Between March 14-24 the Common Feedback Project (CFP) deployed enumerators through its partner organisation Nepal Development Research Institute (NDRI) to collect community perception surveys on the theme of food security and livelihoods.
Eighty-one percent of respondents reported that they were able to meet their daily food needs. This is an increase of 27 percent over the last round of food security and livelihood survey, completed in June 2016. A majority of respondents’ report growing half (31 percent) or less than half (32 percent) of their required food themselves. Focus group discussions held in Ramechhap, Dolakha and Gorkha to triangulate findings, indicated that lack of appropriate food, seed or grain storage is a major reason for respondents not producing more of their own food supplies. Respondents stated that a lack of storage options meant they were forced to sell excess food and then purchase food in the lean season. Damage to food, seed or grain storage was also highlighted by survey respondents as one of the primary damages they suffered as a result of the earthquake.
Fifty-four percent of respondents reported facing obstacles to livelihood recovery, citing lack of job opportunities, insufficient resources to begin a new livelihood and lack of skills as principle barriers. Forty-six percent of these respondents planned to or have already taken loans in order to support their livelihood recovery.
Once again, water emerges as a top concern for respondents. Lack of access to sufficient water resources has been consistently raised as a problem in all community perception surveys, including those around Reconstruction, Protection and Food Security and Livelihoods. It is raised as a major barrier to livelihood recovery. Not only does the lack of water hamper agricultural activities, but female respondents have cited long traveling times to collect water as a burden on their productive capacity that takes away from time that could be spent on incoming generating activities.
Minor changes were observed in livelihood strategies pre- and post-earthquake. In fact, a slight increase in the reliance on agriculture, from 64 to 69 percent was recorded. Surprisingly, the emphasis on masonry, both in terms of skills respondents were hoping to develop (5 percent) and changes in livelihood strategy post-earthquake, were limited. Focus group discussions revealed concerns that while masonry may be a profitable livelihood strategy now, it was not sustainable as there would be limited work once the reconstruction was finished. Instead, respondents’ main focus in terms of skills they would like to develop in support of their livelihood was on new farming techniques (44 percent).
Investment in rehabilitation of water sources and supply will potentially have the greatest positive impact on earthquake affected communities, across multiple sectors. Currently lack of water is impeding reconstruction because households cannot make mud or concrete; livelihoods because of reduced productive time as a result of long distances to travel or collect water and lack of irrigation potential; protection because of reported conflict over scarce water resources and requirements for women to travel while it is dark to collect water; and finally, health and sanitation.
Access to affordable finance must be improved. With 25 percent of total respondents taking loans to cope with livelihood losses, concerted effort must be made to ensure that unrealistic repayment terms and rate of loans do not create crippling economic consequences for individuals or communities over the long term.
Livelihood recovery investments, including in skills development and training, should consider a strong focus on agriculture as agriculture is the top livelihood strategy (69 percent of respondents) and development of new farming skills and techniques is the most desired skill by respondents to enhance their livelihoods (44 percent).
Reconstruction initiatives should not overlook the importance of restoring grain, seed, or food storage for families, as both the survey and focus group discussions revealed that lack of appropriate food storage has meant communities are less likely to be able to consume all of the food they grow, and instead must sell excess and purchase food in lean seasons.