My Experience in Chepang Community Mapping
Registering my profile in 2019-05-20 in OpenStreetMap, I started my journey in OSM. During this 2 year period, I took part in lots of programs. Recently I got an opportunity for the fieldwork of OSM “Trails and Community Infrastructure Mapping and Field Survey of Raksirang and Kailash Rural Municipality,” prioritizing the Chepang community. The Chepang community, also known as “Praja, is one of the highly marginalized indigenous nationalities and resource-poor tribes of Nepal [NCA, 2013]. According to the Census of 2011 A.D, Chepangs hold a population of 52,237 constituting 0.23% of the total population of Nepal. This project is about mapping the marginalized Chepang communities for their upliftment and solving their deep-rooted problem via digital mapping.
Field Team for Chepang Community Mapping Lead by Rabi Shrestha under the mentorship of Saurav Gautam.
On 24th Oct. 2021, I started my journey towards Makawanpur for the field. My mind was swinging thinking about what would happen during mapping, how to face the people, and how the local officials would react to our work. Such questions were playing in my mind. Finally, I reached the destination and met with the team members. The next morning, dividing our work, I, with my friend Bimal, reached Ward-3 of Kailash Rural Municipality. The road taking us to the ward office was so narrow and dangerous. I, living in that ward for two days, experienced that the life of people was so miserable. While taking the data of Chepangs, I felt so sad listening to their problems. Most of the people are under the line of poverty, with no appropriate house to live in, not enough food to eat, not enough money to do anything, nor are they literate. The major problems I saw there were polygamy and child-marriage. I was wandering under the nature of that community and came to the point that although they are gifted by the beauty of nature, remoteness and poverty are chasing them.
Condition of houses on which they cook food at the under room
and sleep in the upper part.
One thing that directly touched me: Chepangs are only poor by money but they are rich by heart. Despite being cheated by everything either in education, health, transport, etc. They never try to cheat others by themselves. Their way of respecting the guests was so remarkable. I was worried about where to have food and live during the time in the field but they shared everything- food, and their small house to live in, thinking of us as GUESTS OF GOD. People themselves have made small hydropower sources nearby from where the supply of electricity was possible for more than 100 houses. From that, I came to know that if we are able to make such small hydropower sources in many places of Nepal, as our country has such small rivers in every place, we will not have any problem with electricity.
After finishing ward 3, we moved to ward 4 crossing the river more than 16 times. That was the same way where every year in that season hundreds of students went to school holding their bags in hand and trying to save their life from the flow of the river. There were no alternatives for them, neither the possibility of a motorbike nor other vehicles. My eyes were able to catch the moment that the people carrying a pregnant (going to be delivered) woman to a nearby health post on the stretchers held on to shoulders for more than 4-5 hrs walking on foot. This shows the real scenario of the Chepang Community.
We went to many schools, government offices, police stations, health posts, and so on. There was no one who didn't help us. The principal of every school had helped us in collecting data of students and every official helped us. On finishing mapping of Kailash Rural Municipality. I went with my friend to Rakshirang Rural Municipality. In that place also the people were keen to help us. The ward president had provided his own personal motorbike to carry out mapping in that ward.
“We work the whole day in our field and grow millet, banana, ginger, potato and so on but the businessmen come here and take our items at a lower price and sell the same things gaining lots of profit in the market”, one of the local people said. In my opinion, this might be the main problem of being under the line of poverty. In 8 days, I get everything: the real meaning of life, the real scenario of people, how poverty and remoteness hit the person. As they think of us as guests, I think them so great and come to the conclusion that "Man is great by heart not by wealth”.
On mapping in such a community and in such a remote area, I collected lots of experiences. Such mapping helps the people to uplift their status one day. Any organization that is working for the welfare of indigenous groups of people of the world will know the place after it is digitized on a map. Organizations like Shangrila (a Swiss organization working in the health and education sector of the Chepang Community) will emerge and provide them with everything in the future, and their poverty will be eliminated.
About the Author:
Sunil is an undergraduate student of Geomatics Engineering at Tribhuvan University, Institute of Engineering, Pashchimanchal Campus Pokhara Nepal. He is always keen to learn new things and is a geospatial enthusiastic person. He is an active volunteer at HOT, an active OSM contributor, and has also worked as a vice-president at Geomatics Engineering Students' Association of Nepal (GESAN) for the year 2020/21.