Indra Bahdur Kapchake
The news item in the papers in late January was brief and perfunctory. A 55-year-old man had been run over by a bus in the eastern Nepal Tarai, Thus was noted the passing of Indra Bahdur Kapchake in Kathmandu, but the grieving villagers of Madhubasha would have written more.
Indra Bahdur was no ordinary village leader, for he had a rare ability to inspire others into action. Indra Bahdur had given people ideas. Today, Madhubasha is a village of hope and purpose because it did not wait for largesse from the ministries, the projects or from distant lands. "Development" in Madhubasha self-ignited.
[ndra Bahdur proposed setting up a village co-operative about twenty years ago, and the neighbours agreed. The co-operative began innovating almost immediately. A bio-gas plant was set¬up, piped drinking water came next, and a school was built, as were a child-care centre, a forest nursery and latrines.
"You see, the people of this village do not play cards, drink or smoke. There are a few elders who still smoke but they will take the habit with them," Indra Bahdur told me just a few months ago. He said "bikas" involved not only building roads and growing more grain per hectare, but changing social mores as well.
For example, the people of Madhubasha have revised ruies for social gatherings
to Fit their pockets. Hindu marriages in Madhubashsa are not the expensive affairs they tend to be elsewhere. A groom´s party is allowed to bring only a priest and three persons as witnesses.
And then, of course, there is the "Pigeon Project". Someone complained that barbers charged too much. Ever enterprising, Indra Bahdur suggested raising pigeons for profit and the members of the co-operative agreed. Before long, hair-cutting in Madhubasha was fully subsidized. The Pigeon Project, Indra Bahdur said, had convinced even the skeptics about the rewards of common effort.
The collective harmony and will to work soon brought attention. Trainee officers came to see "development happen" and farmer groups came for advice. Representatives of the international development set descended on the village, each claiming a small part of the success. The last VIP Indra Bahdur was to meet was UniceFs chief James P. Grant.
Madhubasha is today better off than most Nepali villages, and most of it was Indra Balidur´s doing. He was not another statistic. By Binod Bhattarai
Prize for Chipko
Last year in these pages we reported that the Right Livelihood Award (the "Alternative Nobel") had been conferred on the Ladhak Ecological Development Group by the Swedish Parliament. This year, a Himalaya group has again been
recognized: Chipko andolan, represented at the prize-giving in Stockholm by Sunderlal Bahuguna. So something must be going right in the Himalaya.
The citation for the award stated: "In their intensifying struggle to ward off the increasing commercial pressures that are threatening to wipe out India´s Himalayan forests earfy in the next century, the workers of the Chipko movement have emphasised two themes; that ecology is permanent economy and that the most important forest products are not timber but soil, water and air."
The 1988 Jara Juri ("grassroots") award goes to the villagers of Sami Bhanjyang in the Central Nepal district of Lamjung, Every year, conservationist K.k. Pandey treks through the Himalayan hinterland in search of farmers who have saved the fragile mountains using their own skills and management techniques. His interviews and photographs are used by a panel of judges in making their selection.
While the rest of the country has been going through paroxysms of planting fast-growing pine and rootless eucalyptus on visible hillsides, the villagers of this small hamlet of 85 households have kept a level head. They established a forest committee which declared a wooded area of 30 hectares out-of-bounds.
The committee decreed that any collection of dry branches, removal of unproductive trees or planting of saplings has to be approved. Once a year, dry limbs and trees are collected and distributed among the villagers. Individuals are encouraged to plant their own fodder trees and bamboo in the forest. Villagers who break the ruies are fined. Committee members are fined double.
The villagers needed no expert to tell them what to do, Pandey, who established Jara Juri by setting aside the royalty of a book of his on fodder trees, says, "In fact, their work is as good as, if not better than that of trained foresters." The Award consists of a nominal cash prize and a letter of appreciation which "recognizes the spirit of self-help among the highland farmers". -B.B.