It is quite possible that the world has never before seen a 70 year with the energy of Amrit Bahadur Acharya. He is a man who does not talk as much as he performs. 15 minutes of conversation with Amrit will mostly likely include passionate speeches, bursts of loud laugher, dramatic gestures, intense lectures and more often than not, singing.
Amrit Bahadur Acharya is the leader of the Community Forest Group of Mayurbasti village in Kaili Chandapur VDC. The Community Forest Group is in charge of the protection and conservation of the local forest area. While their main task is the conservation of the forest, they also benefit from the arrangement. As trees die they are allowed to cut them down to make way for new trees to grow. When they cut a tree down they may then sell the timber. Over the past five years the group has made more than $5,000 selling timber. All of the money made by the group is spent for the benefit of the community. With this money they have built a community center, extended the electric lines to every house in the village, improved the roads, and other smaller projects. Amrit speaks of all of these accomplishments with pride. He loves this village and is ready to tell you so.
Amrit came to Mayurbasti 30 years earlier when it was still uninhabited forest. At that time the government was eradicating Malaria in the region and encouraging settlers to come from the hill areas and start cultivating the land. Amrit, a Chhetri, decided to leave his ancestral home in Balpa to come to Bardiya District. He built a house, worked to clear land for cultivation and made Mayurbasti his home.
Recounting his move to the area, he clearly is telling this story as a prologue to some larger issue. That issue turns out to be the forest, and the need to protect it. Like a true politician Amrit can take any story and tie it in with his favorite issue, protecting the forest, so that the entire conversation builds into a thesis on why the work he is doing is so vital. Just in case his words were not enough to convince his audience, Amrit often decides to add a song to his lectures as an exclamation mark. On this occasion he chose two songs, one of the beauty and majesty of Mt. Everest and the other on the perfection of the Nepali rivers and forests.
Amrit’s voice is engaging not for the quality of the notes he sings, but for the passion with which he sings them. He sings without hesitation and perhaps more for his own pleasure than that of his listeners. Amrit’s songs always make the audience smile, and make sure that everyone in the room is listening.
Once he finishes singing Amrit knows he has everyone’s full attention, so adds a conclusion to his lecture about the forests. “America, Japan…these countries are developed and they are rich. Nepal does not have their money, but they do not have the natural wealth of Nepal. Nepal is the richest country in the world in natural beauty. Our water, our mountains and our trees are the finest in the world. That is why so many Americans and Japanese come here for travel, right? So let others work for money, I will be working for our forests. That is where a man in Nepal can find his wealth.”
Posted By Mark Koenig
Posted Aug 23rd, 2007