Chheskam lies 18 miles to the east of Solukhumbu district headquarters of Salleri – the site of the nearest airport and hospital. Chheskam is now connected to Salleri and other parts of Nepal through a rough road network. From Salleri, a day of driving through the winding dusty roads will take us to the heart of Chheskam.
A panoramic view of the village of Chheskam. Click here to see in dermander.
People from Kulung, Sherpa, Kami and Nepali community live in Chheskam. The majority of residents are from the indigenous Kirant Kulung group. Here, the Kulung language is spoken primarily, and is rarely found outside of Cheskam and the immediate surroundings.
The Kulung community is traditionally animistic, practicing a form of nature worship in which shamans or spirit mediums play a central role. Accordingly, there are a number of local traditions and festivals – Chakchakur, Tosh, Mundhum, and Deudam – that are not celebrated anywhere else in the country.
In the very center of the community, there is a holy forest where pople are not allowed to enter except on auspicious occasions, and then only to worship. The belief is that should the forest spirit be angered (through people littering, cutting down trees, etc) a tiger will emerge from the forest and wreak havoc upon the community, and devour local livestock.
Chheskam is also known for the local production of ‘allo’ cloth – a natural and durable fiber woven from a stinging nettle plant. Allo plays an important ritual role in Kulung culture, and has started to find a market outside of Cheskam for clothes and decoration.
While the geographic border of Chheskam stretches up to the Chinese border and includes a number of massive Himalayan peaks, the actual population encompasses only 850 households with a population of around 3500 people.
Chheskam has much of its uninhabited area as part of the Makalu Barun National Park. This is the only protected area in Nepal that does not use military force for its protection, but works with local people to conserve its rich biological and cultural diversity.
There are 7 schools and a sub health post here, and the primary occupation is subsistence farming. Hard currency is scarce, and many people migrate to find work. A majority of youth work as seasonal porters, hotel staff, or helpers in the trekking industry in the prosperous Everest region – about a two day walk away.
dZi has been working in Chheskam since 2012. The community has exhibited an extremely high level of motivation and investment in project work to date. In 2015, Chheskam will become the first community in Nepal to have 100% of households with an ‘Eco-San’ or urine-diversion toilet. This technology will give rise to a robust agricultural industry and also help the community members of Chheskam in their goal to become an ‘Eco-Village.’