I recently had a chance to travel to Dubung village for filming a documentary about a micro grid project based on the 5P initiative (Pro Poor Public Private Partnership). The village is located in the Tanahun District which lies in the western part of Nepal. Although Dubung is not very far (approx. 25 km) from the district headquarters of Damauli, due to the lack of a proper road designated to the village, we had to take an alternative route which was more than double the distance (approx. 55km) from Damauli.
The road to the village was challenging, and drivers from any other place would have had a hard time in the rough terrain. Our driver, however, was a local and knew the roads well. It was an adventurous trip, but I was worried about the equipment during the ride since it was really bumpy. After four hours we arrived there safely without any equipment being damaged.
The village sits in the middle of two hills which lie on the North and South sides of the village. Dubung village mostly consists of the Magar people who are indigenous to the area.
The micro grid station is located on the Northern hill, and a communications tower is located on the hill in the South. Agriculture is the mainstay of the village. Villagers, apart from working in the fields, have small shops set up in the village. Women are involved in making handicraft products. During the day, they work in the fields, and in the night time, the electrification project has provided them with the opportunity to work at home and gain extra income.
The micro grid project, based on the 5P initiative, involves building a partnership between the private sector, the government, and the public to establish a system through which the project will sustain for a long period of time. The Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC), a part of the government of Nepal and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), worked with Saral Urja Nepal (SUN), a private company based in Kathmandu, to establish a power grid in the village.
The micro grid is operated and maintained by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with a 60-40 stakeholder split, between Saral Urja Nepal (SUN) and the community, respectively. The project has created opportunities for the villagers to start small businesses such as fresh house and cold storage for meat and poultry farms. The project has also created opportunities for the women in the village by giving them the opportunity to work in the night time.
Before the project, the villagers did not have a proper butcher shop. The meat could not be refrigerated, and villagers would have to buy entire chickens. The fresh house has given them options to purchase any amount of meat at any time. The owner, Mr. Bhim Thapa, is also the leader of the local youth club. He wants to prove to the young generation of the village that opportunities can be created in the village itself. One does not need to leave the village to earn money.
The fresh house is one of the enterprises that have been established post project completion.
Buddhi Bal Magar started a poultry farm on the top floor of his house after the electrification project. He sells his poultry to the fresh house and also to villagers. The farm has provided extra earnings for him. Apart from the farm, he also tends to his fields in the day time. The poultry farm has helped Mr. Buddhi Magar and other farmers like him to gain a decent income.
The poultry farm also supports the family during off-seasons in agriculture. Mr. Magar and his wife are the only ones in the family, so having a poultry farm at home is more convenient than working in the fields. If they make enough from poultry, they might not need to tend the fields.
The electrification project has created opportunities for people of all groups and ages. Young students now have no difficulties studying in the night or conducting household chores. Young adults have now been provided an opportunity for establishing their businesses in the village. They may not need to leave their communities in the future for employment.
Electrification has also helped in telecommunications. Before the project, villagers had to travel a few kilometers to a nearby village with electricity to charge their phones. Now, they can charge their phones and use their laptops in their own homes. Internet access through wireless networks means, with a touch of a button on their phones, they can connect with people from all over the world.
As for myself, this documentary had provided me with an opportunity to get to know my country better. The life in the village is drastically different than in Kathmandu. Basic facilities we have in Kathmandu, like transportation, seemed like a privilege in Dubung. I also noticed that this project has helped create progressive thinking among villagers. This way of thinking is particularly important for change to take place. I wish to travel to Dubung in the future to observe the developmental changes.