INGOs in Nepal positive about post-earthquake performance

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This cartoon is from Nepal’s Republica newspaper, which has published many articles critical of INGOs working in post-earthquake aid and reconstruction.

International NGOs working in Nepal were severely criticised after the 25 April 2015 earthquake for not delivering what they promised, especially given the amount if money  they raised through emergency appeals. Some criticisms continue.

This week I interviewed a representative of INGOs, who told me that any mistakes they made were due to the need to react quickly and save lives. Read more below.

A shorter version of the article was published in Nepali Times.

Nearing the second anniversary of the 25 April 2015 earthquake, international NGOs say any flaws in their work stem from the need to act immediately, and the stifling bureaucracy of the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). Continue reading

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Deadly malnutrition persists in Nepal

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The parents of Shambhu Kumar Ram, 17, who died of malnutrition in Nepal’s Saptari district in 2016.

Two articles that I wrote about malnutrition in Nepal were published in today’s Nepali Times weekly. One is about a shocking case from Saptari district, the other focused on the government’s plan to fight malnutrition.

Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions for follow-up work. This is a complex but important issue.

Nigerian State provides cash to girls’ families

Nigeria’s Kano State has announced a 3-year pilot programme to pay families to keep girls in primary and junior secondary schools.

The girls will have to attain grades of at least 80 percent, according to The Nation newspaper.

Read more here.

Community Forests – a world first

15-20 percent of Nepal’s forests (roughly one million hectares) are managed by community forest users’ groups (known here as CFUGs). Now, a consortium of 21 CFUGs from Dolakha district east of the capital Kathmandu, and Bajhang district in Nepal’s Far-West, have become the first ‘group’ in the world to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Members of a Community Forest Users' Group in Sindhupalchowk District, Marty Logan photo


Certification signifies that the groups have developed a management plan and adhere to guidelines concerning, among other issues, conservation, workers’ rights and the rights of Indigenous People. Certification also translates into increased international demand for the non-timber forest products (NTFPs – tree bark, medicinal plants/herbs, etc ) harvested in the forests. To profit locally from that demand, Dolakha’s CFUGs joined hands with established businesses, local individuals, and others to purchase three processing factories in the district. Two of the factories make handmade Nepali paper from the bark of the lokha tree, while the other processes wintergreen leaves to make essential oil.

Some of the former owners were also brought in as partners, and poor members of the community who harvest the NTFPs were given a percentage of the ownership, according to The Federation of Community Forest Users –Nepal (FECOFUN). FECOFUN supported the efforts of the CFUGs by, for example, preparing and providing guidelines on the protection and management of endangered plants, animals and their forest habitat. For purposes of certification, FECOFUN became the ‘resource manager’.

About 5,000 households, including some of the poorest families in the district, situated in the hills and mountains of Dolakha and Bajhang manage the 14,000 hectares of forests. Twenty of these households were made part owners of one of the factories in Dolakha – Bhimeswore NTFPs Production and Processing Pvt. Ltd. Its owners predict an annual return on investment of 14% to 50%. However, one challenge they face is a shortage of certified raw materials: to date they are only receiving 50% of their processing capacity. FECOFUN says steps are being taken to certify another 100 CFUGs which could then fill the demand.

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There are mixed views on the impact of Nepal’s community forests. More information is easily available via a web search. Some examples follow:

Forestry Nepal
Poverty Alleviation or Aggravation?: The Impacts of Community Forestry Policies in Nepal
IPS article, July 2006

UPDATE – Bamboo schools

An article in today’s Republica newspaper reports that one of the newest bamboo schools, in Pokhara, is very popular with parents. They are taking their children out of more expensive private schools to enroll them in bamboo schools, which charge 100 rupees (just over $1) a month.

In February, Inter Press Service reported that a wealthy Nepali living outside the country donated 24 million rupees for the building of six schools in Nepal’s Terai (plains).

Bamboo schools

Uttam Sanjel and students at the first Bamboo School in Kathmandu, AFP photo


Here’s a link to one of many articles about a fast-growing project to build cheap schools offering quality education across Nepal. My wife Niku and I visited the founder, Uttam Sanjel, at his first school in Kathmandu recently. (He’s now supervising the building of the 9th school in Pokhara). I was impressed by his determination to remain outside the grasp of the big political parties, all of which want to claim him as their own. He thinks that now he’s attained a certain size – helped in part by donations from outside of Nepal – it’s getting easier to elude their grasp. I was curious to know how he plans to manage the growing number of schools, and students (26,000 currently). He seemed unconcerned about that.

We wish him continued luck.