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?
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.