2017 marked Norlha’s ten years. Though the celebration was kept deliberately small, it was a time for reflecting on the changes that had occurred since that day in November 2007 when Norlha’s then 35 employees folded the tents they used as a work space and moved into the newly built workshop.
That day marked Norlha’s beginning as a solid entity that slowly began to change the lives of Ritoma’s inhabitants. It was a timely beginning; while our first wave of employees were all former nomads, many of the younger ones who joined in later years had had some schooling and participated in their parent’s nomad lives only as children. Norlha was offering them new opportunities and filling the gaps brought in by change brought about by the booming of markets beyond the Plateau. Families began to adjust with young couples working at Norlha forming their own household, no longer dependent on their parents for their livelihood, rather reversing the roles by providing to them with their newly earned salaries.
Norlha currently employs at least one member from about half the families in Ritoma, though the effect of the salary of one hundred and twenty people on the small village has had a ripple effect far beyond that of the workshop; restaurants and shops have opened, locals have begun growing vegetables to sell to families too busy to go to town, and enterprising builders have catered to those who seek to remodel their houses.
Now that we enter the new year and Norlha’s second decade, we at Norlha all look to the future with confidence and expectation, hoping to bring hope and change and leave a footprint others will follow.