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Wayfinders: Community Irrigation (Kulo) Renovation/Maintenance

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023

Mustang: The Lhoba indigenous peoples of Upper Mustang, Nepal, are one of the 59 indigenous nationalities recognized by the Nepal government. Lhoba indigenous peoples are organized and governed more by customary institutions. Their values and institutions are embedded in the unique physical and social characteristics of their community. In the Lhoba customary institutions, as their tradition, they do a lot of things on collective and voluntary basis.

One of the first tasks the Lhoba Indigenous Peoples do upon returning from the lowlands of Nepal, where they have comfortable warmth throughout the winter, is renovation and maintenance of traditional irrigation canals. Irrigation is a backbone of Lhoba lifeways in a high-altitude desert of Himalayas’ rain shadow. They have to perform renovation and maintenance on the irrigation canals every year because they are not made of concrete, are extremely fragile, and are highly prone to leakage from various places. In light of these actual and observed needs, the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) Climate Change Partnership Program, in collaboration with Pawanka Wayfinders, supported a “Community Irrigation (Kulo) Renovation/Maintenance” initiatives a way to continue Indigenous Peoples lifeways, at Lomanthang village in Mustang district. The initiative was started in 2023, under the leadership of Lhoba coordinator Mr. Tsewan Jigme Bista.

In October, 2023, the NEFIN Climate Change Program team, led by Mr. Tunga Rai, director of the Program, and close coordination with Mr. Tsewang Jigme Bista, monitored the entire work of community irrigation (Kulo) renovation/maintenance initiative.

The key learning during the monitoring visit was that the initiative helped Lhoba Indigenous Peoples in Lomanthang to build about 250 meters of concrete irrigation canal and more than 150 meters of underground pipe line with necessary water dividers at appropriate places based on Indigenous knowledge and practices. Prevention of water wastage was ensured at places where there is high mobility of people, livestock, and vehicles by undergrounding the canal with concrete covers. The concrete irrigation canal prevents leakages and unintended or accidental water entry into the fields. Around 150 households are benefiting from the initiative. As a customary practice, Lhoba Indigenous people contribute a significant amount of labor to renovate and maintain the irrigation canal every year. This initiative reduces such hardship to some extent. Lhoba people expressed their wholehearted gratitude towards the supporters of the initiative for making their irrigation-related work easier and more sustainable.