Women in remote Kalikot villages still engaged in labour-intensive household choresThe rural municipality has been working on upgrading traditional mills and making them affordable to the population.
Mangali Bista, 63, of Kotbada in Naraharinath Rural Municipality has spent five decades hand pounding paddy using a traditional mortar with a pestle. On Monday, she, along with a group of women, was busy husking grains. There is an upcoming wedding in the neighbourhood and the women are busy in the laborious task of hand pounding grains.
“Our hands are mills for us. We don’t have a communal large-scale mortar and pestle in the village, so we have to do it ourselves,” said Bista. That day, the women husked two sacks of paddy using mortars and pestles.
There are two large traditional mortars in Lamapahara of Kotbada. These large-scale mortars are called Jaula Okhal, but the residents of Naraharinath have to travel for two hours on rural roads to use them.
“It’s too much hassle to travel to and fro Lamapahara,” said Bista.
Even though most villages in the rural municipality have electricity and are connected to road networks, women in remote parts of Kalikot are still engaged in labour-intensive work to run their households. Janak Shahi, a member of the Cottage and Small Scale Industries Committee in the district, said 80 percent of the population still uses traditional mills to process rice. According to him, only the residents of a few villages like Tadi, Thirpu, Raskot, Lalu Kuni, Mehelmudi and Chilkhaya have easy access to rice mills in Kalikot.
Manashova Budha, the vice-chairperson of the rural municipality, said locals are compelled to use traditional mortars and pestles because they cannot afford to install modern machinery. The data of the Poor Household Support Coordination Board Secretariat shows 63.9 percent of the total 21,989 households in Kalikot, or 12,433 in number, live below the poverty line. Among them, 5,877 households are extremely poor.
According to the Cottage and Small Scale Industries Committee, every household has a mortar and pestle in Kalikot.
“There are still 4,000 traditional mills still in operation in the district,” said Shahi. “This is a stark reminder of how even in this age of electrification and machinery, people have to rely on archaic methods.”
Khad Chaulagain, a rice mill operator in Tadi, said most of the villagers still prefer using traditional mortars and pestle.
“We use a diesel-fuelled machine in the mill and the cost of husking grains here is steeper than that in a traditional mill,” he said. “Most villagers don’t use our mill and prefer doing the husking at home because they can’t afford it.”
Chaulagain’s mill charges Rs 5 for preparing a kg of rice or grinding a kg of corn.
Every year, Kalikot produces around 18,000 metric tonnes of paddy. Parshuram Kafle, an agriculture technician in the district, said paddy is grown as the primary food crop in Raskot, Chilkhaya, Jubitha, Ranchuli, Mumra, Mehelmudi, Bharta, Sukatiya, Kalika, Gela and Onaku, among other villages.
The rural municipality has been working on upgrading traditional mills and making them affordable to the population.
“Most of the villagers grow corn here. We plan to operate rice and grinding mills at a reasonable price soon,” he said.