Dec 292015

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Waiting for the NRA: woman in front of a typical shelter (Kavre)

Out in the districts hit by the earthquake in April, locals have long-since started to build temporary shelters. How temporary – or permanent – those shelters are going to be is an open question. The answer, though, lies in no small part with the government and it’s National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). The government has already released 15,000 rs. (around USD 200) to every household whose home was destroyed – but they have pledged a lot more. Indeed, USD 4,4 billion are in the pipeline for reconstruction! However, the NRA, tasked with distributing all this money, has not really started working yet. Continue reading »

Aug 212015
The six provinces as proposed by the four main parties

The six provinces as proposed by the four main parties, now changed to seven by splitting the far-western province into two

What does the constitution tabled at present entail for local Nepal? Well, it’s hard to cover it all – the draft document stands at 104 pages plus appendices – but essentially it looks like much will be different in the future, although much will also remain the same. The overarching issue is indeed the creation of a new sub-level of government: provinces. The draft constitution provides for eight provinces – later the four main parties for some reason decided on six, now gone up to seven provinces – but numbers aside: what is a province? Continue reading »

Aug 132015

Local elections are a major priority area in 2015-16: President Yadav delivering his policy speech in parliament

It was a turbulent week in the “life” of local elections in Nepal last month – as it’s been several times before. On July 8 President Ram Baran Yadav presented the government’s policy programme in parliament for the next fiscal year – 2015-16 – and made clear that “local polls” are a major priority area. In fact, the reconstitution of elected local bodies – dissolved since 2002 – is a prerequisite, the President made clear, to an efficient reconstruction process in the earthquake-affected districts. So, for those eager to again see elected local politicians coming to power, this was a major cause of optimism! Continue reading »

Jul 252015

Family during a break in the rubble of their destroyed house, telling about the NGO that might come...

Palanchok is just one of thousands of villages trying to move on after the earthquake. Expecting an NGO with Japanese funding to come and rebuild their houses, villagers are in a rush to clear their land of rubble and debris. We followed one family on a long day of hard work as they were removing stones and wooden beams from what’s left of their home. Staying under a tarpaulin – five weeks after the earthquake – they were full of hope that the NGO would indeed return and start building them a new house. It’s more hope than most villagers are afforded – but will the NGO really deliver? We’ll soon bring more from Palanchok. Until then, here’s the family, clearing the rubble with nothing else than hand tools.

Jul 242015
Emergency grant before the rain starts: 15,000 rs. to build proper temporary shelter

Emergency grant before the rain starts: 15,000 Nrs. to build proper temporary shelter

In early May the government pledged 200,000 Nrs. to every family who lost their house in the earthquake. Shortly after, it was decided to quickly hand out an initial 15,000 Nrs. – as an immediate emergency grant – for building temporary shelters before the monsoon. It wasn’t a huge amount but enough to buy zink sheets and get a roof over the head, and so it seemed to solve one of the most urgent matters in the earthquake aftermath: to provide at least some shelter from the elements before the rain started. But then the program stalled! Continue reading »

May 112015

Before the earthquake hit Palanchowk village in Kavre: Dashain happiness

Before the earthquake hit Palanchok village in Kavre: Dashain happiness some year back

The ridge in Palanchok, Kavre district, has been our favourite destination for weekend trips for years, and we’ll always be coming back. But it will never be the same – not in the near future, at least. Situated on a beautiful ridge with green valleys on both sides, Palanchok is home to a sacred goddess and to locals who always welcome visitors with warm hospitality. Now, 90 percent of the village is destroyed. Staying warm and dry during the cold nights, when the ridge is covered by low clouds, is the most immediate issue. Rebuilding the houses is an enormous challenge long-term. These images of before and after the earthquake illustrate why. Continue reading »

May 012015
Waiting for help: one of many villages hit hard in Sindupalchowk

Waiting for help: one of many villages hit hard in Sindupalchowk

Chief District Officer of Sindhupalchowk, Krishna Prasad Gyawali, just abandoned his post. It’s not “dereliction of duty”, he explains, but a call for help! On Wednesday, four days into the earthquake aftermath, one of the worst hit districts had still not received the most basic relief aid – like tents, food and medicine supplies. Thousands of locals are without homes, many have lost their food granaries, and all Gyawali could tell them was: “I can’t help you – come back later”. Scores of villagers who just lost everything started protesting, and now Gyawali refuses to return until the government delivers. Continue reading »

Apr 282015

Searching for survivors in Kathmandu: rescuers have only just started to reach the districts

Searching for survivors in Kathmandu: rescuers have only just started to reach the districts

The tragedy that has hit Nepal is still hard to fathom. The loss of life, the injuries, the terror under the endless aftershocks, the destruction of homes, public buildings and centuries of cultural heritage… On the night of the quake on 25 april, we wrote on facebook: “Our thoughts and heart-felt condolences go out to all those whose lives were struck by tragedy today. Maybe Nepal will eventually recover from this – but the way it feels right now, it will never be the same… Lots of prayers that no more tremors will strike tonight.” However, the tremors and aftershocks still go on, predicted to continue at least for a week, maybe even months. Meanwhile, the full scope of loss of life, injuries and physical destruction outside Kathmandu valley remains unknown. Continue reading »

Apr 212015

Since the end of the Maoist conflict: Chinese investment and trade only up

Since the end of the Maoist conflict: Chinese investment and trade is only going up

India is by far Nepal’s biggest foreign investor and trading partner historically. But China is catching up more than ever. Last year, Nepal’s big neighbour to the north invested more money than India for the first time! In addition, though India is still ahead in commerce, accounting for 53 percent of Nepal’s foreign trade, it’s share is down from 60 percent in 2006, while China’s share is up from just 3 percent to 31 percent! In other words, since the end of the Maoist conflict, Chinese investment and trade in Nepal has been going only up. How is that visible out in the districts? Well, here are the latest major examples. Continue reading »

Mar 212015

Willingness to take risks going up: scene from traditional agriculture

Willingness to take risks going up: scene from traditional agriculture

“Agriculture in Nepal is always risky and therefore if you try to change something it becomes even riskier”. Whoever said that – and many did – has a good point. But it also seems that the willingness to try something new at local level is growing. New entrepreneurial initiatives in the local economy are now frequently turning up in the news. Indeed, climate change is drying up the land or causing devastating floods; out-migration is leaving villages half-abandoned and the local labour force depleted; unemployment is soaring more than ever. Nonetheless, local entrepreneurs in districts around the country keep taking risks as they jump into steadily new ventures! Continue reading »

Mar 162015

Staring at the Iron Gate: SLC examinees

Staring at the Iron Gate: SLC examinees

These days our thoughts go out to Nepal’s young boys and girls who are about to face the SLC examination. Known as the “Iron Gate”, the examination is feared by thousands of youth every year – and for good reason. The odds of passing are simply poor. It’s not just that many of the students will get very low marks. No, most will not even pass. Last year, like in many previous years, only one-third of the SLC examinees made it. In total, 662,185 students took the test but only 217,211 pulled through! Continue reading »

Mar 022015

Timsina's warning: locals will lose seed security

Timsina’s warning: locals will lose seed security

Fifteen years ago, a young Nepalese student of agriculture – N. P. Timsina – went to districts in the Mountains, Hills and Terai to study seed security. His motivation? Well, seed security, Timsina wrote back then, is where all food security begins! For centuries, local farmers in the districts that Timsina visited maintained their own seed supply. Cucumber, beans, cawliflower, as well as rice, maize and all other crops were cultivated, not with seeds bought on the market but with local, home-grown seeds. That meant a high degree of seed self-sufficiency. But in the late 1990s this whole system was changing. Continue reading »

Jan 162015

Chief Election Commissioner, N. K. Uprety: Ready if the parties want the local election...

Chief Election Commissioner, N. K. Uprety: Ready if the parties want the local election…

It has not really mattered who formed the government, or who was prime minister. Since 2002, when local elections were first due – five years after the 1997 election for the country’s DDCs, VDCs and municipalities – local elections have been postponed as persistently as has the finalisation of the constitution. Official reason? Anything from king Gyenendra’s take-over and the Maoist conflict to growing local corruption and a need to adopt the constitution first. The Election Commission has declared itself ready to organise the election many times. But every time, the government has postponed. Want to recount the recent chapters in this “never ending story”? Check out this overview!

Nepal will hold local elections in January 2015 after a gap of 16 years, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam said on Tuesday.” July 15, 2014

Dec 202014

Under a full moon in a remote village: women shamans in action.

This video is from a remote village East of Janakpur – at night on the last full moon of November – capturing moments of ancient Shaman rituals. Most of them women, the local Shamans are performing rituals celebrating the slaying of a demon ages ago. The nature of the rituals? Well, they are highly physical, imprinting a mix of fear and awe in the eyes of the locals. Watch the video below and it’ll be clear why: these women shamans are powerful! Also known as Kartik Poornima, the deeper meaning of the rituals is complex. But here’s the video: it’s “Shaman Night” under a full moon.

Aug 162014
Productive farm land is sprayed with chemicals

Productive farm land is sprayed with chemicals

Once upon a time, all farming in Nepal was purely organic. But over the last one or two decades, a significant commercialization in the more productive farm areas has taken place. Population and income levels in Kathmandu and major towns have been rising; the number of consumers who are buying not least vegetables has increased; and to exploit this demand, farmers around the capital, such as in Panchkhal out in Kavre, and in several Terai districts, have shifted from traditional agriculture to commercial, chemical-based farming. Continue reading »

Aug 102014

Going organic: scene from Holy Green Organic Farm

Going organic: scene from Holy Green Organic Farm

The growing use of pesticides in Nepal is increasingly provoking a counter reaction. Time and again, toxic levels of pesticides show up in vegetables on the markets in Kathmandu and major district towns. As a result, consumers are growing steadily more worried and conscious of what they eat, and more farmers are also becoming sceptical of commercial, chemical-based farming. So, what’s their counter-reaction? Well, still more have started to talk about “going organic”.

We just received a call from a farmer down in Tanahun, Mahendra Shrestha, who is not only talking about it. He and his wife have now taken action. They are running a small organic farm – the Holy Green Organic Farm – and other farmers in their village are also attracted to the idea. Yes, great profits can be made from chemical-based farming in short time, Mahendra agrees. But in the long term, organic farming is better. Watch the episode of “Local Voices” below to hear him explain why that is: it’s a small farmer’s views on a heated issue in Nepal today.

Jun 122014
Hybrid or local seeds? Farmer transplanting rice

Hybrid or local seeds? Farmer transplanting rice

What’s best for Nepal’s farmers: hybrid seeds – by and large imported from abroad – or original, local varieties? Well, opinions differ. But voices critical of hybrid seeds are growing. Hybrid corn, rice and other crops have been grown in Nepal for over a decade – and USAID is promoting hybrid seeds as the best way ahead. However, steadily more farmers are now raising concerns.
Continue reading »

May 212014
What's no longer reliable: rain for transplanting rice

What’s no longer reliable: rain for transplanting rice

The heat is undeniable these days. Some say it’s part of “global warming“, others suspect smog pollutants to be the cause, still others point to a regional cycle of climate change. But in either case, the weather over Nepal is warming up, and what’s worse for farmers: it’s also getting a lot drier. The annual monsoon is failing. In some areas the amounts of rain is a mere shadow of the past, in others it falls like a torrent, submerging paddies and washing away crops. Farmers across the country are in urgent need of irrigation or flood protection as the monsoon is delayed, erratic and insufficient.  Continue reading »