Advisory Board

Honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay
Honorary Board
Dr. Kamal Bawa
Advisory Council Co-Chair
Kamal Bawa is Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Founder-President of ATREE. Professor Bawa has published more than 200 scientific papers and 11 authored or edited books and monographs. Among the many awards he has received include the Giorgio Ruffolo Fellowship at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (2009), Charles Bullard (twice 1972, 2010) and Maria Moore Cabot Fellowships (1973) at Harvard University, Guggenheim Fellowship (1987), Pew Scholar in Conservation and the Environment (1992), the world’s first prize in sustainability--the Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science from the Royal Norwegian Society of Letters and Sciences (2012), and the international MIDORI Prize in Biodiversity (2014) from the Aeon Foundation in Japan at the United Nations Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Dr. Bawa is an elected fellow of several science academies, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2012), the Royal Norwegian Society of Letters and Sciences (2012), and Royal Society of London (2015). He has headed or served on a number scientific panels, and he currently serves on the governing boards of several national and international organizations. His second coffee-table book, Himalaya: Mountains of Life, a sequel to Sahyadris: India’s Western Ghats was published in January 2013.
William T. Dowell
William Thatcher Dowell is a renowned author, journalist, translator and editor/producer. Between 1989 to 2001, Bill served as a correspondent with Time Magazine, where he was the Southeast Asia Bureau Chief from 1995 to 1997, based in Hong Kong. He spent 14 years in the Paris Bureau as a contract stringer, and prior to that was a TV correspondent for ABC News and NBC News, where he reported on and Associate Producer of NPR's "All Things COnsidered." Bill is the co-authored of In the Shadow of the Dragon, with Winter Nie at IMD. Most recently he was the co-editor of The Essential Edge.
Masha Etkind
Since 1989, Masha Etkind has been a professor in the Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson University where she teaches Design, History and Theory of Architecture. Masha's focus and area of expertise within the Department is Heritage Conservation: Theory and Practice. Before teaching at Ryerson, Masha worked with D. Malik Architects and Planners, and J. Michael Kirkl and Architects; she also worked in France, Russia and the USA. She is also an Adjunct Professor and a leading partner in the joint annual design studio at Azrieli School of Architecture, Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Dr. Greg Greenwood
Dr. Gregory B. Greenwood, a natural resources specialist trained in agricultural ecology, population ecology, and ruminant nutrition, is Executive Director of the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) in Berne, Switzerland. His mandate is to develop a strategy to increase and focus global change research in mountain regions throughout the world as part of IHDP and IGBP programs, and as a policy objective of the Swiss National Science Foundation. Greg Greenwood was previously Bioenergy and Climate Science Advisor for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resources/Science Advisor for the California Resources Agency, Sacramento. He has extensive experience with and publications on land use development and ecology, including global change in mountains.
Jay R. Halfon, Esq
Jay R. Halfon is a practicing attorney and public policy strategist. He represents tax-exempt organizations, including public charities,private foundations, advocacy groups and political entities. He has a broad range of experience influencing public policy in both Congress and state legislatures. Mr. Halfon served as executive director and general counsel of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association from May 1998 to December 2001. Previously he was executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) for a decade ending in 1997. He serves on the Board of numerous foundations including
Sanjeev M. Sherchan
Sanjeev M. Sherchan is the Director for Global Leadership Initiatives at the Asia Society. In this capacity, Sherchan is primarily responsible for conceptualizing and overseeing all aspects of the Society’s global initiatives. He joined the Asia Society in the fall of 2000 as a Program Assistant in the policy department. Prior to that, before returning to the United States for graduate studies in 1998, Sherchan worked as a consultant for PLAN International in Nepal. Sherchan has been a commentator on news and television programs and written op-eds on South Asia. In December 2008, he was one of the 60 National Democratic Institute (NDI) accredited foreign election monitors who observed voting and counting during Bangladesh’s Ninth Parliamentary Elections. He was deployed in the Jessore district in south western Bangladesh. Sherchan is a graduate of Baylor University in Texas; he received his M.A. in International Relations in 2000
Michael Leckman
Principal Architect at Diamond Schmitt Architects, Toronto
Born and educated in Montreal, Michael studied building science at Vanier College, and architecture at the University of Toronto. He joined Diamond Schmitt Architects in 1988, became associate in 1994, and Principal in 2003. In his more than 20 years with the firm, he has provided leadership on complex institutional projects, has helped shape a critical debate on design as Vice Chair of the City of Toronto Design Review Panel, contributed extensively to design education as a guest critic, lecturer and mentor at schools of architecture across Ontario. He is also an accomplished amateur photographer. Michael has been project principal for buildings in Ontario, New Brunswick, Alberta, British Columbia and New Mexico. Currently, he is working on the new Law School for Thompson Rivers University, and the School of Fine and Performing Arts at Brock University.
NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati
Technical Advisor
NayanTara is a photographer, curator and arts manager based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her work seeks to embrace themes such as change, identity, gender, and history within the context of ‘the New Nepal’. She enjoys working across platforms to connect visuals, sound, research, education, activism; using storytelling as an underlying approach. In 2007, she co-founded, a photography platform that has fdacilitated learning, networking, publishing, marketing and other opportunities for Nepali photographers. In 2010, she co-founded the Nepal Picture Library; a digital photo archive that strives to document a ground-up history of the Nepali people.
Nawraj Pradhan
Technical Advisor
Nawraj Pradhan is currently working at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) an Intergovernmental organization headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal. He coordinates a transboundary collaborative programme (Kailash Sacred Landscape) signed under a regional cooperation between China, India and Nepal. He has professional work experience in Australia and South Asia which include work on programme and project management, and technical experiences on Himalayan springshed management, climate change adaptation, ecosystem services, environmental impact assessments, and corporate social responsibility. His practical experience in the field includes working with diverse rural communities on a range of current ecosystem and water management issues. As a researcher he has designed and executed participatory approaches and methodologies on valuation of ecosystem services and spring water management. He has published articles, research briefs, and has presented in international conferences, forums and networks on innovative ecosystem management, and climate change adaptation approaches. He holds a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Nawraj has an ardent love for photography and trekking, thus enriching his work in the field by capturing landscapes, people and their cultures.


Rajeev K Goyal
Co-Founder / Environmental Director
Rajeev is the Co-Founder/ Environmental Director of KTK-BELT project. He is a graduate of Brown University, the New York University School of Law and has recently received a Masters in Agriculture at Cornell University. He is a lawyer, activist, rural-development worker, and former Peace Corps volunteer. Between 2008 to 2011, he was the national coordinator of the Push for Peace Corps Campaign. He is the author of ‘The Springs of Namje’ .
Priyanka Bista
Co-Founder / Design Director
Priyanka is the Design Director of KTK-BELT Project overseeing the architecture and planning arm of the project. She has post-graduate degrees in Architectural Regeneration and Shelter after Disaster along with a Bachelors in Architectural Science. She has worked for over three years at Diamond and Schmitt Architects in Toronto, most notably, her contributions were made towards the design of the Centre for Green Cities in the Don Valley Brickworks Revitalization project, National Arts Centre, Ottawa and the Regent Park Redevelopment project in Toronto. Her extended research and architectural experiences include Spain, Haiti, Israel and India. As a design and planning associate, she worked with Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform (CMAP) on the Human City Project (HCP) in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Dr. Jules White
Technical Director
Dr. Jules White is the Technical Director of KTK-BELT. He is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Vanderbilt University and the Art Editor of the American Center for Artists. He has been volunteering on the Bhedetar project since 2003 as a donor and strategic advisor. He is supporting KTK-BELT with innovative integration of GIS and Android technology into village knowledge management systems.
Scott Skinner, Esq.
Scott is the Treasurer of KTK-BELT and also a co-founder of Phul Maya Foundation, the 501(c)(3) non-profit which is the fiscal agent of TLG. He is the founding partner and an attorney in Biggam, Fox & Skinner law firm for over 20 years. Before becoming a lawyer, Scott served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal from 1964-1966 and has continuously engaged on charitable projects in the country since that time. Within the model VDC project, Scott and his law partner Pat Biggam have fundraised and helped build five new primary schools in Bhedetar, numerous libraries, and water infrastructure projects.
Varun Saraf is the Chairman of the Saraf Foundation for Himalayan Traditions and Culture and founder of numerous social impact and business ventures.
Marco Cestarolli is young architect with a strong interest in alternative ways of conceiving architecture integrating sustainable technologies, vernacular forms, local knowledges and community imputs. After graduating with a master degree in Sustainable Architecture at the University IUAV of Venice, he worked for few years at the Dutch/Nigerian architetural firm NLÉ. During his studies and early work he developed a particular interest in the architectural possibilities offerd by developing countries and cities, different way of living such as costal communities and adaptation strategies to the changing climate.
Wangchu Bhutia
Medicinal Plants Specialist
Wangchu Bhutia, originally from Sankhuwasabha District, has joined our small team as a Medicinal Plants Specialist. With a Bachelors degree in Science, he has over seven years of experience in biodiversity conservation, NTFP cultivation, nursery management and eco-tourism. He has worked with TMI, Red Panda network and other conservation agencies throughout remote regions of Nepal. Since his arrival, Wangchu has already documented and mapped over 400 different plant species within Yangshila. Currently he’s building an extensive database of scientific information of each plant to serve as a foundation for a GIS map, educational plant trails and a plant compendium. He will be critical member in expanding the BELT campaign beyond Yangshila VDC.
Shirine Habash
Outdoor Education Consultant
Shirine holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the George Washington University and comes to us with over ten years of experience in science education. She is primarily based in the United Arab Emirates and her experience includes work with academic publisher, McGraw-Hill Education and the World Wide Fund for Nature ( WWF), where her focus was environmental education and citizen science. She is incredibly passionate about the environment and believes the only way to live harmoniously with nature is to provide people with the appropriate tools and knowledge to do so.
Pema Lamu Bhutia
Administrator and HR Coordinator
Pema Lamu Bhutia, originally from Chepuwa VDC, Sankhuwasabha District, holds a Bachelors in English from Bundelkhand University in Jhansi. She has worked as an assistant teacher at Clifton Hall Boarding School and Kamalodaya Academy School. As KTK-BELT’s Administrator and HR Coordinator, she brings rigor and professionalism to the workplace.
Tula B Kandel
Legal Advisor
Tula Bahadur Kandel is a practicing attorney in Nepal Since 2000, he has served as an advocate of the court. Mr. Kandel completed his LLM from Kathmandu School of Law. Beside his legal practice Mr. Kandel has worked as consultant to various national and international organisations and also worked as a project director on a project of Nepal Bar Association and Canadian Bar Association in support of the First Constitutional Assembly of Nepal. Mr. Kandel specializes in establishing businesses for foreigner entities and immigration law. He has worked for numerous NGOs and INGOs on human rights and other issues.
Mohan Pandey
Botanist/Plant Taxonomist Officer
Mohan is currently working on the Lumbasumba conservation project as an ecologist. He is originally from Syangja district with a master’s degree in Botany with specialization in 'Ecology and Resource Management' from the Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University. He is interested in research related to endangered plant species, use and harvesting patterns of wild plant resources, local ethnobotanical knowledge, impact study and management of invasive plant species, climate change and conservation. He holds 5 years' experience in long-term vegetation monitoring, biodiversity conservation, invasive alien plant species, documentation of ethnobotanical knowledge and other aspects of ecology. During research projects, he has worked in various districts across Nepal including the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL), Chitwan Annapurna Landscape (CHAL) and Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL).
Paru Adhikari
Paru Adhikari is the Accountant for KTK-BELT. She has over seven years of working experience in Finance and Administration in private and not-for-profit organization. During her tenure in previous organisations, she has successfully managed various projects funded by different donors such as USAID, UNESCO, WWF, EU, WHO and Save the Children.

Learning Grounds Team


A community member of Yangshila VDC, Kumar Bishwakarma is a dedicated fourth grade teacher, medicinal plants expert, and a passionate environmentalist. In 2013, under his leadership KTK-BELT’s local partner, YPLG was formed as a non-profit company. He has been voluntarily working for the cause for 2 years to mobilize the community, build the land assets for the project, and tirelessly work towards bridging the gap between conservation and education. He is a trained permaculture designer and an advocate for children and science education.
Ganga Limbu, a 21 year old girl, is the first youth fellow of KTK-BELT working in the areas of participatory mapping, social research and environmental education. She’s currently enrolled in her Bachelors degree in Mahendra Multiple Campus, Dharan. She was born in a large family in Mukten village of Bhedetar VDC. Since she was young, she has received scholarships from Phulmaya Foundation and most recently received a scholarship for her Bachelors degree. She’s currently living in Satisale village, Yangshila. Along with doing research in the existing education curriculum, she’s interested in learning different softwares including ArcGIS, AutoCAD and Sketchup.
Durga Kattel, a 25 year old male from Satishale village, has been volunteering with KTK-BELT for the past few weeks. He is a full-time teacher in Jansewa Primary School and a steering committee member of YPLG. He has a bachelors degree in Education. His current work is focused on designing, developing and conducting household surveys in communities where YPLG and KTK-BELT are currently working in. As a social research fellow, he will be working on developing a participatory research and design programme to employ various tools to enable community participation in the design of the different learning grounds.
Sanam Pradhan, a 28 year old married youth with two young girls is from Yangshila VDC and will be working as the alternative energy and construction fellow. He has his SLC certification and technical trainings as electrician from Alliance for Social Mobilisation, a certification in computer course and driving. He will be operating the community building workshop which will house laser cutters, power tools and building materials. He will be working with us to design and build the Sikti Plant trail and Pragati Chowk plant workshop.
Dhanmaya Rai, 33 years old single mother with two kids, originally from Yangshila Satishale ward no.5. She did not complete her studies due to economic condition of her family but she is very enthusiasm to learn different skills and knowledge, she is a good learner and got 6 years of experience in screen printing, got little knowledge of cutting and sewing cloths. She is very hardworking and reliable. Currently working with YPLG as Middle BELT Land Manager, along with her work she is learning driving as well and also enrolled her name for SLC examination.


Karma Bhutia is an advisor to KTK-BELT and the founder of Sankhuwasabha Learning Grounds. He is currently a Program Director at The Mountain Institute. He holds a Bachelor degree in Social Science and has over 15 years experience in community development and natural resource management. For the last 5 years, Mr Bhutia has been working on the MAPs cultivation techniques and has empowered 2000 individual farmers to double their income through this technique in Illam district. He will be closely working with our agriculture team, in particular Wangchu Bhutia, to train local farmers in medicinal plants cultivation. He will be working directly on the BELT campaign by expanding the project to Sankhuwasabha VDC.


Lokendra Bahadur Yakha, a highly skilled farmer and local leader, is the Chairman of Tamur Learning Grounds. In 2015, he became a spokesperson for Climate + Change, raising awareness globally about devastating localized impacts of climate change on spring systems in the middle hills of Nepal. Mr. Yakha is also an indigenous leader of the vanishing Yakha ethnic group of Nepal, and is trained in permaculture design.
Aditi Subba
Aditi Subba, 25 years old, completed her Masters in Science in Environmental Conservation and did her research in invasive plant species. She will be working as a program officer within the Lumbasumba Conservation project. Her interest lies on cross-cutting issues like community-environment correlation, human-wildlife/biodiversity conflicts and influence of religion in terms of conservation. A scientist by academics, you will, however, see her deeply absorbed in fictional novels in her free time, trying to balance the two contrasting pursuits of her interest.