Thursday, 12 June 2014

Working Towards Food Security and Biodiversity in Nepal

By Naomi Happychuk, 2nd year MDP student


I have spent the past six weeks in Nepal, working with LI-BIRD (Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development), a local NGO which aims to empower rural poor and marginalized smallholder famers through agriculture, biodiversity, and natural resource projects. 

My first three weeks were spent in two of the major cities here, (Pokhara and Kathmandu), where I became acquainted with the organization and their many initiatives. I also attended a project inception meeting for “Integrating Crop Genetic Diversity for Mountain Food Security”, with members of Biodiversity and the UNEP.

Project inception meeting

Jumla, Nepal


In mid-May I flew to a remote, mountainous district called Jumla where I will spend the remainder of my practicum. The small plane was definitely a shaky ride, and porters greeted us at the airport to help carry our stuff. (There are no taxis in Jumla!) 

Here I have assisted LI-BIRD staff in their field trials of amaranth, rice, and potatoes, and attended a number of community meetings. It has definitely taken some time to adjust here! There is poor sanitation, water and power shortages (which means no internet and infrequent bucket showers), and very few people speak English. However the scenery is incredible and everyone is very friendly!   

 Spare time is spent practicing Nepali with the young children that live in our building, going for jogs on the dusty roads (dodging cattle and throwing my hands in prayer to reply “Namaste!” to the many on-lookers), and reading multiple novels at a time (at last!). I have now begun a project with LI-BIRD to assess the changes in food habits in Jumla, which are affected by unique social, environmental, and economic factors, and to explore the primary drivers behind these changes in an effort to better understand how to increase biodiversity and food security. Looking forward to putting my hard years of study with the MDP program to good use!

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