It has been more than a year since my last visit to Nepal and it feels good to be back! I’m anxious to see the changes that have occurred since I have been gone.
My first visit was to Kathmandu and to meet with Heifer Nepal staff. They are truly a talented team with a total commitment to building social capital as THE way to successful rural agricultural development. They understand the impact of the 12 Cornerstones and include these values into project work.
Nepal has implemented the Nepal Signature Project that will embody our work of increasing our impact. This project hopes to serve 140,000 farmers in goat and dairy value chain enterprises to increase families’ nutrition and income. The Nepal staff is very confident and very excited at the impact they will have on so many lives. I really am in awe of the amazing work that the Nepal staff has accomplished regarding this project since January.
After my initial meeting with Heifer Nepal, I spent the rest of the afternoon meeting with government officials and project collaborators who have pledged to support our work.
My second day was spent in various meetings with representatives from World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). There were interesting discussions. As Dr. Gayatri Acharya, acting Country Director for the World Bank in Nepal, said, “Money is not the problem, there is plenty of money. It is [lack of] responsible execution that is the problem.” In Heifer’s case, I know that Nepal Country Director, Dr. Shubh Mahato, and his staff have built incredible relationships with various organizations that will enhance our current work and demonstrate our commitment and comparative advantage in the building of social capital.
Nepal is very poor with continuing poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and corruption. It is apparent that Heifer NEEDS to be here, and in working with our partners to increase our impact, Heifer will be a key player in eradicating poverty.
Puja Singh, Communications and Network Officer for Nepal, shared some of my visit to the Kabilash village in her post “First Steps into Sustainability.” This village is home to a little more than 1,000 families who will be a part of the Nepal Signature Project. As Puja mentioned, this was my first time meeting with a Self Help Group (SHG) prior to receiving training. It is evident that life is not easy and the women were very shy and nervous. The Nepal staff explained how radical the change is after participating in Cornerstone training, and these women will be more assertive and confident. We met with a second group, who are in a similar situation as the first group. Their agroecological and livestock practices are inadequate; their animals are sick, ill fed and scrawny and do not fetch good prices and have high mortality rates. They mentioned to us they were hungry and struggled to find the next meal for themselves and their children. It was a very sobering experience. I would like to think that we shared hope with these families, knowing that Heifer would soon be working with them to support their efforts to attain self-reliance. We also met with some SHGs that have been Heifer project participants for more than two years. The contrast was amazing. Their success has been motivating for the new groups preparing to engage in Heifer projects.
The following day we visited the Devitar village. This was the village I visited 18 months earlier, in my first trip to Nepal. The participants are thriving and their income is up substantially. It really was quite moving to see the continued progress.
As my time in Nepal came to a close, I visited additional Heifer projects in the Chepang area. Although they were all at different stages in their projects, you could see their progress. The Cornerstones training has really served them well as a foundational basis for their work. One of the groups even received a visit from the Prime Minister of Nepal! These SHGs understand that scale matters and they are now they most visible and impactful advocates for their communities. I’m pleased to see that many of the SHGs are led by some forceful and confident women. I truly wish that you could experience the power and excitement from these projects.
My journey continues onto Thailand and Cambodia. The days have been very long, but as I have mentioned before, I am energized by the people I meet!