Third Humla Kachahari was held in Kathmandu
The third Humla Kachahari was held on 28th December, 2007 at Hotel Shangri-la. The event is organized annually by NIDS (Nepal Institute of Development Studies) under its “Humla Development Initiative” project. The program started around 9:30 am emceed by Ms Radhaa Gurung. The chief Guest for the program was Mr. Rama Kant Gauro, Honorable Member of National Planning Commission.
Mr. Jiwan Bahadur Shahi, former District Development Committee Chairman of Humla started the discussion by sharing his experience on how the program got its name, Humla Kachahari. Kachahari is a local term used in Humla to define a place where people gather to discuss their problems and resolve any argument. As this indigenous name represents the objective of the program, which is to have a discourse on Humla’s development, he was positive that the title would itself speak volume about the program. Further, he emphasized on the significance of organizing the event in Kathmandu. Though people might argue that if the program is for the development of Humla, why is it not held in Humla? According to Mr. Shahi, as the program’s mission is to influence the state’s policy making process, many dignitaries have to be invited, who come from different walks of life, such as academia, bureaucracy, planning commission, donor organizations, media, and politics. In such case, if the program is held in Humla, there might be a chance of lesser participants because of inconveniency yet expensive travel means, which is either hiking for days or flying, depending on the weather condition. Not all the notable personalities would be able to make it to the event, and the verdict of this forum might never be heard. As a result, this might foil the mission of the program. Whereas, when held in Kathmandu it’s more accessible to many dignitaries, as the majority reside in Kathmandu. The program would have better media coverage which could draw the nation’s attention on Humla. In addition, arranging meetings in a luxurious hotel in Kathmandu would provide an opportunity for Humlis (residents of Humla) to envisage development by looking at the progress in Kathmandu. Therefore, would remind the Humlis what is needed to be done back home.
Mr. Shahi’s speech was followed by Mr. Chakka Bahadur Lama, Ex-Minister from Humla. Mr. Lama empasized on Humla’s ecological and cultural setting rationalizing his favor to Limi-Simkot route as a better alternative to the ongoing Hilsa-Simkot for linking Humla to Tibet. Humla being an enclave between Tibetan plateau in the North and Terai in the South practiced trade with these two regions to sustain their livelihood. In the past, Humlis used to buy salt from Tibet and trade them with rice in Terai using sheep and yak caravan as their means of transportation. He termed this trade practice as “caravan economy.” The traders, then, followed Limi- Simkot route to go to Tibet, as the route had much needed grasses for their livestock to graze upon. Furthermore, the trail was wider and easier to access as it traverses low lying valley passes and rangelands. Despite the fact that Hilsa-Simkot route which falls along steep slopes and has narrow trails along the river bank, the route was initiated by the government for linking Humla to Tibet. He slammed the government employees for their ignorance, who being outsiders have little or no knowledge about the ground reality of Humla. They hardly speak or understand the local Lama Kham language which creates misunderstanding and failure to recognize the significance of indigenous knowledge. Besides, he felt lack of commitment among them. Hence he proposed that Humlis should take charge of Humla’s development for they know their region better and would be highly motivated and committed. Mr. Lama showed his disappointment on the ongoing road debate being politicized. Hilsa-Simkot route was termed as Jiwan Bahadur Shahi’s road, whereas Limi-Simkot as Chakka Bahadur Lama’s road. However, he believed Limi-Simkot as a better option for it would be relatively cheaper, faster to complete, and environmentally less damaging than the ongoing Hilsa-Simkot route. The third speaker was Mr. Gorakh Bahadur Bogati, member of the Parliament from Humla, who mentioned road being the most important factor for the development of Humla. Mr. Bogati came up with two strategies; one to link Humla with the capital via Kabadi-Sallikhola, and the other to link Humla to Tibet via Hilsa-Simkot road. He showed his frustration to the policy makers for not hearing the voices of the Humlis as Humla being neglected by the state. As a result, less development effort has been put in the region, and fewer budgets are allocated. Likewise, development and road construction projects have also been hindered by the political feud and corruption. Mr. Bogati was also aware about the problems at home, as he blamed the locals for being irresponsible. In Hilsa-Sera, 568 quintals of rice was left to rot. In fact, he acknowledged that outsiders help is necessary in providing technical backstopping, counseling, and advocating for Humlis’ rights.Finally, Dr. Bihari Krishna Shrestha, the main speaker for the program made a power point presentation entitled “Developing Humla: The Need for a "Road Plus” Approach”. He suggested that though road is a backbone for the development, it may not necessarily solve all the problems. As seen in Terai where they have big roads, yet the majority of the populace are still poor. Hence, for the development of Humla one has to think beyond the road. He stressed that Humla has its own “niche” on which its populace is thriving. These niches need to be identified as they have comparative advantages in the market. He believed that root to underdevelopment in Karnali is linked to dominating culture based on orthodox Hinduism that subjects women and occupational castes people, locally known as Kamsels, to extreme deprivations. Caste system based on orthodox Hinduism, political deprivation, and elite capture of resources all have cumulated to result in Humla’s backwardness. He held state’s Local Self Governance Act of 1999 responsible in elite’s capture of resources. Further, being remotely located, Humla lacks alternative employment opportunities that compel Humlis to adopt seasonal migration to earn money for survival. Dr. Shrestha noted that even after 42 years of targeted development, there is nominal infrastructure development and poverty still prevailing. He blamed the failure to supply driven arrangement of the program which had problems with staff absenteeism and lacked accountability. He stressed on need for a strategy shift to empower the local people. He urged for external agencies such as NIDS to play a role of a catalyst and a facilitator for sustainable development. NGOs should have catalyzed action in capacity building and institutional strengthening of local institutions. Likewise, they should facilitate in developing network linkage with resource centers, synergy development among stakeholders to work efficiently and effectively, and for market penetration to promote local products. Moreover, NGOs should focus on to develop role models which would trigger multiple effects and create demand driven projects which would be more sustainable. After the presentation from Dr. Sherstha, the program was opened to floor for discussion. During the floor discussion, Mr Shahi stressed that the main thing Humla needs for its development was connectivity. He believed Bato (Road), Bijuli (Electricity), Bazaar (Market), and Bichar (Idea), are the four factors that would help to connect Humla to the outside world. Meanwhile, Mr. Lama pointed that it was Nepal’s failure to not understand the customary law of Limi that resulted in poor agreement between Nepal and China on grazing land conflict. As an implication of which, Limi residents are forced to quit livestock keeping, their main source of livelihood. This has further aggravated the living condition of the poor pastoralist community. Had the government of Nepal understood the local culture and practices, this incident would have never happened. Hence, he suggested that the government of Nepal should give autonomy to the local Humlis to make their own laws and regulations that would suit their need and aspiration and work best for sustainable development of the region. The program came to an end at around 1:30 pm with a note from the chief guest. The chief guest stressed on the importance of implying PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle for effective and efficient accomplishment to any task. In total, there were 44 registered guests that participated in the program.