of the first community partners. With dilapidated water systems, inadequate education infrastructure, and few opportunities to earn income locally, people had little hope of a life beyond subsistence farming. To build local capacity and create sustainable employment, Dhan and other residents of Sotang founded the Solukhumbu Development Society (SDS), a partner NGO that dZi worked with to implement community projects. During his time with SDS, Dhan helped manage budgets and finances, mobilized his friends and neighbors to help in the community development process, and worked with dZi staff to share new agricultural insights with fellow subsistence farmers.
Dhan was responsible for learning and disseminating agricultural and entrepreneurial skills to local farmers and tried to enact as much of the information as he could in his own life. "After being involved in numerous dZi trainings, sometimes as a trainer and sometimes as a participant, I used to go back and sit my family down and teach them the skills. This changed our family's mindset. After I left my job with SDS, I jumped into full-time farming. Now, we have started a livestock farm with hundreds of chickens. I grow bananas, oranges, tomatoes, cauliflowers, cabbages, and chilies. My entire family cares for them.” Using the knowledge he absorbed during dZi training, Dhan’s family farm now brings in more than 50,000 NPR ($377 USD) each month – a significant increase in income.
Dhan’s confidence and self-belief were growing along with his financial security. After attending tomato production training, he spent four seasons trying to grow a viable crop. Tomatoes had never been cultivated in Sotang before, but through careful attention and consultation with dZi’s agriculture staff, he finally got it right. It was an unprecedented feat, and it gave Dhan the confidence that he could begin to grow the high-value cash crops that can transform a subsistence farmer into a successful entrepreneur. He now grows many plant varieties. His dedication to researching each crop, building relationships with nearby business owners, and understanding how to market his produce makes him confident he can succeed.
Thinking back to his first days of dZi’s partnership, he realizes the greatest gift for Sotang’s residents is to learn how to identify and articulate their collective needs.
When Dhan reflects on the last fifteen years, he is astounded by the sheer volume of changes he has witnessed. Thinking back to his first days of dZi’s partnership, he realizes the greatest gift for Sotang’s residents is to learn how to identify and articulate their collective needs. The community had been oblivious to what they needed for a long time and didn’t have the experience to craft a proposal for the projects they would like to implement. Dhan and his neighbors learned quickly, and he chuckles that, today, the local government office is swamped with request proposals for development projects.
Once the people of Sotang could identify the changes they wanted to see, they started working with dZi to design projects that would improve local health, education, and livelihoods. Quickly, things began to change. Toilets were built for nearly every house in the village – improving community health and helping people spend more time at work or school and less time recovering from illness. School Management Committees and parent-teacher associations were activated in each community school, providing support and accountability to teachers, parents, and administrators. And in remote neighborhoods that were traditionally underserved, "dZi treated communities with less population equally and helped erect school structures regardless of the number of children studying.”
As of 2022, dZi has completed all planned projects in Sotang and is preparing to hand over support to the local government. After nearly fifteen years of partnership, the community has reached sustainable prosperity and no longer needs the support of dZi’s staff. For all that Dhan has contributed, he believes the key to accomplishing Sotang’s goals has been the contribution of community members. Dhan hopes that the new year will usher in yet more progress and prosperity for his neighbors and family. He is proud of his community’s work with dZi, and is excited to enjoy the prosperity, capacity, and opportunity in Sotang for years to come.
Pictures taken by Sitaram Thapa Magar (Samip).