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April 26, 2015.The last strong tremor occurred around midday and right after we took the motorbike to go to the village. Along the road we come across several villages. The houses are all closed and shops’ shutters drawn down, they are like ghost villages. Far from the buildings people are sitting on the road and are only meagerly protected from the elements by improvised tents. People are too afraid to go back inside the houses. Since yesterday people have been living on the road or the fields next to their homes. The power of the earthquake’s first tremor is still very fresh in people’s minds.
Veering off the Priviti highway, the main road that connects Kathmandu and Pokhara, we enter Ghorka‘s district. The further we travel, the more the damage from the earthquake becomes evident. Ten kilometers before Ghorka city we take left onto a gravel road. About half an hour later Tikaram, my colleague and friend, tells me to pull over and stop. We are in front of a stable of which only half a roof remains from its previous structure. We park the motorbike and start walking; we are now in Mirkot’s VDC (Village Development Committee). We cross the little creek that runs alongside the village and then we follow the path uphill. Suddenly, Tikaram points to a little forest which borders the path and tells me “Eh Arjun, you see this forest? Ten years ago there was no forest”. Puzzled, I wonder why and he explains that a lot of people have left the village since they prefer to live in the city, in India or the in the Terai (Nepal’s lowland plains). The path continues uphill and the forest gives way to a landscape of hillside terraces, recently planted with rice and corn. At some point the path led us in front of two houses belonging to the village of Lapshishour. The inhabitants of the two houses are sitting in front them and are staring blankly at their houses; it is very hot at that time. Both houses are evidently damaged, but still standing. The metal roofs are intact but the thick stone walls, bonded with cement and soil and plastered with red colored soil are cracked.
I ask if it would be possible to go inside the buildings to have a look. A tiny wooden staircase brings me up to a small balcony on the first floor. The floor is full of stones, dust and plaster flakes. A big hole, one meter high and almost two meters wide, allows the light to enter the rooms which, until then, had been used as bedrooms and storage rooms. From outside the buildings almost looked good, from inside, however, they are devastated. The inner walls have collapsed; the beds are covered in debris under which only the corners of the bed frame can be seen. Six quintals of rice and three quintals of maize are entirely covered by dust and big stones. The conditions are similar in the adjacent building, just that in this building not even the door of the bedroom and storage room can be opened. The next harvest, and consequently period of income and food availability, is going to be in almost three months. We have to return to the valley before it gets dark. While we are walking with Tikaram we discuss the fate of the little village and its 100 residents. He thinks the earthquake marks the end of this community. At the village down in the valley the people invite us to drink tea and they tell us how violent the first tremor was.
I was at the farm when the first earthquake struck the day before, and it caused the water from the water storage tank next to which we were working tip and spill. It was supposed to be a happy day; we were harvesting cow horns with inside the BD500 preparation, a treasure for those who practice bio-dynamic farming. About one hour after the first tremor there was a second very strong earthquake. Our neighbor Gimre, who came to help us that day, literally jumped as far as possible from the water tank and held onto my arm squeezing it strongly through the shaking. We still did not realize how bad the situation was in the rest of the country. Right after lunch we heard the first news. I contacted a friend who was traveling toward Kathmandu and he described a destroyed city in chaos. Tremors continued throughout the night. The next morning, same as every other normal working day, the farm workers came punctually at 5.45, since the work day begins at 6 o’clock. At 10 o’clock after the daily breakfast meal of daal baat tarkari (lentils, rice and vegetables) the workers left to take care of their houses, belongings and families since they expected more earthquakes. Tikaram, the farm’s manager, was able to get in touch with his mother who lives in a village not far from the earthquake’s epicenter, about 20 km. Her house was partly destroyed. I proposed Tikaram to take the motorbike to pay a visit to his mother’s village, it was almost midday.
In Nepal and in the area affected by the earthquake there are many villages such as Lapshishour. Right now all the attention is turned toward Kathmandu and highly populated residential areas. Rural areas and their inhabitants have not been not considered much by media as remote are very difficult to reach. Time for reconstruction is likely to be long and the rainy season is forthcoming. What will become of the smallholder farmers and the inhabitants of remote areas who rely almost fully on their own harvests and energies to survive?