Sunday, October 11, 2015

Farmer-to-Farmer Program: Lalitpur (Nepal)

Lalitpur, or Patan, is the city adjacent to Kathmandu and actually was the base for the beginning and end of my assignment. Though it has its own square, not much seems to distinguish it from Kathmandu proper, other than you crossing the Bagmati River. My neighborhood was pretty much NGO central (non-governmental organization) with charities, embassies, and the United Nations offices a few blocks away. The number of expats meant a luxury of diverse dining options walking distance from the hotel – Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and even a British pub with a quiz night!

Lalitpur was also the site of our last training stop, in the local DADO. One activity that always hooks people in is a fun game I designed to review pesticide storage problems. The agro-vets are divided into teams, a picture is flashed up, and the first team to identify the problem or problems wins the point. The competition really heats up, and by the end, people are on their feet, shouting out answers or accusing each other of cheating. The game in Lalitpur had an added dimension, as I had taken the problem pictures in Kathmandu shops. Some of the owners of the shops were in the audience, and if not, plenty of other agro-vets could recognize whose shops they were. While I discouraged outright finger-pointing, the activity really got the agro-vets engaged and able to look critically at their neighbors’ and their own practices.

In Lalitpur, I also got to finally try one of the snack boxes the agro-vets were receiving during the afternoon break. The contents included a samosa (an empanda-like pyramid stuffed with spicy vegetable and potato), fried bits like lightly sweet and savory croutons, a banana of a peculiar variety that stays green even when ripe, and a mango juice box. I had seen the agro-vets in Chitwan eating what looked like a boiled egg in a plastic baggie, and they seemed to really enjoy the liquid it was floating in, too. Different strokes for different folks, I figured. When my Lalitpur box arrived with the same, I discovered it wasn't an egg at all! Instead, it's a ball of fresh, mild cheese soaking in sugary syrup, very similar to the Indian dessert I like called ras malai. No wonder they were slurping up the juice! When I told my Winrock colleagues about my mistake, they cried with laughter... evidently the prospect of savoring boiled egg liquid was a ridiculous idea for them, too.

The final days of the assignment were spent debriefing my host, the PEAN board (Pesticide Entrepreneurs’ Association Nepal).  All told, 185 agro-vets received training in the 5 locations. My recommendations to the board members involved actions they could take as an organization to support agro-vets in continuing education and regulatory policies. To express their appreciation for my assistance, the PEAN board members wanted to present me with a “token of love” before I left Nepal. I wasn’t sure what to expect – perhaps a shawl or scarf, which seemed to be a common gift. The PEAN president and secretary arrived at my hotel the night before I left bearing a sizeable red velvet case with gold clasps. If this was the movies, the case would be opened to reveal magnificent jewelry that the heroine would get to wear and feel like a princess for a night. In my case (see that pun!), a personalized plaque was inlaid in the most elaborately carved, dark wood frame. Even the Winrock country director was surprised and impressed, whispering concerns about how to pack it carefully in my baggage. It was certainly a generous gift, and I’ll be happy to display it in the office… although the other d├ęcor may look quite shabby by comparison.

Click on the picture to see the whole album.
Rich and Julie Get A Move On

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