Nepalese startup Shah Hemp Inno-Ventures (SHIV) has targeted the tiny village of Mithileshwar Nikash for its first home-building project, “hEmpowering bottom up,” following construction on a hospital earlier this year at Janakpur.
The village, in the Dhanusha District of southeastern Nepal, is home to members of the lowly-regarded Dalits caste, whom have long suffered discrimination that’s led to severe social injustice, said SHIV’s Nivedita Bansal Shah.
“Having a clean and safe place to live, eat and sleep is a basic requirement for any kind of further development to happen for the village,” Ms Shah said. “The Dalits have suffered problems for decades due to the caste system,” she added.
SHIV, launched earlier this year and based in Kathmandu, is developing a number of products based on Nepal’s abundant naturally occurring hemp fields. A major emphasis has been on processing hemp straw as raw material for a mass-scale rebuilding initiative following the devastating earthquake which struck in 2015. But the firm has also started developing hemp food and health products in an effort to foster sustainable economic development on a micro-scale.
Bamboo & hempcrete
The company has partnered with the national Women Development Advocacy Center (WDAC), a non-profit affiliated with the Social Welfare Council of Nepal. Together, SHIV and WDAC have entered an initial fund-raising phase to finance a pilot project that will use local materials and labor to build three model bamboo-frame hempcrete homes in the village, with total costs estimated at €15,000. Dhiraj K. Shah, SHIV’s founder has proposed a initial layout of the design of the house based on his preliminary discussion with the community but once the project begins on the ground, the layout of each house will be fine tuned as per the requirements of individual families, Mr. Shah said.
SHIV’s work in hemp construction is led by veteran hemp builder Steve Allin of the International Hemp Building Association, who directs the projects on-site.
While Nepal has received global support for earthquake recovery and reconstruction efforts, those programs have been generally criticized as slow and inefficient, Ms Shah noted. “But anyway, why does it take such a massive natural disaster to get attention and support for providing something as basic as family homes — especially to people at the bottom of our society who didn’t have decent homes before the quake hit?” she said.
Bringing health remedies too
The home-building project in Mithileshwar Nikash is in conjunction with a medical marijuana initiative under Dr. Simone Fagherazzi, an Italian physician who has just joined SHIV as a partner and who is researching the medical possibilities of Nepal’s native cannabis “wild crop” — putting SHIV in the position to create a combination of healthy living spaces along with relief for the local population’s health problems.
Dr. Fagherazzi moved to Nepal earlier this year after having grown frustrated at the lack of acceptance of medical marijuana by the Italian medical establishment. “I got tired of being looked at by my colleagues as ‘the drug doctor’,” he said.
While medical marijuana is legal under Italian law, it’s looked down upon by most physicians; and the supplies on the market are so highly priced that many who suffer from the maladies cannabis can help simply cannot afford it, Dr. Fagherazzi noted. He hopes that by documenting his work in Nepal he can then take that research back to the Italian medical community to make a broader case for marijuana-based remedies in Italy, he said.
Contributions to support SHIV’s work in Mithileshwar Nikash can be made through the initiative’s website.