Mountain Resiliency Project (MRP)
Tsechu DOLMA (USA)
Mountain Resiliency Project and Columbia University
My presentation will be in a powerpoint about the Mountain Resiliency Project (previously also known as Yulha) (MRP). Our vision is: “climate resilient mountain communities”. Millions of Nepalis live in the mountain region; with a high poverty rate of 45%, double the national average. The terrain is rugged, precipitation is low and the poor-quality soil is difficult to farm. The landscape makes it difficult to promote economic activity and deliver services - leaving this region physically isolated, with poor infrastructure and lack of state presence. Moreover, the immediate impacts of climate change have made the challenges of development more acute. To address these issues, MRP works with existing village schools, monasteries and community center to build greenhouses and cash crop orchards. Local partner contributes partial capital investment. Greenhouse/orchards are hubs for intergenerational platform for community learning while addressing malnourishment and adapting to water resource depletion. The produce yields are then sold off to market, expanding locals’ economic participation. The generated revenue will then go back to the local partner, giving them more funding flexibility instead of waiting for unreliable government funds. In addition, locals are trained in greenhouse and business management with tools like Excel, preparing them with applicable modern skills. So far we have four project sites: 1) Geling Village School, Upper Mustang (project was started in 2014); 2) Tserok Tibetan Refugee Camp, Mustang (project was started in summer 2015); 3) Langtang Village, Rasuwa (project was started in summer 2015); and 4) Dhorpattan Tibetan Refugee Camp, Baglung (project was started in summer 2015). While we have not had enough quantitative data to monitor and evaluate our projects, we have livelihood assessment data to show the needs and progress. Foreigners visiting the Nepal mountain region pay $50/-night in permit. The fees earn millions of dollars, however, little to none of the funds trickle back. Locals have demanded their share, however, the government responds by building half-filled schools while neglecting to adequately invest in these communities since they have very little political leverage. Moreover, there is no longterm development project in the region. The only ones around are the mega hydro dams, which exports almost all its energy and leaves the locals in worse condition. State absence has resulted in inconsistent development. MRP sets itself apart by working with public schools with the triple-bottom food, energy and talent security approach. Our unique program provides self-generated revenues for the schools with crop yields, while reducing their reliance on biomass for cooking and training the students with 21st century skills. MRP disrupts institutional negligence and levels the patchy development.
I grew up in a Tibetan refugee camp in Nepal. Fleeing from Nepal, seeking political asylum in NY, successfully being first in my family to attend college, and ultimately founding support programs for Himalayan youth in NY, was the most formative experience of my life. My bold, entrepreneurial spirit has brought me back to the country I left behind, Nepal, every year, since I was 17 years old. But when I first returned to post-civil war Nepal, I realized there was much work to be done and talent was needed now more than ever in the country I left behind. Finding gaps in the existing infrastructures, I make deep-investment in small-scale, doable solutions to development challenges. Leveraging my background and strength, I organized a Columbia student service trip to Nepal to assist in post-conflict peace building efforts. During this visit, I learned that the villagers of Geling, in Upper Mustang, were worried about how erratic weather patterns brought on by climate change were impacting their food and water security. Neighboring villages had similar issues. I studied the successes and failures of past development projects, and introduced the Mountain Resiliency Project. A greenhouse, which is not a revolutionary idea by itself, but combined with a school curriculum, business model and local investment, it becomes an incubator for social innovation, financial inclusion and capacity development. My journey from Nepal to NY, and back to Nepal proved that I could lead myself out of challenging situation, and channel my resilience to forge a path to others as well. This experience equipped me with the skills and grit to lead the Mountain Resiliency Project.