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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Sanu Maya Thapa

Sanu Maya Thapa in front of land

Meet Sanu Maya Thapa. 

Behind her, you can see part of her land.  She has seven kathas (or about 7/10s of an acre) where she wants to grow organic vegetable in partnership with the women in her village of Odera. She plans to call the cooperative "Three Angels Organic Farm" after her three daughters, the oldest of whom is attending college through a scholorship with WELNepal.  Sanu Maya and her group took a 16-week organic vegetable training course four years ago.  There, women from three different villages met once a week in the field and grew, with training through funding from WELNepal, a crop of vegetables that saw neither pesticide nor insect spray.  Soon, Sanu Maya and her group will take a three-day refresher course through WELNepal and its partner organization Ecocentre and begin growing organic vegetables all year round. With the proper training, the women should have no trouble producing three crops of various vegetables a year. Because Sanu Maya is one of the area's most active women in the community, we feel that with her leadership and motivating skills, a successful project is almost certain.

Sanu Maya in her home
Another plus for Sanu Maya's group is the village of Odera is very close to some of the better lodges servicing tourists who come to visit Nepal's beautiful jungle in the Chitwan National Park.  We're certain these lodges would see no reason not to pay a little more for organic produce when they can advertise "Some of the vegetables you are eating are grown organically by local women's groups" at their dining tables.  Sanu's groups will now join 13 other women's groups, all organized and funded by WELNepal, in growing, eating,and selling organic vegetables.  Since more and more Nepalis are becoming aware of the negative effects  of commercial sprays, our women's groups will  work with Ecocentre to create a large co-op through which organic vegetables will be sold at commercial outlets.

Good luck Sanu Maya!


P.S. If you want to learn more about day-to-day life in Nepal (and there's a lot about it that's guaranteed to make you smile as well as think), please follow us on Twitter @WELNepal (!/WELNepal)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

My Village



My village of Sauraha is a tourist town.  It sits on one side of the Rapti River.  On the the other side is the jungle, home of the one-horned rhino and the tragically endangered Bengal tiger, along with other assorted jungle creatures who live free and protected in the Chitwan National Park. Up until recently, protection has been somewhat spotty. Poaching has taken too many of these endangered and magnificent animals.  But last year, not one rhino was slaughtered for its horn.  Good for them, but not so good for the middle-aged Chinese men who will now have to rely on good old-fashioned Viagra to get them through the night (rumour has it that some believe powdered rhino horn is a natural aphrodisiac, though it's often used--with no scientifically-proven effect--to treat illness).

Sauraha, located in the flat lowlands of Nepal, is where I spend my days.  Yes, there is much work do be done with the women who live in "them thar hills", but unfortunately, at my tender age, I'm not up to walking up and down the Himalayas to visit women's groups. Besides, bouncing around on the back of an old motorcycle (whose shocks have seen better days) down rough back country trails takes enough out of my back to keep my keep both my chiropractor and yoga guru busy.

Some traditional Nepali transportation

A camel waiting for a rider
More  traditional transport
Sauraha is a tourist town for both Nepalis who wish to escape the noisy, polluted, chaotic, and overcrowded Kathmandu for a few days, and visitors from abroad who need some warm weather and flat land after walking around the snowy mountains up north. Yes, there are some t-shirt shops and restaurants featuring the "best pizza in Nepal" but Sauraha still has a "sleepy" quality. A few years ago, during the political turmoil here in Nepal, Sauraha was more than sleepy--it was in a coma. Nobody  came here.  For many days I was the only "stranger" in town, which made negotiating a good price for the best room in town a relative snap.  But that was the bad, good old days.  Now  the "insurrection" is over and the rebels have joined the government and all are at peace, and the tourists are coming back.  "Main Street" has been paved, more hotels and lodges are popping up, and electrical wires have been strung.  That said, most times of the year service is somewhat irregular.  These days we are limited to eight hours of power a day, half of those hours coming between two and six in the morning when many students do their homework.  For many here, it comes down to buying candles or buying food.  One would think that all those rushing torrents of water coming down from the Himalayas could produce enough power to light up all of Nepal.  Indeed there is, but it's used to light up all of India instead. 

And yes, the paved roads and a bridge over the Rapti River has brought both prosperity and motorized vehicles to Sauraha.  But I've included some of the more conservative modes of travel that still can found in my little village.

More interesting transport