New hope at the feet of the Everest

With spectacular scenery, including the world’s highest Mountain, Everest, travellers in search of adventure are drawn to Nepal.
 
But this rich landscape is also home to some of the poorest people in the world. More than half the country’s population live below the poverty line and life is a constant struggle for survival.
 
While tourism is vital, there are major initiatives under way which could lead to a better quality of life for rural Nepalese.
 
The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) has been working in Nepal for around 20 years and is helping to improve the long-term prospects for its inhabitants.

Uni signs £8.5m contract to aid Nepal

These links are now being strengthened further after the recent announcement that the University has won a three-year contract worth £8.5 million which will help the poorest communities.
 
Its role will be as Advisory Specialists and Funding Services for the ‘Livelihoods and Forestry Programme’ (LFP) Nepal.
 
The objective is to provide advisory support to the ongoing programme, as well as funding services to operate and implement it from the centre in Kathmandu and across 15 other districts.
 
LFP, a Department for International Development-funded programme, enhances the assets of rural communities by promoting more equitable, efficient and sustainable use of forest resources. The initiative works with 4,000 Community Forestry User Groups, representing 18 per cent of the population of Nepal, assisting poor people with enterprise opportunities.
 
Groups are given areas of forest to manage. Without this, they would have less income and their prospects would be bleak.

Empowering the poorest

CIDT is committed to supporting the programme. Staff member Peter Branney will be there for three years, assisting the Nepali managers.
 
He will provide general programme management support and technical assistance related to forest policy and planning.
 
Peter will help ensure the focus is on maximising the benefits for the poor and vulnerable and will also provide the team over there with cutting-edge technical skills.
 
Head of CIDT Phil Dearden says: “LFP is empowering the poorest people and reducing their vulnerability.”
 
He says the University was very excited to win the contact, particularly as so much hard work went into the bid. It was put to open tender, with competition from groups across the world. The team of CIDT staff – including Phil Dearden, Des Mahony, Gavin Jordan and Jahan Chowdury – found out their bid was successful earlier this year.
 
Phil says: “This is the biggest contract the University of Wolverhampton has ever signed, but most of the money will be managed by the University to go back into Nepal to help the poorest communities.”

A serious challenge

Nepal remains a fragile state following the Maoist insurgency that ceased in November 2006 with the signing of a peace agreement with the Seven Party Alliance/government.
 
The country is now going through a transition stage, with ongoing sporadic violence, closures and crime. LFP has operated throughout the conflict using a Safe and Effective Development in Conflict (SEDC) approach, a set of analytical tools which helps staff to understand the context better and enable them to work safely.
 
Phil says: “This work is a serious challenge and does require a certain element of bravery, as well as high-level management, strategic thinking, education and training.”
 
Setting up and empowering ‘Forest User Groups’ gives poor people access for basic needs – fodder for animals, fuel wood, building materials and food in times of extreme stress. LFP promotes a systematic process of ensuring benefits from forest resources are captured by the poor by applying a tool called ‘Well-being ranking’ as a criteria to ensure the poor are represented.
 
Income is also enhanced through valuable non-timber forest products such as medicinal and aromatic plants.
 
The University itself has much to gain from its work on the programme. The team will be strengthening partnerships with organisations in Nepal. The University of Wolverhampton already welcomes Nepalese students and has worked closely with the Tribhuvan University of Nepal.

Making a huge difference

A major benefit from LFP will be Knowledge Transfer, where experiences are being fed back to CIDT, providing important research information and documentation. They are also looking at issues of climate change and partnerships between the state and communities.
 
Phil believes the project will make a huge difference to Nepal, giving its poorest people the chance of a future.
 
During the Colonial period, forest rights were turned into forest privileges; all forests were state-owned. This is now changing and there is hope ahead.
 
“Community forestry is about giving the forest resource back to the people to manage and get benefits from,” says Phil. “Without programmes such as LFP, there would be much less focus on helping the poor.”
 
CIDT is a self-financing, non-profit making centre. It has a 30-year track record in helping people-centred sustainable development by working in partnership to develop the skills of individuals and institutions through education and training, research, consultancy and programme management.
 
For more information please contact tel: 01902 323219, email: cidt@wlv.ac.uk, or visit our website at: www.wlv.ac.uk/cidt

Nepal factfile

  • Nepal is the poorest country in Asia
  • Most Nepalese live on $1 a day or less and half the population are jobless
  • One third of the population lives without clear water
  • Nepal’s population will be 48 million by 2030
  • About 85% of Nepalese don’t have health access
  • About 80% of Nepalese are farmers and rain is very important to the economy. If there is no rain, farmers will often worship the Lord Indra – mythical Hindu god of rain