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Nepal: Life Is Sweet For Ex-Road Builder

Transport links in remote areas of Nepal are poor, making it hard for people to get their produce to market. A WFP project to build a road opened up new horizons for one construction worker turned entrepreneur.

by Seetashma Thapa

KATHMANDU -- Four years ago Jit Bahadur Pun worked as a construction worker, building a 20km stretch of new road in the remote Salyan district of western Nepal. Now he runs a sweet shop and a roadside travel lodge and he credits a WFP project with paving the way for his success.

“Without the WFP road project here, I would have never done so well,” he said. “It has completely reshaped my life, and helped rebuild the lives of others”.

Jit worked on the road building project, part of a WFP Food-for-Assets programme, for three years. Each day he worked he received an allowance of rice for his family. He then went to the capital, Kathmandu, and trained to be a cook. After completing his training he returned to the village of Marke and opened a sweet shop using his skills.

Sweet Shop

“The sweet shop became very popular, as this was the first of its kind in the area,” he said. “I can prepare 12 different varieties of sweets and 175 different foods. People come to buy from me during weddings and festivals.”

The road, which runs from Marke to Rampur, is aimed at making it easier for villagers to get their produce to market. Once it was completed, Jit opened a travel lodge. “It has been two years now, and many passengers stop to spend the night,” he said. “I make between 50,000 and 100,000 Nepalese Rupees ($US 600-1,200) a month now. This road has been very helpful for my business and for others as well.”

Once a week, a market opens around Jit’s lodge. Now considering himself a businessman, he says: “My dream is to now start a dairy here.”

Food supplies

The Salyan hill district suffered during a long conflict between the government and Maoist rebels. Damage was done to water supplies, health centers, schools, and roads. Although the conflict has ended, poor roads, blockades and transport strikes can prevent key commodities from reaching needy populations. High food prices, coupled with harsh weather conditions, have pushed many people to the brink of starvation.

WFP-Nepal has implemented the Food-for-Asset (FFA) project in several districts with the aim of improving access to food supplies and providing job opportunities. Currently, 5,250 beneficiaries working on FFA activities receive four kilos of rice per day by. The project ensures that women and members from different ethnic groups also benefit.