Look at Bisnu Maya Rumba’s hands and there’s no doubt she’s a farmer. Talk to her about the potatoes she grows and you’ll know why she’s passionate about growing food.
“Our seed potatoes are the best because of our cool temperatures and because we don’t use pesticides. Potatoes are the most delicious here,” she states proudly.
People across the region tend to agree with her. After all, Jhir Gari is where many farmers in Nepal source their seed potatoes. But the April 2015 earthquake almost put an end to that tradition when it destroyed the facility where Bisnu and her neighbors keep the seed potatoes. Without a cool and dry place to store them, all 35 farmers lost last year’s crop. And the forfeiture of income was far from the only blow they suffered when the temblor struck. Indeed, every single family in the village lost a place to live – each house having been destroyed or too damaged to inhabit.
Now, thanks in part to the American Red Cross, farmers in Jhir Gari are reclaiming their livelihoods. Their neighborhood is now home to a new, sturdy, and cool cement building that can house up to five tons of seed potatoes. Bisnu and her neighbors contributed the labor for constructing the building, while the American Red Cross and Nepal Red Cross supplied the materials, money, and technical assistance. The building is made with durable materials and construction techniques that can better withstand quakes.
“Before, we stored our seed potatoes in a place made of rocks and mud mortar. This new building is a lot safer if there is another earthquake. We don’t have to store them in people’s houses now. This is perfect for storing our seed potatoes.”
The activity has an added bonus: teaching community members how to build safely. Thanks to training from a Red Cross-hired engineer, Bisnu and her neighbors have the knowledge and skills to build a new potato storage facility if they ever want one in the future. They are even considering getting into the potato chip business when their crop rebounds.
Bisnu, who has three daughters and a son, moved to this town 25 years ago and has no intention of moving, despite the hardship of the earthquake. She and her neighbors are working together to rebuild their lives, which includes planting a potato crop again this year.
Bisnu is thankful for the help in restoring her livelihood and the assistance she received from the global Red Cross network in the quake’s immediate aftermath, which included a shelter kit and a cash grant to help her prepare for winter (she bought galvanized, corrugated metal sheets with the money).
The American Red Cross is helping Bisnu and other families in Nepal to recover from a 2015 earthquake that took more than 8,000 lives and damaged or destroyed more than 800,000 homes. This potato seed storage facility is one of many projects the Red Cross is undertaking to help families rebuild in a way that is safer, healthier, and more resilient to future natural disasters.