ChewangGyalmoGhale, after providing her services to the project supported model house, has already started to receive demands from fellow villagers. She is now building her own house with stones cut by her.
In the freezing windy conditions of the remote hilly area of Goljung in Rasuwa, it is a remarkable sight to see a woman operating a stone cutting machine at a construction site. She is ChewangGyalmoGhale with her newly acquired stone cutting machine.
Ghale and her husband are subsistence farmers. With occasional jobs as porters in trekking season or any labor work they can find, they have no other source of income. They eat whatever they can produce in their six ropanis of land and save from whatever they make from their temporary jobs. They barely make it through.
Rebuilding their house that was completely damaged by the earthquake is out of the question. They are now living in a leaky temporary shelter with tin for roofs and wooden planks for walls. With a two-year-old son NimaChewangTamang, and the elder one, NimaNorbuTamang, 7, starting primary schooling next year, an alternative source of income has become a must.
Fortunately, this is when Ghale came across the opportunity to invest in the stone cutting machine. She was attending an awareness program organized by Practical Action on Demand Aggregation model, a model that seeks to help earthquake-affected people, especially of the rural hilly areas, to procure quality construction materials in lesser rates than the market. The program was also promoting an opportunity to invest in a stone cutting machine as part of the organization’s objective to promote simple technologies through local enterprise to help reduce the cost of building houses.
A majority of the people in the northern remote hills prefer to build stone houses as bricks are inaccessible and in many case unaffordable. The stone cutting machine will help reduce the cost of building a house by 30% as the labor cost to prepare corner stones and through stones, now mandatory in stone masonry houses after the earthquake, is too expensive and time consuming. A labor can produce upto maximum seven corner stones in a day while a stone cutting can produce upto 70 corner stones.
“I was told about the machine. How it’s used for cutting stone and how it could be profitable. That’s when I decided to invest in it,” said Ghale with a smile.
This was a lucrative deal. She had to invest Rs. 100,000, 40 % of the total cost of the machine. The rest would be covered by the organization. This could turn out to become a steady source of income for Ghale. And why not? Many people in her village and the surrounding rural areas predominantly want to rebuild their houses with stones as bricks are very difficult to access and too expensive.
But it wasn’t as easy as said for Ghale. Women doing a “man’s job” is always frowned upon anywhere in Nepal and choosing a non-traditional path is always challenging. Cutting stones was easy; it was cutting through conformity that was the difficult part. “My neighbors and relatives said it wasn’t a job for women. Everyone thought it was not a wise idea to invest in the machine. But lot of people need to rebuild their houses and I think I can make profit from this investment,” said Ghale.
ChewangGhale has never backed down from a challenge. At the age of 27, she has enrolled in Shree Parwati Kunda Uchcha Madhyamik Bidhyalaya for her higher education ten years after she completed her School Leaving Certificate. Now, as the challenge arises to provide better for her family, she took up the opportunity presented to her and invested in the machine.
Funded by UKAID, the new machine is more mobile and is operational in a single phase electric line. Ghale, after receiving technical support and training on operating the machine, has now started to provide her service in the neighboring vicinities. She transports the machine to construction sites where she can cut the stones at the site itself. She charges Rs. 1,000 as labor charge for cutting the stones and Rs.1,500 for the use of the machine.
Ghale, after providing her services to the project supported model house, has already started to receive demands from fellow villagers. She is now building her own house with stones cut by her.
From Practical Action