What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
Projects imposed by outside provided some immediate benefit but did not last long. So people became worse than before. They developed dependency and begging mentality. Realizing this, we were looking for other options. We met Dr. Shrestha and visited community forests which he had been promoting. Looking at processes and success of community forestry, we approached Dr. Shrestha to initiate similar process in other sectors. This did not require outside resources because resources are there to manage. Working togther with him helped us to shape our ideas, trust on people and their capabilities, and looking at people as solutions rather than problems. We are told that Nepal is a resource poor country and that’s why are poor. But working with him we started seeing resources everywhere. Possibilities and opportunities are also abundant. Our own visioning started to become positive. Rather than thinking about the problems which stopped people from moving ahead we started to look at possibilities and grab them. This has brought a sea-change in our thinking which is guiding WATCH as an organization and its processes while working with marginalized and disadvantaged communities. In a hierarchical society like Nepal, Dr Shrestha emphasized ob rights of everyone and recognizing and honoring which are essence of democracy and inclusiveness and key to promoting participation.
Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.
Dr. Narayan Kaji Shrestha is known as pioneer of community forestry in Nepal and elsewhere. Dr. Shrestha is very committed to upliftment of poor, indigenous people, women, exploited and oppressed groups and communities, and improvement of environment through natural resources management by local communities by themselves. He has unshakable faith in communities' capacities to manage their resources and hence solve their problems. His relentless and untiring efforts have culminated tested and proven successful community forestry process, liberal and practical forestry rules and regulations including the Forestry Sector Master Plan (1989-2010), vibrant and dynamic 16000 user groups managing more than 1.2 million Ha. of forests, halting of forest degradation, production of trained and qualified facilitators, very active federation (FECOFUN) safeguarding rights of users, about Rs. 130 million in the users' fund for community development, a living school for community forestry learning and so on. So his contribution to this effect is quite admirable and recognized internationally. He was associated with the International Network of Forest and Communities as an Advisor; with Global Caucus for Community Based Natural Resource Management as one of the three member Executive; with Forests, Trees and People's Program (FAO) Facilitator for South Asia; with IUCN as Forest Conservation Advisory Group Member, with the World Bank as Advisory Panel Member for forest policy review, and so on. His contribution in this field is quite tremendous. His contribution for promoting community forestry all over the world is recognized by the XII Forestry Congress and invited him as a first plenary speaker to speak from the perspective of communities. He is known as friends, philosopher and guide of communities wanting to mange their resources so that environment can be improved. Later, he expanded the same idea with irrigation water users and helped form National Federation of Irrigation Water Users Association in Nepal.. The principal, processes and program are the same.
Dr. Shrestha visioned community resource management as a tool for community organizing and solving community problems through consensual decision making where poor and disadvantaged will have the say and decision making rights, for which he developed a process of empowering and organizing poorest and voiceless, and training packages to help dictatorial and imposing government officials and elites to be participatory and inclusive. Recently, Dr. Shrestha is supporting WATCH to initiate “Poverty to Prosperity” campaign, which focuses on poor family to develop their dreams (visions), assess their own resources and develop a plan of actions to manage those resources to achieve the dreams. Almost similar proceses is being piloted to strengthen women’s groups. Dr. Shrestha believes that without vision any person, family or organization cannot move towards proper direction. He is also against making people beggars which are being done by government as well as so-called NGOs. This mentality of dependency is the main cause of under development.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
Newsletter from Changemakers
If through another source, please provide the information.
WATCH considered once to nominate one of its staff as a fellow, so iy contacted country rep.