In 2003 we start supporting one school\hostel for Chepang children in Chitwan (Narayangarh) and one years later we opened a new one in cooperation with Little Flower Society. Fr.Michael Chirayath was the promoter of this activity which now give opportunities to more than 300 children. He wrote in 2003 proposing the Project:
The Chepangs are one of the most deprived, disadvantaged and backward indigenous ethnic communities of Nepal. A publication of the Ministry of Local Development of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal reads : “One of the most backward ethnic groups of Nepal, the Chepangs inhabit in the remote and sparse contours, outback and rolling precipices of the districts of Makwanpur, Chitwan, Gorkha and Dahading.” (The Nationalities of Nepal, p.16). Their habitats are very remote areas which are not linked by roads. To reach a Chepang village one has to walk five to eight hours from the High Ways. The settlements of the Chepangs are spread around the elevations ranging from 2500 to 4000 feet above the sea level on the steeper slopes of the Mahabharat range. They have their own distinct dialect, which belongs to one of the Tibeto-Burman strains. In the past they used to have a nomadic life but in recent years they have shown interest in cultivation also.
There are different assumptions on the etymology of the term Chepang. In their dialect ‘che’ means ‘dog’ and ‘pang’ means ‘arrows’. They used to hunt with the help of dogs and arrows. Some say it is the derivation of the word Chebang which means ‘living on the top of hills along with dogs’. However, at present they prefer to be called “Praja”. They are among the most backward communities of Nepal.
Most of the settlements of the Chepangs are found in the Mahabharat Ranges which comes under the four civil Districts of Chitwan, Makawanpur, Dhading and Gorkha. As per the censes of 2001 there are only 52237 Chepangs in the entire Nepal out of which 21233 live in Chitwan District alone. The Chepangs make 0.23% of the total population of Nepal. Around 45 % are below 15 years old, 48 % are of the age group of 16-59 and only 7% are 60 and above. 26% of the Chepang families have up to 4 members , 42% have between 5-7 members and 32 % have above 7 members in the family. 92% of the Chepangs are engaged in agriculture and its related works or as agricultural labourers. Only 8% are having non-agricultural occupation.
The main source of the livelihood of the Chepangs is the forest and its produces. Many of them are landless. Most of them are very small land-holders. The environment and climatical conditions of the forest are not conducive to various types of crops. Those who have land have it in the slops of steep ranges and hence the yields are only minimum and is sufficient only for six to seven months. The rest of the months they rely on hunting, animal husbandry and forest –produces like roots, fruits, honey etc.