Final reflections from Nepal

Tomorrow we leave Nepal after being here for just over a month. Yesterday I gave a presentation to the core climate change group in Kathmandu, with representatives from the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), WWF Nepal, IUCN, Winrock International and Practical Action.

The bulk of our time here has been spent walking the Annapurna circuit and doing what we could to interview local people along with dealing with illness and other challenges. Before we left I shared some information on the Annapurna Conservation Area Programme (ACAP). I think up to about ten years ago this was a very strong programme for protection and enhancement of the Annapurna region.

The disruption with the Maoists and the assassination of the royal family has created greater instability and a weakening of efforts by ACAP and others. Because of associations with the royal family the ACAP presence has been significantly affected, for example the Maoists destroyed the ACAP offices in Ghandruk village three years ago. This political instability along with political and economic pressure from China and India are some of the main reasons why the road is happening in the Annapurna region. My main message to the climate change group yesterday was the need to focus efforts on supporting wise, local leadership in developing and implementing future visions.

As I’ve already said here, we found good local people who simply need more support to encourage reafforestation programmes. In villages like Marpha and Ghandruk there are strong local communities at present, but they are facing challenges. Now is the time to act. We’re not going to solve the major issues of our time sitting around tables. We truly need to get beyond the talk and focus our collective efforts on positive, proactive change. Ecological restoration is a fundamental necessity, everywhere. As Michung Gurung from Thorong Phedi said to me, if we could channel things away from guns and wars into planting trees we might actually make some serious progress towards a truly sustainable future. As simple as it seems I believe it truly is this simple … if only we can get enough people to be more aware and focused on small, simple, practical actions.

Tomorrow we leave for Cairo, via Bangkok. After some days of anxiety I have finally heard from my contact in Egypt. I have been communicating with people from Sekem a very strong and positive initiative in Egypt that I am very interested to learn more about and share. Egypt will be very interesting and another dimension to the story, after 11 weeks in Asia. So far we’ve travelled from the south coast of Thailand, to hill tribes in the north, by the Mekong, to the lowlands, then on to Viet Nam from north to south and the Mekong Delta, and to Nepal walking high into the Himalayas. Now to a desert region and the Nile basin. We only have ten days there, enough to develop some impressions and meet some good people.

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