Nepal was HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation’s first partner country back in 1956. The Himalayan state provided an important learning experience for our development work. Small-scale early dairy and hill farming projects have developed into a very diverse country programme.

After the earthquake

In January 2016 after the devastating earthquake* in Nepal, the preparations for reconstruction are on at full speed. Together with Solidar Suisse, Helvetas will reconstruct around 1,000 earthquake-resistant houses for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families. We will also re-build 40 water supply systems that shall provide safe drinking water to around 3,000 households. Towards this, 1,320 local craftsmen are being trained in earthquake-resistant construction. They shall become an important  force that replicates safe construction practices, as demonstrated by Helvetas, in the entire region.

The processing plants and irrigation systems of 50 coffee-cooperatives that we work with, have been destroyed by the earthquake. Helvetas is supporting the cooperatives to re-build this infrastructure and to restart their economic activities.  Together with Caritas, we are also rebuilding 34 schools. Our emergency aid activities were concluded by the end of August. Immediately after the earthquake, we distributed tarpaulins, blankets, water bottles, mosquito nets, water purification kits, sanitary products, kitchenware and other urgent necessities to around 15,000 families. In coordination with the government and other actors, Helvetas focused its emergency support in Sindhupalchok and Gorkha districts which were close to the epicentre and most seriously affected. Helvetas has been working in these districts and has a good understanding of the needs and strong relationships with the communities. The reconstruction activities are focussed around Sindhupalchok.

*On April 25th, 2015 an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale devastated large parts of Nepal. This was followed by several after shocks.  Over 9,000 people lost their lives and around 900,000 were rendered homeless.

A solid partnership for over 60 years

More than 6,000 suspension bridges testify to the productive collaboration between Switzerland and Nepal. Both earthquakes from 25th April and 12th May also damaged some of the built suspension bridges. It is planned to repair or rebuild 68 damaged bridges in 14 highly affected districts by the end of 2017. Building rural infrastructure is just one of the strong points of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation’s work in Nepal, others being water projects, the sustainable management and use of natural resources, and professional training.
Nepalese local authorities learn how to better conserve and use their water resources, from establishing drinking water supplies to building latrines and simple, efficient irrigation techniques. These projects are planned and implemented jointly with the local population, fostering a spirit of democracy and participatory decision-making in village life. Specialist work is carried out by local craftsmen, which creates jobs.
HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation helps smallholder farmers to improve their often precarious living conditions. Thanks to better farming methods and soil conservation, they are able to increase their yields and can market part of their crop. One opportunity for landless people is to grow vegetables in seasonally dried-out riverbeds. Coffee farmers have been able to access national markets by converting to organic production.
One major contribution to Nepal’s development is through vocational training of young people. They are taught the skills they need for the future during compact training courses that are continuously adapted to the job market. Young professionals receive support to get a foot in the job market until they have managed to set up their own small business or found work.

Scaling new heights

Much has improved in Nepal since the 2006 peace agreement brought the bloody civil war to an end. While 53% of the population lived in poverty in 2003/04, this had been reduced to 5% by 2010/11. Yet there is still a long way to go until the country settles into a stable future.
After ten years of civil war, the political parties and Maoist rebels signed a peace agreement in November 2006. Nepal is on the way to becoming a democratic republic, but the road is a bumpy one. Disadvantaged groups are now demanding their rights, but the urban elite is trying to keep their power and privileges. End of 2013 new elections for a constituent assembly were held. The result was a government reshuffle with a different majority ratio. In September 2015 a new constitution was adopted which will provide greater stability and confidence.
The war drove the Nepalese economy to the brink of ruin and it has only developed hesitantly in recent years. The main reasons for this are political instability, a lack of infrastructure and bad working conditions. Rising food prices have also hit people hard, threatening the livelihood of families that have only recently climbed out of poverty.
Many Nepalis have lost all hope in their country over the last 15 years. There is hardly any vocational training, so young people have little chance of finding a good job. Hundreds of thousands have emigrated to India, Malaysia or the Gulf States to work as labourers, and their remittances have become a pillar of the Nepalese economy.
Tourism is once more on the up and creating jobs, yet most people still earn their living as smallholder farmers. Agriculture suffers from a lack of investment and seasonal water shortages. Often the harvest is only just sufficient for the family to survive. Without any income of their own, they cannot improve their prospects.

Reference projects in Nepal

A Bridge for the People of Kumpur

HELVETAS Germany builds a bridge for the people of Kumpur. Thanks to this bridge, all villagers will have a better access to nearby markets and health centers. Because the trail bridge allows for crossing with motorbikes and animals, ...

Riverbed Farming for the landless in Nepal

The number of landless and land-poor people in Nepal is high and increasing. The main objective of this project is to raise the income of these households. They are supported to engage in horticulture cultivation on the common lands ...

How latrines became a status symbol in Nepal

The inhabitants of Ghanteshwor in western Nepal are proud of their village, for it has as many toilets as houses. For the villagers this means they can live in dignity and good health; for the latrine-builders, it means a secure ...
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  • Poverty rate

    15 % of the population lives on less than $1.90/day
  • UN Development Index

    144. rank of 188
Source: UNDP Human Development Report 2016
  • Working fields

    • Vocational Education
    • Food Security and Production for markets
    • Environment and Climate Change
    • Good Governance
    • Integrated Water Resources Management