Nepal Initiatives - 2013 in Review
2013 and spring of 2014 have been a busy time for the Nepal Irrigation and Kaski Education Initiatives. The 2013 year began with 23 students and chaperons leaving from Campbell River in March travelling to support villagers in the Kaski district of Nepal. The chaperons and students worked on the Irrigation initiative in Lahachowk as part of their 18 day trip to Nepal. The chaperons and students were welcomed into the homes of the villagers and worked hand in hand with the locals. Besides working on the irrigation initiative the students took a 2 hour jeep ride over rough terrain followed by a 2 hour hike up a steep mountain side to visit 2 schools. The Nepalese schools were in need of basic school supplies and the Canadian students brought some donations from Canada and purchased additional supplies while in Nepal. From consultations with Principals and community leaders in the Kaski district, a cheque was also presented to provide school scholarships to ensure children could continue to attend to school.
Phase 5 of the Irrigation Initiative was also started by the students and chaperons from Campbell River. Once the Canadian delegation left Nepal, the remaining funds were used by local villagers to further progress on the irrigation canal. Phase 5 was completed and ready for use in time for the annual monsoon.
The villagers opened their Computer Academy in the summer of 2013 with the generosity of ICO donors. The Academy consists of 5 computers, a printer/scanner/copier, a generator, a secure rented space and access to a computer teacher available to teach 3 1 hr classes per day.
Some of the first graduates received their certificate from the ICO members visiting from Canada in March of 2014. The computer institute has begun another session of classes with a waitlist of eager students developing. Revenue is also being generated by providing printing and copying services via the generator to accommodate the more than 12 hours per day when power is unavailable to the village. This will assist with the Academy’s sustainability plan and could cover up to 50% of generator fuel costs for the computer classes. The goal of the villagers is to eventually be self-sufficient and able to pay all ongoing monthly costs including rent, fuel and teacher wages.
Nepal Initiatives Spring 2014 and beyond
Looking ahead into 2014 and beyond, work has begun on Phase 6 of the Irrigation initiative in a hard-to-access and dangerous section of the canal supplying water to the rice paddies in the lower village area. Hope is that modifications to this section will also be complete in time for use during the upcoming July-Aug monsoon.
An education fund in memory of Stephen Burridge has been established and will be available to provide an opportunity for a student to attend private school in the village. Stephen had the honour of visiting Nepal in 2011 and reported the experience as significantly impactful. Sadly Stephen recently passed away and his family requested that donations be made to the Nepal education fund in his memory. The government school system in Nepal struggles to provide quality education, with a graduation rate on nationwide government exams of less than 50%. An education in a private school will provide at least one dedicated child with a chance at a better future. The goal is to utilize the fund to support a young student study grades 1 through 5 with further support to be provided by ongoing donations to the Nepal Kaski education initiative.
In the March of 2014, a group of 8 volunteers left with ICO Operations Leader Jennifer Wade to work on the Irrigation and Education initiatives. Progress was made on both initiatives, soccer jersey donations were provided and a successful Nepali-Canadian soccer game ensued. In November ICO Nepal Team member Betty Cowling will be leading another group to the Kaski district in hopes of furthering progress on current initiatives as well as learning more about the agriculture and tractor small business ideas and the English teachers government school partnership the villagers are keenly developing for proposal.
ICO donors, team members and volunteers should be very proud of the progress to date and to have helped to introduce over 110 dedicated Canadian volunteers to the Kaski district in Nepal. Not only do the villagers show their appreciation to our volunteers on each visit with their welcome, hospitality and kindness as we work side by side. But on this most recent visit to Lahachowk, a wonderful plaque has been provided from the villagers of Lahachowk (Village Development Committee (VDC – Lahachowk) and Social Development Program Nepal (SDP- Nepal) to show their appreciation to the ICO volunteers and donors and currently sits proudly on display as a dedication of the success of these two communities since inception of these initiatives in 2008.
ICO and the district of Kaski continue to work to together based on the belief that “Above all we are friends” and ICO members in Canada have learned the struggles, warmth and happiness of a village that has so little but gives so much.
Land locked between India and China, the Nepalese border contains 8 of the 10 highest mountain peaks in the world. Famous for its breathtaking topography, Nepal holds sanctity for many outdoor-adventure enthusiasts. The Himalayas contribute to the remoteness and inaccessibility in the region that have helped shape the history and cultural ways of the people who live among them.
Visitors to Nepal enthusiastically recognize the Nepalese for their kindness and generosity despite the considerable poverty and hardship prevalent there. The Nepalese are diverse, made up of many ethnic and language groups. Amongst a majority of practicing Hindus there are also sizable numbers of Buddhists, Muslims, and other indigenous religious groups. Amongst the Nepalese 80 percent live rurally and an almost equal number survive by subsistence agriculture.
Agriculture is the foundation of Nepal’s economy accounting for about one-third of the GDP. The majority of industrial activity involves the processing of agricultural products, such as pulses, jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Nepal has considerable potential to make use of hydropower, with an estimated 42,000 MW of feasible capacity. Political instability in Nepal has hindered investment and development. Over the last several decades’ governance in Nepal has been consistently challenged and unstable. No government since 1991 has held power for more then 24 months. In 1990 Nepal shifted from an absolute to parliamentary monarchy, and in 2007 abolished the monarchy in favor of becoming a federal republic. A decade long civil war and major political related causalities have related to social trauma. Additional challenges to Nepal's growth include its landlocked location, geographic complexity, and its susceptibility to natural disaster.
Nepal is what the UN defines as a Least Developed Country (LDC) and its markers of development have remained well below the Asian average. With a GDP per capita (PPP/capita) at $1,200 (2010 est.), Nepal ranks 22nd from the bottom out of 227 countries. These statistics are reflected in low levels of literacy, short life expectancy, high infant mortality, as well as poor access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Over 85% of Nepalese have no access to healthcare.
There are many generous, hardworking, and resourceful Nepalese working with local and international organizations and initiatives to build community capacity. Check out Nepal’s’ small scale community innovation projects working for improved education and community schools, food security, agricultural commercialization, eco-tourism, safe drinking water supplies, herbal processing, marketing, handicraft development, small irrigation, micro-hydro, forest management, bio-fuel, wind energy, and pasture management.