We began 2003 energetically fulfilling 2002's ambitious work-plans, our hopes buoyed by a ceasefire in Nepal. Pashupati Chaudhary from Nepal joined Carol at the home office in Maine for an internship in completion of a Master's at Brandeis in Sustainable International Development, assisting us particularly with our increasingly complex data management, here and, since November, in Nepal.
By late August, peace talks between the Royalists, Maoists, and Parliamentarians broke down; warring, sabotage and strikes resumed. Each branch adapts in its own way; trees often giving inspiration. It is the very bristle cone pines, toughened by the harsh conditions of their windswept sierra ridges, which have endured since before the pyramids to become the most ancient living beings on earth.
Ved Bahadur K.C., managing our most politically troubled district, the western deforested valley of Dang, has said "we must not be like the eucalyptus that grows so rapidly but is brittle and breaks in the wind. SeedTree must be like the sal". The sal tree (shorea robusta of Nepal's lower lands) may take ninety years to attain its stature, but it is straight and iron strong. Even if cut, vital new shoots spring forth from its robust roots. (Note the great sal trees growing near the pond in the final photo.)
So Ved continues inconspicuously to assist neighboring communities restore trees and forests with the prosperity, soil and water they bring. This past year he helped 5 community nurseries produce and plant 30,208 trees, used mostly for timber, fuel, erosion control and needed animal fodder. Among these are particularly endangered species including sandalwood and a rare variety of dark rosewood. Ved's son Pramir K.C. has been coordinating a children's planting program in his Tulsi school where our five SeedTree sponsored girls are doing well with the opportunity of full boarding scholarships. As the girls exceed all expectations, they transform prejudice (about their native prostitute caste), as well as their own futures. We also provided two computer systems for Dang aiding our program as well as the school.
Since in Dang we must avoid gatherings and workshops, Sakkal Chaudhary, on a house to house basis has single-handedly surpassed our other branches by constructing improved cooking stoves for 55 rural households. We also supported another deep well and 3 biogas generating latrine systems with gas burning stoves for households with livestock in Dang .
Parbat is unique in potential and challenge primarily due to the complexity of the partnership in our two year hill district program, the Integrated Human Ecology Project. As a junior partner* we have paid a little from our usual agile cost efficiency in IHEP to gain much for SeedTree Nepal: infrastructure, management tools, a stronger voice in the national policy-making dialogue and more support for publications that will enable us to share more widely the fruits of our experience.
*SeedTree's contribution to IHEP, through SeedTree Nepal the implementing NGO, is 14% with UNDP/Global Environment Facility contributing 79% and OUEST, 7%.
Much has been done with the two VDCs (akin to counties) toward the project aims of social and economic development, biodiversity conservation and improving health of waterways. 14 workshops and training sessions have been offered on as diverse topics as social mobilization, accounting, thinning and pruning in the community forests and SeedTree's initiative of forest certification for sustainability. Our proposal for such certification of forest products (timber and non-timber) for Nepal has stimulated a national dialogue and allied efforts from other organizations. Our Program Manager and IHEP Team Leader joined ANSAB as Smartwood Technical Specialist Walter Smith from the US presented the Forest Stewardship Council standards and procedures for forest certification. FSC requires each country to define its own national standards for the social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainability. As our community forest user groups define their own local standards, as has Salleri CFUG, we contribute to the process for all Nepal.
Seed grants helped focus on biodiversity conservation through tree planting for erosion control and construction of 40 improved cooking stoves. Construction of two irrigation systems gave year round irrigation to 212 people in 28 households, where previously the land was arable only two months each year. Four effective Eco-clubs formed in schools. Clubs' activities include bulletin boards encouraging student involvement in managing their environment, celebrating Earth Day, World Environment Day (June 5) and Bio-Diversity Day (22 May) with tree planting in the schoolyard, sanitation and water source protection activities.
By July IHEP had mobilized 411 people into 13 community based organizations, and endowed 8 Community Environmental Trust Funds, with an initial round of loans going to 37 participants for goat keeping (59% of members), other livestock (27%), retail shop (8%), vegetable growing (3%) and poultry farming (2%). Compare to Chitwan's 2 CET Funds' utilization shown at right.
Chitwan, our central Nepal branch, while coordinating all districts is also maintaining an innovative and extensive field program, trying to keep up with local demand. While our plan was to establish only 10, keen interest compelled us to assist 20 village nursery and tree planting groups in southern and western Chitwan villages, to plant 59,246 seedlings of diverse tree species. In addition we provided 40,000 mulberry trees for fodder and profitable silk cocoons. Other project work included 7 biogas producing latrine and stoves systems, 4 wells or pumps, and paid academic fees for two boys.
Our securely founded Chitwan branch can best attempt and evaluate results of innovative approaches. Rural Environmental Education classes are an innovation proving their worth. Rural homemakers from last years classes now know the value of biodiversity, how to install an improved stove, compost, kitchen garden and regularly share their experiences. SeedTree supported 4 of 7 new classes this year.
We intend to extend education as a foundation of future work, the crown of which may well become the Community Environmental Trust Funds. We supported 2 new trusts this year. (See final summary) The funds allow resources to keep cycling through a community, increasing self determination and more self-direction.
Yet it is more challenging to keep activities focused toward SeedTree's ecological aims. Our members have, however, agreed to maintain ecological balance. For example, those rearing goats also plant sufficient fodder trees to feed them. Education is helping to focus on activities that serve all the aims of sustainable development - at once!
This year all SeedTree Board Directors have been educating toward our aims: Cloe Chunn taught Ecological Teaching and Learning within Maine, and may be teaching at Leslie University this year, Board Chair Dr. Tom Hammett taught in Indonesia and Nepal, as well as VA Tech, Carol Kinsey wrote "From Here to Sustainability" for Spark Magazine, Dr. Richard Komp taught solar energy in South Africa, Haiti and presently in Nicaragua, and John Perlin presented the history of photovoltaics in Japan, Austria and Italy. He will present "A Forest Journey" in March at VA Tech.
Another innovative direction is supporting decentralized small water harvest ponds. While major dams are often found to be counterproductive in the sub-Himalayan region, the traditional tanks, like this one we supported in Madi, keep monsoon water for use during the dry season, with minimum disturbance. In a follow up to last years support with construction of the tank, our supervisors assist community members to plant seedlings from our nurseries around the ponds to further their water retention and enrich their community forests. More such ponds are proposed. (Note the great sal trees.)
www.seedtree.org, maintained by Emily Duffy, is reaching worldwide. From July 12, 2002 through Dec. 31, 2003, 12,287 visitors from 137 countries viewed a total of 24,440 page views. The Biogas page alone, attracted 6,523 viewers in 2003, nearly thrice the next most popular on the diverse species of trees we plant. It is prompting inquiries from Maine to Maldives to Mongolia.
The warm temperatures needed for effective methane generation have limited the spread of this environmentally beneficial technology that has succeeded so well for our participants in Nepal. Noting this, but nevertheless, sharing hopes of extending biogas' effective range; Seed Tree supported the proposal from the Institute of Metallurgy, Tbilisi, Georgia to the Science and Technology Center, Moscow for "Development of Environmentally Friendly Technology for Biogas Production in the High-Mountainous Areas of the Caucasus Based on the Local Resource's Utilization." Their proposal surmounted 1/100 odds to develop and demonstrate a model of biogas production, offering a solution to problems of ecologically hazardous livestock waste. We anticipate collaborating with an advisory review of the project.
With the two year Integrated Human Ecology Project coming to completion, we are integrating the lessons learned as we look forward. We plan to translate from Nepalese to English our Nursery and Tree-Planting, as well as our Rural Environmental Education Manuals to aid future work.
We honor David Demere of Debley Foundation, a friend and true philanthropist, a well wisher to humankind. David and his family's support has helped establish and constantly sustain our work. Our thoughts are with them as David faces a difficult illness with inspiring courage and life joy.
I see in the very eyes of people, who are not used to having anyone care for their well-being, what a difference our help makes. All your generous support humbles and encourages me to keep this bridge open, over which such good will passes. I thank you personally and on behalf of all whose lives have been touched and lifted by your caring. Another productive year is already in progress. We invite your participation.
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