Wangari Maathai, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, December 10, 2004, encourages us all: "Although this prize comes to me, it acknowledges the work of countless individuals and groups across the world. They work quietly and often without recognition to protect the environment, promote democracy, defend human rights and ensure equality between women and men. By so doing, they plant the seeds of peace. I know they too are proud today. To all who feel represented by this prize I say: use it to advance your mission."
SeedTree's bylaws indicate the means to fulfill our mission, summarized in the logo above:
Since 1996 we have emphasized direct action helping disadvantaged rural groups protect their forests and watersheds by such activities as:
Educating from experience:
In 2004, SeedTree gave greater priority to education. Our intern, Pashupati Chaudhary (right), completed his term at our home office, and with support from Debley Foundation and Environmental Data Research Foundation he was able to supervise SeedTree Nepal field work in his native Chitwan, Nepal. Pashupati's analyses of our field data, gathered over a decade, led to his thesis: "Ecological restoration approach to biodiversity conservation, human economy and health: a case of SeedTree" and to his securing a Masters Degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University.
Pashupati's study also revealed the remarkable impact of our rural environmental education classes (above left). Participants become self-motivated to practice more ecological living. We extended classes beyond Chitwan into Dang in the West and Koshi Tappu in the East, a new district for us. There the Sardar women (above right), who at first would cover their face and hesitate to talk with men, now are regularly participating in class and discussion. Badi women in Dang learn more wholesome livelihoods than their caste trade of prostitution. Besides our continuing tree-planting program (revitalized this year in all branches by Working Assets' $7000 support), we focused in Chitwan on classes, followed by micro-credit, sustaining graduate's ecological initiatives.
The demand for classes is coming from diverse regions, including urban areas, and other countries as well. Dharmaraj Dhongal of the Institute of Agriculture and Krishna Mohan Shrestha of the Institute of Forestry (IOF) have recognized its potential and agreed to collaborate in revising our class manual (right) to better serve more diverse regions of Nepal.
Pashupati interviews a locally revered healer (left) regarding medicinal plant uses.
Pashupati's interest in the data from our group discussions, sharing the traditional values and uses of species, prompted other studies. For example, STN Coordinator Bishnu BK, with guidance from IAAS Prof. Dhongal, complied the incidence of uses of different species by two major ethnic communities, finding the indigenous Tharu recognized more uses of local plants than did the predominantly Brahmin community, immigrated from hill region. Bishnu has since, also published several articles in 2004 in agricultural magazines and newspapers, based on findings from our work. While Pashupati offered some suggestions, including the need for more staff; we are duly proud of his overall assessment:
"SeedTree-Nepal has been doing a lot with a little investment, offering high rate of return compared to many other non-governmental organizations existing countrywide.... I found strength of SeedTree on its strategy of implementing the program activities through groups. The program activities have brought about tremendous changes not only in the ecological condition, but also in social and economic conditions of the people."
Integrated Human Ecology Project:
At right, SeedTree's Carol Kinsey and Tom Hammett are welcomed to IHEP office with IOF's KM Shrestha (2nd) and Bishnu BK (right) of SeedTree Nepal.
SeedTree Nepal completed IHEP, our 2002-04 partnership with UNDP's Global Environment Facility and OUEST in Parbat, this fall. IHEP created two non-governmental organizations to administer the trusts created and endowed with $16,831 during the course of the project. Funds will circulate through low-interest loans for the purposes of biodiversity conservation, watershed restoration, and socio-economic development. Disadvantaged communities (inc. Damai, Kami, Sarki) now enjoy access to credit.
Active Eco-clubs were formed in schools, carrying out tree-planting and soil conservation activities with the Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs). Shop keeping, bee-keeping, raising vegetables and rearing goats, poultry or other livestock were initiated. Renewable energy promotion led to 20 biogas plants and 75 smokeless, fuel-efficient stoves being installed. More are scheduled through the trusts.
IHEP initiated and secured a foundation for forest certification in Nepal through workshops and publications, targeting policy makers as well as forest users.
At the field level, pine resin from the native Pinus Roxburghii forest was being over-harvested. We view the wide scars of the excessive tapping (left) that had been killing trees. Dr. Tom (green cap) advises IHEP's Coordinator Pushkar Khanal (2nd from right) and user group members on sustainable harvesting of the resin. IHEP led to a Network of resin producing forest user groups, formed to help market and monitor the sustainability of the pine resin produced. As a result of IHEP at the policy level, His Majesty's Government has noted forest certification as a priority program for Nepal.
Pines also crown the northern Philippines' Cordillera Mountain heights. There the remote Karao village nestles 46 tribal households in a steep river valley (right). In 1990, a devastating earthquake destabilized the slopes dumping rocky soil on the homes and red rice fields of the farming community. Subsequent erosion exacerbates the challenges of farming on the slopes or in the river's narrow flood plain.
In April, I met there with the Karao Farmers Association in a workshop hosted by the Igorot (collective name of Luzon's northern tribes) Tribal Assistance Group (ITAG), headed by Michael Bengwayan (shown at left with American intern & Fulbright Scholar Susi Heo). Working together, these groups had made a good beginning at stabilizing the slopes by planting nitrogen-fixing trees. As most of these were exotic, I encouraged the workshop to hold a participatory dialogue, considering their own valuable native species for diversification. The farmers decided to renew their tree-planting, and include indigenous and fruit tree species, as well as nutritious grasses, like Napier, to limit soil erosion.
SeedTree joined ITAG and its great student Environmental Volunteers, to assist the Karao community plant 10,000 trees by June. Fruit trees are being planted around villagers' homes. Over 1000, including mango and jackfruit, have been planted already. Remaining seedlings grow sturdy in the nursery. Most are the native Benguet Pine (Pinus Kesiya) to grace and protect the highlands.
My ITAG hosts also arranged for me to visit a Philippine pilot project in Community Forest Management (right), akin to that so well established throughout Nepal.
I advised and instructed on thinning and pruning to increase the value of their extensive work in reforestation.
Dang, Western Nepal
Bed Bahadur KC is sending 2 kg.s of soap nut (sapindus mukorossi) from Dang to ITAG to supplement soap, scarce in their remote areas. In return ITAG will send a sample of the wondrously flammable Philippine petroleum nut, used for starting fires.
Through our donor-initiated scholarships, the five Badi girls boarding at award-winning Tulsi School are doing very well academically and in overcoming caste stereotypes.
Additionally, a college scholarship was awarded to Amir K.C. (left) to help him toward his dream of becoming a wildlife biologist. Amir has actively supported our program since childhood, by forming and leading a youth group in seed collection and tree-planting. He studies at Nobel Academy, Kathmandu.
While the security situation limits group activity in Dang, our new environmental education classes are meeting without incident and communicating so faithfully, we hope to be able to renew trusts there. We continued this year with beautiful nurseries, tree-planting, home biogas, and 60 more improved stoves, fulfilling the demand.
Madi, an island of peace in Nepal:
Many factors converge to make Madi a model program. It is isolated by monsoon-flooded rivers from the traffic, technology and strife of Nepal's sudden modernity, yet still relatively near our Chitwan office. Scarce aid is valued. Our local staff and village leaders are both highly motivated to serve their communities. They apply our advice. In turn, their inspired initiatives continue to develop our program.
This year we honored two such leaders at the STN General Assembly. To Mr. Hiram Vishwakarma, who prompted our Environmental Ed. Classes, we awarded scholarships for his two children; and a seed grant for a silk worm larvae center to Mr. Tika Ram Bhattarai, for his village, Radhapur. Silk cocoons bring income from our extensive mulberry plantings, as they check erosion along hillsides not suited for agriculture. Tika Ram also led Radhapur to donate 9-10 times our support in labor constructing a reservoir. These ponds allow a 2nd planting season, often doubling yields.
Mr. Battarai, (with green STN sash, above right) joins over 500 students, teachers and villagers campaigning for environmental responsibility. Their placards advocate biodiversity conservation, tree planting, water source protection, and village sanitation. The leading banner (above left) gives the SeedTree acronym: Together we are Renewing Endangered Ecosystems.
Georgia, Caucasus -Extending biogas' range:
www.seedtree.org has attracted interest to our biogas program, including an invitation from Dr. Jumber Khantadze of the Inst. of Metallurgy, T'bilisi, Georgia to review a project developing biogas in the high mountainous areas of the Caucasus. Among these engineers are mountaineers wishing to alleviate pollution from livestock waste in the streams. Our Georgian colleagues are meeting the challenges of their cooler locale with a deep digester tank (right) to be insulated with foam as well as its depth. We look forward to further reports, wishing all success for their important and innovative experiment.
Acting Locally in Maine:
We intend to report more fully in June, our 10th Anniversary, on many local voluntary projects begun. Briefly, a new office is nearing completion as we begin renovating a barn on a tidal estuary pond into an educational center for environmental education and for peace through a sustainable human ecology.
Dr. Emily Markides has inspired students from her course 'Building Sustainable Communities' to assist in this as a practicum, coordinating through intern Bill Giordano. Cloe Chunn is actively engaged with the Belfast Bay Watershed Council, leading us into more watershed restoration training and activities, including those of the Penobscot Stewards. Exploration of the Marsh Stream watershed uncovered local testimony of a small population of native salmon, of interest to Inland Fisheries. We also planted fruit trees and hundreds of IP-donated red spruce on coastal lands.
In Maine, willow scions sought for shoreland erosion control by a Penobscot elder and brown ash seedlings donated by Shana Hanson of Living Landscapes, await spring planting.
This spring, in response to a request for help with mangrove restoration from the east coast of India, I studied mangrove ecology in the Philippines and Thailand, including at the Institute for Marine Research in hard-hit Phuket. The tsunami has prompted more of such partnership proposals and lent them priority. Mangroves serve a vital role in protecting coasts and as a nursery for marine life. While continuing in Nepal, we will seek to support local efforts to restore these invaluable forests of the sea, as a component of restoring sustainable fisheries for tsunami-devastated communities.
I hope this gives you a glimpse into the impact of your generosity, as well as an expanded sense of community in which people of good will contribute as their diverse abilities allow.
Thank you for all you contribute to this community. Let us continue together.
This page was updated on February 15, 2008
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