Women’s Empowerment at the Frontline of Adaptation

Introduction to Nepal Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with almost one-quarter of its population living below the poverty line. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for three-quarters of the population and accounting for about one-third of gross domestic product (GDP). Industrial activity mainly involves the processing of agricultural products, including pulses, jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. The majority (83%) of the Nepali population live in rural areas where poverty is high (the poverty rate is 35% in rural areas compared to 10% in urban areas) according to the 2001 national census. Nepal’s population is growing at a rate of 1.4% and is largely young (median 21 years); in 2012, the total population was 26.85 million (Asian Development Bank 2014). Unemployment is high with considerable migration to India and other countries for work. The workforce generally lacks skills to escape the poverty trap. Nepal is undergoing a significant political transition following a 10-year civil war, which ended in 2006 and which has overshadowed economic issues in the country. Political instability is a defining feature of Nepal: since the introduction of democracy in 1990, Nepal has had 20 different governments. The country as a whole suffers due to its harsh geography and climate. Poor access to, and reliability of, electricity is one of the more serious infrastructure problems (during the dry season load shedding is up to 16 hours a day), despite Nepal having one of the largest untapped hydropower resources in the world. In terms of physical accessibility, over one-third of the people in the hills are more than four hours away from an all-weather road. More than half of primary school students do not enter secondary school and malnutrition remains very high. Despite this, Nepal has made leaps in reducing poverty in recent years: the proportion of poor people was halved in only seven years and inequality is dropping (World Bank 2014).

The Koshi River Basin in Nepal

Base map source: SRTM, ESRI


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