Why Volunteer? Why go to Nepal?

Nepal ChildrenThe first time I set foot in a developing country I realized how fortunate I truly am. I had worked so many years towards sustainability in business and agriculture and here were people just struggling to meet their basic needs. Volunteering by teaching the ways of sustainable and organic agriculture is my way of helping others along the path to self-reliance and environmental security. My friend John Fagan Skyped me the other day from Nepal to tell me about such a project he is involved in which accomplishes both of these goals.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, 54% of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day, which is the UN definition of poverty. It’s so poor the men go out of the country (usually to the Middle-East) for work. This leaves a community of women who must care for children, produce food and earn some form of income for living expenses. The traditional way for these women to earn money is to cut down the forests and sell the firewood. John sent me pictures of what this non-sustainable forest management looks like.

Nepal Unsustainable forest management

You can see in the pictures the women carrying firewood out of the forests face no easy task.

Nepal women carrying wood

Nepal is home to more than 1700 known native wild medicinal herbs. To keep up with the skyrocketing international demand, the herbs are being wild harvested to extinction.The answer to this unsustainable way of living is a project called “Healing Herbs Nepal”. This non-profit project aims to create better livelihoods for rural Nepali’s and to protect the medicinal herb and woodland biodiversity of Nepal. Organizers train farmers to produce medicinal herbs with “silva-culture”, which means production in the forest.  This type of production preserves the native trees and foliage, allowing the medicinal herbs to be grown in their natural environment. Ten or fifteen cuttings are taken from an indigenous medicinal herb plant and planted near by the original, allowing more herbs to be harvested without depleting the plants in the forest. With this innovation, rural Nepalis have a new livelihood and a strong motivation to protect their forests rather than cut them down.Nepal Medicinal herb

The impact of this project is huge. It should provide compensation great enough to motivate the men to stay home with the family instead of migrating to Dubai to perform menial labor. It should also give mothers leading their households a much better income to feed their children with and meet their family’s overall needs. They will no longer need to sell firewood for $1.50 per day when they get much more for producing and harvesting medicinal herbs from a sustainable and healthy forest. There will be no more soil erosion and the forests will remain intact to allow for the habitats of the native elephants and rhinoceros.  Everyone wins! Nepal Sustainable forests

The project is still getting off the ground and needs financial support in this infancy period. Here are pictures of the Board of the Community Forest for the village of Rajahar in the Chitwan area of Nepal. Ten years ago the local forest was on the verge of being destroyed by local people harvesting firewood. Today it is beautiful and highly diverse.

The project intends to begin planting this spring and needs to raise funds for the first year (total budget $60,000). They are raising funds primarily through a crowd funding campaign. You can learn more about the project and help monetarily at INDIEGOGO HEALING HERBS PROJECT.  Everyone who donates can receive a gift such as tea made with herbs from the project. For donations over $2500, there is a 7-day, 6-night Eco tour available in which you can visit the Healing Herbs Nepal Project, and enjoy the diversity of other exotic and beautiful Nepali experiences. All donations are tax deductible and sponsored by Earth Open Source.

After the second year, the project will not only be self-sufficient; it will also generate enough resources to double the amount of farmers impacted in every three year period.  This model can potentially help 15,000 people in just 12 years. The Healing Herbs Nepal Project can be replicated in other places that wish to protect their forests and citizens. Already Mexico and Brazil are looking at adopting it. Pass the word along on this sustainable volunteer project. The crowd funding ends February 6, 2014, so every day matters. Now tell me about your volunteer project and how we can help.

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