Appropriate Technology Asia

Our Nepal programme

concentrates predominantly on the remote north-western region of Nepal. We also work in Kathmandu and Surkhet in mid-western Nepal.


Kathmandu is home to the regional headquarters of ATA and we employ a multi-ethnic staff of four people.


Humla is one of the least populated regions in Nepal with a population of 34,383 residents being recorded in 1995. The majority of the population lives in the southern half of the district, below Simikot. The District Centre at Simikot, situated at 2960m is accessible by air, but the high cost of flights restricts its use to foreigners and local elites.


For the rest of the population, the nearest roadhead at Surkhet is 13-15 days walk away on the Nepali side, and 4-5 days walk to the roadhead at Taglakot on the Chinese border. The inaccessibility of the area is exacerbated by the severity and duration of winter months that make aircraft access difficult and often impossible. However the trail links to Taglakot and Surkhet usually remain open year round.

Humla is home to two distinct ethnic groups, the ethnic Tibetan Bhotia-Llama and the Hindu Nepali-speaking peoples comprised of Thakuri, Chhetri and Brahman and occupational caste groups including kami (metal workers), sarki (cobblers), damai (tailors) and sunar (goldsmiths). Tibetan is the first language of those of ethnic Tibetan extraction and Tibetan is the formal written script although some adults and most children are now functionally illiterate in Tibetan.

The Bhotia-Llama practice polyandrous marriage in which the woman is married to two or more men from the same family. This system plays an important role in reducing population growth and also prevents land and possessions from being subdivided between the male progeny of the family. Although this system is still very common, increasing numbers of young people are becoming disenchanted with this practice. Despite this, strong pressure from parents and community elders make the decision to break with tradition very difficult and frequently traumatic, particularly as those who choose monogamy lose their title to family landholdings.

In contrast, the Thakuri, Brahman and Chhetri households practise only monogamous or polygynous relationships, and their society is rigidly divided on the basis of the orthodox Hindu caste system. This system forbids intermarriage between members of different castes and a number of villages are almost entirely populated by people of a specific caste. Population increase amongst the Hindu peoples is considerably greater than amongst the Bhotia-Llama and the available land is partitioned into ever smaller areas between the male offspring of the family which has a significant effect on the self-sufficiency of the households.