Switzerland and the Jiri Valley

jiri_geschichteIn 1959 Switzerland instigated the Jiri Multipurpose Development Project (JMDP). This was a pioneering initiative for cooperative development in Nepal. It was based on the idea of sharing knowledge and expertise in agriculture, education, health and technology. The project has enabled the building of a hospital, schools, cooperatives in the production of cheese, still produced today from yak’s milk, as well as technical training facilities. Jiri is also known in Nepal as the ‘Züri’ of Nepal because Switzerland has taken over such a large and pioneering role.

In 1970 the Nepalese famine also affected the Jiri valley. After six months of farming, the farmers didn’t produce enough food even to cover their own needs. There was no road from Kathmandu to Jiri, so emergency aid could not reach the remote valley. The famine prompted many farmers to move to the Kathmandu region. The Jiri valley was left fatherless and the Jiri Multipurpose Development Project was redefined. Their first move was to build a road linking Kathmandu to Jiri, and this still exists today as the only link to Jiri from outside.

This road was also the best way for mountain climbers attempting Mt. Everest and other trekking groups to travel to the great mountain by jeep. The Jiri Bazar was very soon a busy market with over 25 mountain lodges from which to begin all treks up the Nepal side of Mt. Everest.

In 2001 the Lukla airport came into service, eliminating the five-day walk to Mt. Everest that had previously been necessary for tourists. This was the downfall for the lodges and shops of the Jiri Bazar. In 2002 Jiri was one of the disputed areas of the civil war and the tourism industry completely stopped. At that point economic downfall now seemed inevitable.