I have just spent the past three days, (plus the best part of a day either side traveling there) in Thimora, Chitwan at the bi-annual Participatory Review & Reflection Process of the Community Self Reliance Centre, (CSRC), the land rights organisation with whom I’m currently working. The process is extremely thorough, enabling as it does presentations from each of the resource centres from across the country. It provides a vehicle for the sharing of tangible outcomes such as the number of land certificates obtained, the number of preventions from evictions, and the amount of resources generated, (usually measured in terms of the weight of rice or vegetables collectively farmed, or actual money contributed to the movement) by those who are (or were) themselves landless. I’ve described the process more thoroughly elsewhere, but wanted to share a little more about the centre where the event took place.
The programme took place at the National Land Rights Forum headquarters, which is located on land owned by CSRC and a small number of other Nepali NGOs. The land is adjacent to a community forest, to which rights of use are granted for the collection of firewood. In short, an obvious location for the NLRF, relatively central, and with fairly easy access…and most importantly situated out of Kathmandu in a farming area. NLRF have only been here for a few months, but there is a vision which extends beyond the here and now. A vision for a centre which can generate revenue for the NLRF, which can in turn be used to assist landless tillers across Nepal.
The vision encompasses the following key areas:
- The development of a training/conference hall which can be rented out for use by other organisations.
- Increasing the amount of agricultural produce from the land owned for local sale and revenue generation. (The NLRF has recently bought two cows for milk production, but there is still further land which can be returned to agricultural use, and which can generate revenue for the work of the NLRF).
- Develop as a ‘centre of excellence’, which can provide concrete examples of sustainable agriculture.
But…as with any development, this requires additional revenue to realise the ambition. Infrastructure being paramount.
The training facilities are pretty basic at present, and it is a testament to all participants that work can be done in temperatures which require you to wrap up with several layers of clothing…particularly as none of the windows are at present glazed.
The accommodation is dormitory style with seven or so to a room, and sleeping on the floor being obligatory for around half of the participants. The present accommodation can sleep around 40 people, but toilet facilities are limited, with two Nepali style toilets available for use by all participants.
Food is excellent, and typical Nepali fare, but better cooking facilities would make the process of catering for large numbers easier.
Returning more land back to agricultural use leads to a need for greater security, and the perimeter fencing is currently insecure to non-existent.
Part of my work with CSRC has been to assist in the writing of funding proposals, which will undoubtedly be something that I will be doing in the near future. But…as my time in Nepal comes to an end, my thoughts are turning to the possibility of setting up a UK based fund raising organisation, which can support these aims in some way.
More to follow….!!
Footnote: I came across this termite mound whilst exploring the immediate vicinity of the centre. It seems perhaps a good metaphor…a monument to building something from the ground upwards in less than favourable conditions…