Located in South Asia, the landlocked country of Nepal is situated between India and Tibet and has been a refuge for people from many linguistic and ethnic backgrounds for generations. It is also home to some of the highest peaks in the world, right from the majestic Everest to the breathtaking Cho Oyu.
While the diversity of Nepal’s landscape and people is remarkable, one cannot ignore the distinct challenges that come with it. The remoteness of some of its villages affects accessibility, adding to the difficulties in ensuring critical information and services are available to all. In addition, a large number of tourists, especially during mountaineering seasons, contribute to waste that is often left behind in places like the Khumbu region.
But these challenges have led to several innovations on the ground, with more and more entrepreneurs and organisations joining the mission to solve some of the country’s most
pressing problems and making strides in everything from delivering life-saving services through digital tools and improving solid waste management with “crowdsourcing” initiatives.
Carry Me Back: Improving Solid Waste Management, One Bag at a Time One such remarkable innovation in solid waste management is the “Carry Me Back” bag.
In the Khumbu Valley, a local organisation called Sagarmatha Next says, about 790 kg of waste was generated every day during the trekking seasons in 2019 by over 60,000 tourists, 20,000 local guides and staff, and 7,000 indigenous sherpas and workers from outside the region. Their team piloted the “Carry Me Back” project during the Autumn trekking season of the same year to find a sustainable solution. About 2,500 trekkers helped transport 4,000 kg of waste that was later transferred to facilities in Kathmandu.
Sagarmatha Next’s continued work in the region ensures an innovative and “crowdsourced waste removal system” to solve the urgent issue of solid waste management that has adversely affected the environment of the local population in the past. In addition, the bags are crafted by women groups trained in transforming waste material and thus generate income for the locals.
Initiatives like “Carry Me Back” are not only helping the local population but also reducing biodiversity loss in the Sagarmatha National Park and Khumbu region and shaping public perception about waste in the long term.
Amakomaya: Using the power of technology to improve maternal health Another key innovation has been in the field of maternal health.
In some of the country’s most remote villages, the women are today sitting with their families and watching content about conception and pregnancy on their mobile phones. These topics were previously rarely discussed in the open, adversely impacting the health of pregnant women and young mothers. The “Amakomaya” app was developed by a dedicated team of computer engineers and social workers who aimed to deliver life-saving information and services to local women and encourage critical conversations around maternal health.
During the pandemic, the app benefited thousands of women in Nepal’s rural and urban areas, including through its counselling services. It even assisted the government in collecting some much-needed data on the population, including information on their visits to health facilities.
Over the years, this innovation has shown great success, helping reduce pregnancy-related health issues and isolation and increasing the number of antenatal care (ANC) visits. In addition, the Amakomaya team has even provided devices to Female Community Health Volunteers (FHCVs) to help bring more women into the conversation, gather additional data, and provide door-to-door services.
My Vote Matters: Improving voter awareness and literacy through social media
To encourage youth participation in electoral processes and increase awareness, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in Nepal, are holding a campaign this year called “My Vote Matters”. The initiative hopes to improve voter awareness and literacy before the next elections. According to the UNDP website, although youth in the country constitute 40 percent of the population, they are “underrepresented in decision-making bodies and electoral processes”.
As more and more young people are using social media platforms to express and campaign, this online initiative will not only focus on bringing more youth to polling stations and enhancing awareness of their rights; it will also utilise the power of social media to create a safe space for them to interact and demand reform.
In Nepal, entrepreneurs and agencies are driving change in communities through innovation. As more and more people are working tirelessly to help reduce the pressure on the environment, deliver critical services, and elect better representatives, the country’s future is indeed in good hands.
By Satvika Khera
Satvika Khera is a human rights researcher and activist. She currently works on building open resources for survivors of sexual abuse with nonprofits in India and the UK. You can connect with her on firstname.lastname@example.org