The Improved Water Mill (IWM) is an intermediate technology that increases the efficiency as well as longevity of Traditional Water Mills (known as pani ghattas) that have existed in Nepal over the years in the hills and mountainous region of Nepal. On average one watermill serves 52 households of the nearby community by supplementing the household level grain and cereal grinding done mostly by women and girls utilizing heavy grinding stones and wooden planks (Dhiki, Jato and Okkhal) moved by hands for long hours. IWMs provide increased energy output for agro-processing facilities and other end-use applications including rice husking, oil expelling, sawmill and electricity generation for rural areas of Nepal.
Mostly the families of these watermill owners, 78% of them are from socially excluded groups of Nepal, live in the same hut that constituted the water mill. To make use of this facility (water mills) women and girls from the nearby village carry the agriculture produce to the mill, wait until it is ground and return back to their homes. For the grinding services provided by the water millers, there is no cash transaction. But instead they keep a small portion of the flour, which is the food for the water mill owner family. The Ghatta owner families are fully involved and dependant on “income” from their water mills for their livelihoods.
With majority of the population living in the rural areas and due to the geographical topography of Nepal, IWM is an intermediate technology that is included under the promotion strategy of Nepal government as the road access to the remote areas as well as supply of grid electricity will take substantial investment of resources and time.
In spite of huge potential on improving the livelihood of the rural and remote population through access to improved source of energy, GSI and income generation potentials from IWM, the performance of the sector has remained below its potential. Of the total potential of around 25,000 water mills, above 10,000 traditional watermills have been improved.