Greening the barren land: an update from Kurule-Tenupa

It’s almost Friday, so why not take more opportunity to continue our feature on Kurule-Tenupa:

Kurule Tenupa was once a really vibrant community but after the earthquake in the 1990s about 150 water sources dried up. With the lack of water, the basic ingredient for agriculture, the remaining land became infertile. And mass outmigration followed from this community over the last few decades.

When we first met Lokendra Yakkha ji, the local leader, some 8+ years ago, his worry was not only that there was no water in Kurule for the people but also the birds. “Birds are declining!” he said, “how do we reverse that?”.

Lokendra Yakkha, Dirghaman Tamang, and Bhoj Kumar Kafle, a few years ago with an interest to reverse and solve the crisis, proposed to KTK-BELT to collaborate with us in a joint project. Since then they’ve set up an organization called Tamor Permaculture Learning Grounds like other learning grounds organizations and have been actively stewarding all of the local work.

Binod Sir, Providing training

2 years ago, all three board members, attended a training given by Binod Puri sir in Yangshila on the bio-intensive raised bed, plantation, low input high-yield methods, grafting, cutting, plastic pond, vermicompost etc. With the technical and little financial support from KTK-BELT, they began a feat that no one imagined would be successful except for themselves. During that period, 30 species of fruit and nut plants were planted in Banduke Learning Grounds, two ponds have been dug up and they’ve been implementing all the lessons from/with Binod Sir on their farm.

The once barren land has now become fertile and is now operating as a green organic farm. 100s of people visit the farm regularly amazed at this impossible feat. And they’re also happy to report not only humans but also pangolins, birds, visit the farm, and have made it their home.

They want this plot of land, the Learning Grounds, to really become a space where you can get training for organic farming, kids can learn about outdoor education, young people can also find hope to stay back and to make something in their own village. Binod sir is currently there right now training for 3 days on grafting, pruning, and establishing a nursery.

Grafting training to lacals by Binod Puri

Although it has become the greatest struggle to raise funds for this project, the team has made sure that every penny goes to the project. Yakkha ji often says, “we cannot give you the burden for fundraising all the time. We have to focus and self-sustain. I think then we can call ourselves successful if we can fund this ourselves.”

“And,” ambitiously they said, “we also want to continue greening more plots of land.”

We absolutely think they will be successful in this feat as well and are so thrilled to be collaborating with such an incredible group of individuals who are courageous and focused. Their passion, focus, and resilience despite the hardship have been infectious!

Team photo near the Plastic Pond

Photos: Som Maya Limbu and Abhishek Katuwal

Artist in Residence Program

We’re happy to share the great news of the start of our Artist in Residence program as we begin our collaboration with Meena Gurung, the founder, and director of Bora Studio, a slow fashion and environmentally sustainable company based in Nepal. Meena studied fashion design in Dublin, Ireland, and returned back to Nepal immediately with a dream to start Bora studio. Despite many struggles and a lack of understanding within the Nepali market for a slow and sustainable fashion, she started Bora studio in 2017.

The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world in terms of global warming. For a fabric that is bought in the commercial market, it takes about 20-30 years and even 100 to decompose. Through her work, she hopes to inspire others to chip away at this problem and choose sustainable and organic fashion. Her work is as sustainable as it is beautiful and high-end. 

Meena will be working to develop alternative livelihood streams in two regions of our BELT in Koshi Tappu and in TMJ. Whether it’s making dyes out of rhododendron leaves or weaving clutches out of water hyacinth, she’s excited to see what products can be developed. To start with, she will focus her time and energy on learning and understanding the traditional and indigenous ways of weaving, and in collaboration with the women artisans, she hopes to develop products. 

We’ve had the joy of working with her for the past 2 years as she designed our pangolin bags, our safari garbs, t-shirts, and other products. So, we’re thrilled to have her work with us as we start to develop the product lines to help build the long-term financial sustainability into the Vertical Biodiversity Fund and our Learning Grounds partners. 

Having struggled with patriarchy herself, she hopes that her work and her time will empower women to become stronger and more independent. She is as charming and funny as she is strong-headed about her mission to build women’s capacity and to build products that will help and heal the planet. 

As an indigenous female youth from rural Nepal, we know that you’ll inspire other young women like yourself to follow in your footsteps. Thank you so much from our entire team and all of our partners for joining us and we look forward to our collaboration! 

Photos: Bora Studio Nepal

Container Ko Cinema by Outdoor Students


Welcome speech by Richa Thapa
Container Ko Cinema Audience

Last night in Yangshila, we screened David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II on ‘Islands’ to a crowd of 350 villagers. Impossible footage that requires no translation. This latest edition of what had come to be known as ‘Containerko Cinema’ was hosted by the outdoor education class VII kids. Collective gasps could be heard when an iguana hatchling frantically fled a throng of hungry snakes & penguins waddled unknowingly into crashing oceans. We thank our special guests from the Netherlands, Florine & Wiebe, for their warm presence. Fantastic urban architecture by Priyanka Bista and the BELT builder team that’s really come into its own now shrouded in passion fruit vines, and lined with lemongrass, coconut and banana. There was a little planet earth of its own transpiring in our biodiversity pond which now has hundreds of frogs in it.

The evening was hosted by Sirjana Biswakarma and Alina Rai with a welcome speech by Richa Thapa. Additionally Neha Limbu, Roma Magar, Alina Rai, Smita Rai, and Krishna Magar proudly presented five outdoor education modules. They showed a film recorded and edited by Ganga Limbu.


Hosts for the night, Srijana Bishwakarma and Alina Rai

Our outdoor kids presenting about their year long modules and all the things they learnt and the fun they had.

Our Special Guests for the Evening.

Kudos to the students for doing everything (the glamorous and non glamorous tasks) from preparing for the seatings, to hosting, to cleaning up the trash, to distributing popcorns. Well done!


Audience with popcorn’s engrossed in “Planet Earth”.

Wiebe playing music for the audience

Next day, we followed the event with a module on outdoor ed hosted by Florine and Wieb where the kids learnt about various issues from the concept of living with water in Netherlands, to climate change impact, to searching, drawing and enacting different plants from the Sikti forest. Wieb additionally played music for the students and taught about musical concepts.

We are grateful to our guests, students and the community for their participation.


On behalf of KTK-BELT, Sabitra High School,  Jansewa Basic School, and the people of Satisale village, we express our great appreciation to Florine and Wiebe for their visit. 

Striving for Zero Extinction in the Chure

Local Farmers

The 3rd Saturday of February marks ‘World Pangolin Day’ each year. This is the 1st time it felt appropriate to ‘celebrate’, as the ward chairman declared that we had achieved ZERO pangolin poaching in Yangshila in 2018. Moreover, through the leadership of young people like Deepak Magar, the community signed a pact to create an 835-acre pangolin sanctuary surrounding our bio-intensive farm which we can expand all the way to Madhumalla through awareness programs & declaration of new sanctuaries. We would like to thank Louise Fletcher, who two years back gave our program a boost by doing art workshops with the local youth & farmers and connected us to a broader network of conservationists trying to save these mammals from extinction. Braving freezing rain & high winds, we screened short films like ‘Pangolin Men’ about the Tikki Hywood Trust’s work in Zimbabwe, and inspirational pieces about the power of nature narrated by Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts from Conservation International. As usual, the biggest hit was Jackie Chan’s ‘Kung Fu Pangolin’ which we had to rewind and replay several times. When it started to rain, one elder said it is the Pangolin speaking saying ‘I have been here for 65 million years. You don’t need to protect me.’ The night culminated with an inspirational film narrated by Jane Goodall about the irony of the genius of human beings being applied to their own destruction. Organic broccoli and BELT lemongrass tea was served from our Vertical Farm in compostable plates made of Shorea Robusta leaves. Finally, we thank Bora Studio and Meena Gurung for the ‘Pangolin Protector’ symbol of our movement to save the Indian and Chinese Pangolin.

Deepak Magar, local youth of Maharaje galvanizing other youth to supoort our pangolin forest declaration effort.
Lokendra Yakha, Dirgaman Tamang and Bhojkumar Kafle, the three musketeers of Kurule Tenupa, Dhankuta who are leading our project on the banks of the Tamur river.
Lokendra Bahadur Yakha, chairperson of Tamur Learning Grounds in Kurule-Tenupa
Design by Bora Studio
World Pangolin Day
Rojina Rai, daughter of Kumari Rai, a single mom who works in the Vertical Farm.
World Pangolin Day
Local Women Signing
Pangolin declaration  

Movie Screening
‘Pangolin Men’ about the Tikki Hywood Trust project in Zimbabwe, one of the most beautiful films about pangolin conservation.

Thank you Jane

‘Province 1 meeting to declare the new 176,000-acre Lumbasumba Conservation Area Convenes in Kathmandu’

Since early 2017, KTK-BELT and our incredible local partner, Sankhuwasabha Learning Grounds (SLG) have been leading the charge to create a 176,000-acre Community-Based Conservation Area in the Lumbasumba that will link Kanchenjunga Conservation Area and Makalu-Barun National Park, the 3rd and 5th tallest peaks in the world. This new habitat connectivity would allow nature & culture to thrive, giving new protection to the incredible national treasures of this region which include snow leopard, red pandas, hundreds of unique medicinal plants such as Bikhuma, Panchaule, and Kutki, and splendid birds like the Satyr Tragopan, Steppe Eagle, Silver-eared Mesia, and Wood Snipe– all threatened with extinction. The project is supported with a five-year grant from the Rainforest Trust, 2017-2022.

Until now, we have been working on the ground, building household level consent, assessing local views on the concept. Our team, which includes district coordinators, community mobilizers and youth fellows, spent a year doing the arduous work of carrying out household-to-household surveys, going door to door, to get complete consent for the idea. This incredible work by Wang Chhedar Bhote, Mohan Pandey, Kamala Rai, Tsering Dorje, and Gandema Bhote has paved the way for the local Rural Municipality chairpersons to endorse and now champion the concept, as we move to the province and national level.

The Lumbasumba, a region of notable floristic and faunal diversity, has been facing critical threats such as habitat modification and fragmentation, unsustainable use of natural resources, forest fires, infestations of invasive species, and loss of traditional knowledge and weakening of the cultural factors that buttress conservation. These trends underscore the need for the creation of this new conservation area.

This past December, we hosted our first province-level gathering in Taragaon Museum to build further consent for the concept. State Minister Honorable Ram Kumari Chaudhary was the chief guest. We were heartened to see so many female lawmakers stand up and speak in support of the Lumbasumba.

Also in attendance was special guest, Purna Prasad Rai, Member of the Provincial Assembly for State 1 who had the following to say: “The herders know EVERY detail about these landscapes, all of the habitats of wildlife, the behavioral ecology of the organisms there and their prey status. They also possess knowledge about the poachers’ routes. So, local farmers and herders must be at the core of the conservation of the Lumbasumba region.”

Our next step will be to hold a similar gathering in Biratnagar within State 1 in March 2019, before proceeding to the national level thereafter. Our approach from the beginning has been to move from the ground level up, so that all of the local stakeholders are helping shape this new conservation area, giving it lasting power.

KTK-BELT and SLG would like to thank ALL of the local government participants:

Chief Guest: Honourable State Minister Ram Kumari Chaudhary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development

Special Guest: Honourable Purna Prasad Rai, Member of Provincial Assembly, Province 1

Other Notable Guests: Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 – Sarita Khadka and Umita Baraili; Secretary of House of Representatives-Gopal Nath Yogi; Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Forest, Tourism and Industry, Province 1- Krishna Prasad Poudel; Co-Chairpersons of the Makalu Rural Municipality and Bhotkhola Rural Municipality- Chameli Rai and Panjam Bhote; Deputy Secretary of NGO Federation Nepal-Dinesh Chaudhary; President of the FECOFUN Sankhuwasabha- Badri Sapkota; President of the FECOFUN Taplejung – Krishna Ojha

Co-Chairperson of the Makalu Rural Municipality and Bhotkhola Rural Municipality- Chameli Rai
Secretary of the House of Representatives, Mr.Gopal Nath Yogi
Chief Guest Honourable State Minister Ram Kumari Chaudhary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development and Special Guest, Honourable Purna Prasad Rai, Member of Provincial Assembly, Province 1
Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 – Sarita Khadka (foreground) and Umita Baraili (background)
Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 Umita Baraili shares her views on the Lumbasumba at Taragaon Museum December 19, 2018 gathering of provincial leaders
Special Guest (Bishesh Athithi) Honourable Purna Prasad Rai, Member of Provincial Assembly, Province 1
All participants at the discussion program.
Chief Guest Honourable State Minister Ram Kumari Chaudhary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development stressed the importance of indigenous knowledge and having local people lead in conservation of natural resources.
Provincial Assembly Members, Province 1 Sarita Khadka
District Coordinator Wang Chhedar Bhote briefs participants on the history and evolution of the Lumbasumba concept.
Community Mobilizer Kamala Rai takes notes
Co-Chairpersons of the Makalu Rural Municipality and Bhotkhola Rural Municipality Panjam Bhote
Screening of indigenous knowledge video

A neighbourhood boy and his forest classroom

While conducting an outdoor class one day, a boy staring in the class caught my attention. He was the same age as the rest of the students in the class but didn’t have a uniform on nor seemed to know anyone in the class. Seeing him of the same age of the rest of the students of the class, I asked him to join in with the rest of the students. He introduced himself as Pasang Sherpa, an 11 years old boy, living with his single mother who worked in one of the farms near the Sikti forest. Pasang walked in and started to attend our outdoor education classes on a daily basis. As we came to know more of him, we realized that he was not a proper resident of the village and had migrated from a village nearby. Due to this, he missed the school enrollment and was waiting until next year for new admission to join other students and study in a classroom again. 

Within a short period of time, Pasang displayed intelligence and great interest in the things taught in the class. What most stood out of him was his detailed knowledge of the Sikti trail landscape, an area he has travelled too often with his mother, who worked for villagers to make ends meet. As the trail was the classroom in our Outdoor Education, the boy never hesitated to give any known information about the landscape in the class. He quickly caught everyone’s attention and became good friends with the rest of the students as well. 

We recently discovered that his mother had married off to another village and he has been living with his relatives. The boy, despite the hassle going on in his life, is still attending all the outdoor classes with the same level of enthusiasm and passion for knowledge. He patiently awaits for the year to end, so that he can finally join his now classmates in their school to study what they are studying, wearing the same uniform and laughing at the same joke. For now, we hope he is content with the classroom he has found in our outdoor education class every week. 

As Pasang walks into the class every week, he might be unsure about it yet, but as I briefly gaze at him, I know, that he is walking towards a better future tomorrow.

Students like Pasang, who are keen to learn should be motivated towards knowledge, be it science discovered on the other side of the world, or the local landscape and the existing nature. After all, with proper guidance today, it is these enthusiastic kids who are inclined to be the future of conservation tomorrow. 

Beads Bazaar, Asan – Ganga Limbu

Beads Bazaar, Asan from Ganga Limbu on Vimeo.

I have just finished the workshop ‘Immersive stories innovative mediums’, which was held in collaboration with photo.circle and Kathmandu Triennale. It was a great exposure for me to meet multi-talented artists such as Prasiit dai, Kishor dai, Diana, Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, teammate Sandhya Shrestha and other artists from various mediums.

For our project, our team decided to work in Potey Bazaar (beads market) in Indrachowk, Asan. Locals also called the area “Kashmiri bazaar”, probably referring to the Muslim heritage. It was really surprising to learn that the beads makers and sellers were all Muslim even though potey (beaded necklaces) are primarily seen as a symbol of Hinduism. The history of the area dates back to the Malla era when the Malla Kings had brought this community of artisans from India specifically to make the beaded necklaces. Similar to other parts of Nepal, I found that young people from the area had gone abroad. But even when they come back, they tended to work in the same trade making beaded jewelries after their ancestors.

Before doing this workshop, I had a very different understanding of Muslim community as being reserved, very religious and secretive. However, instead, I found young and old people who were welcoming and nice. Even during work time, they were interested in sharing their stories and experiences. They even fed me maybe 9-10 cups of tea throughout the interview process. Through them, I heard tales of royalties of Nepal and their interactions while making jewelries for the Ranas and Shahs.

Before coming here, I had also never thought about the actual process of making beaded necklaces or the people who were making them. During the documentation process, the artisans took time to illustrate the different steps. I realized that different people were involved in the different steps of making a necklace. Above you can see the final video that I produced showing the process of making beaded necklaces in the Bazaar.

During the workshop, we also visited different exhibitions where I found out about new mediums of expressions through photographs, performance art, videos, sound art, handmade crafts and sculptures. I also realized the importance of an instructor to guide the process of executing ideas into final pieces.

This was my first exhibit. And I am really grateful to have received this opportunity to be a part of it. It was also very interesting for me to observe how people were responding to it as well. Like myself, many confessed to never knowing the history about the area as well as the process of making potey.

 

We are expanding!

KTK-BELT is expanding its conservation team. We are looking to fill 6 very special positions immediately. Please have a look at the TOR and do apply if you have a suitable professional background in botany, ornithology, agricultural sciences, wetland ecology, conservation biology, agro-forestry, permaculture, and project leadership. (Nepalese nationals only. Early Deadline to apply: Friday, April 7. Duty Station is eastern Nepal with periodic travel to Kathmandu).
KTK-BELT HJP Vacancy