Here again, the clustering together of ex-VDCs under federalism, is aiding the development of a more coherent plan for tourism. Under the previous political system, each VDC was like a child isolated from its siblings, linked only through the parent at district level.
In Beni, the Myagdi District authorities neglected the inaccessible and poorer western half of the district, concentrating on the Annapurna Circuit and the tourist and pilgrim traffic to Mustang. Now, however, the former Wards are joined at the hip under the municipality and can pool their budget and develop together new trekking routes and the necessary infrastructure.
With this climbing experience, Bal Bir shares his dream to establish a Dalit-managed Guide/Porter cooperative for trekkers. Assuming this can happen, it still begs the question how to connect such an entity with the trekking market.
I put this challenge to Thamsara Pun. How could a poor Dalit man get the business necessary to run a successful trekking operation?
“Maybe in future we can establish an online booking portal for our homestays,” she answered with a hint in her voice of someone who has thought of this already, “but let’s be realistic — we are some years away from that point. Bandwidth and internet connectivity is still very poor here. For two years we had to hold our meetings in Beni because we had no building, no road, no internet, and no reliable phone communication in Muna. We must be patient and take small steps.”
Given its starting point, Dhaulagiri Rural Municipality has already made some giant strides towards better and fairer governance. For a visitor, it is a refreshing change to see so much hope and vision for the future, even in such an isolated region, and among some of Nepal’s most marginalised peoples.
Joy Stephens, author of Window onto Annapurna, and Off-the-beaten treks in Dhaulagiri