After the massive earthquake of 2015, the ancient city of Khokana in the southern part of the Kathmandu Valley was devastated. It was the same with the family of Hari Nath Dangol. Like many physical structures in Khokana, Dangol’s ancestral home was destroyed in the earthquake.
“We were unable to rebuild our house on the land where our house was located due to problems with the land ownership certificate,” he shares. Meanwhile, Dangol realized that many families in the area shared his plight, fearing that the wait for reconstruction would set the entire colony back economically.
In their efforts to tackle this bear, Hari Nath Dangol and his two brothers, Jaa and Shiva, started a business using the space left vacant due to the delay in rebuilding the house. The company, named Lachhi, has been promoting local ethnic food, crafts and lifestyle among visitors to the ancient city, including foreigners and Nepalese, for two years, with promising potential. to stimulate the local economy.
Problems leading to ideation
Before the earthquake, the people of Khokana had traditional style houses while most of them made a living from traditional agriculture. There were very few locals who owned their own businesses or had jobs. “As a result, it has become very difficult for the residents to rebuild their homes. They had to opt to sell their arable land to generate funds, ”explains Hari Nath Dangol,“ After months of delay, we also sold our land.
Dangol shares: “But, to make up for the loss of the land, we (three brothers) always wanted to do something. In addition, after the earthquake, we felt that many responsibilities rested on our shoulders, including rebuilding our house, ensuring our professional growth and much more.
As they grappled with all of this, Khokana found himself embroiled in a dispute over the construction of the Kathmandu-Terai expressway. Even today, residents oppose the government’s plan to acquire their land for the ambitious project, fearing that they will once again lose their means of living.
Meanwhile, some residents have taken the initiative to organize the Khokana Tourism Festival-2020 to revive the tourism potential of Khokana devastated by the earthquake. It was in early 2020, just before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the world.
“Fears of losing their livelihood and the possibility of renewal, all of this became a push factor to open up Lachhi during the festival itself,” Dangol said.
Jaa Dangol, the youngest of the trio, had already developed an economic model adapted to the locality as part of her university project. Therefore, the brothers easily decided to turn this into reality immediately, according to Dangol.
During the three days of the festival, Lachhi achieved a turnover of around Rs 400,000. “Soon, the Covid-19 pandemic hit us. Few people are infected here too. For about two months, we shut down the operation completely, ”informs Dangol,“ However, we switched to fast food at that point, targeting local customers, to maintain. ”
As he shares, Lachhi is not making a profit at the moment. Nonetheless, he earns enough to maintain himself. She organizes various events for the promotion of the company.
Family efforts for the community
According to Dangol, the brothers invested around Rs 1 million in the company which they received in compensation for the loss of their land for the accelerated project. Otherwise, they had no money to start the business.
“Therefore, our father and the three of us worked as masons for the construction of this building (where they run the business today). We used all the lumber and bricks that were in usable condition from our destroyed house to build Lachhi.
Even today, Lachhi employs family members and other villagers to serve food etc.
“We want Lachhi to be a local hub, where creative ideas and social ideas are discussed,” Dangol shares, “There are very few shops here that document Khokana village and its culture, and educate visitors about Khokana. We also want to fill this gap.
Currently, Lachhi is working on three ideas: ethnic food, ethnic crafts and ethnic life. It promotes and markets varieties of artisanal hay products, including sukul, hay shoes, knitted bags and clothing such as gunyu-cholos. Most of them are produced by local women.
In addition, Lacchi also markets pure mustard oil from Khokana, local organic rice, vegetables and herbal products. It also allows visitors to experience local activities including oil processing with traditional technology, handicrafts, rice planting and other agricultural activities.
Dangol says his team are now eager to start and promote a community host family in Khokana. “We saw this magnitude very early on, especially after the earthquake. Community foster care can be one of the means of economically empowering residents.
As the people of Khokana do not easily let other people stay in their communities for fear of disrupting the local culture, the Lachhi team works with local youth clubs, women’s groups and the local government, according to Dangol. “We have invited Nepalese and foreign guests and offered them the cultural experience of Khokana at different festivals over the past two years.”
Dangol says he already has a plan for when to do what for visitors. “For example, a day before Mha Puja, another jatra takes place in Khokana. We plan to bring the guests that day and they will stay with the host family until the next day.
“We plan to execute this plan, first selecting around two to three houses in each neighborhood, then setting up their own committee and managing the host family accordingly. We have also informed the local elected representatives of this plan and they have responded positively, ”says Dangol.
It will take a lot of investment to integrate the whole community into the host family. But, it is possible that it will become a reality, believes Dangol.
Prior to that, Lachhi now plans to train residents in the management of host families in collaboration with the parish office.