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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 observation during the monitoring visit was the well-equipped and sustainable concrete irrigation canals that reached the entire field area from the water sources with necessary water dividers at appropriate places based on Lhoba Indigenous People knowledge and practices. Prevention of water wastage was ensured at places where there is high mobility of people, animals, and vehicles by under-grounding the canals with concrete covers. The concretized irrigation canals have ensured the security of the fields from water leakages and unintended and accidental water entry into the fields. The Lomanthang Lhoba indigenous peoples’ every-year customized labor to renovate and maintain the irrigation canals was minimized with extreme comfort to irrigate their fields. Around 150 households are benefiting from the initiative. They expressed their wholehearted gratitude towards the supporter for making their irrigation-related work easier and sustainable.