Despite the best efforts of the various factions organizing bandhas, at last I have arrived in Mahendranagar. A potential two day strike called by the owners of the torched buses we had passed on the road to Nepalganj (incidentally demanding that the government provide them compensation) failed to take place, enabling me to hop on one last 8 hour bus ride to arrive in my sweltering home base.
The town itself is actually quite pleasant and attractive (sorry Mark.) A bustling market area gives way to sleepy rural back roads devoid of traffic save for bicycles, goats and cows. Mahendranagar is a completely planned city, developed by the government in the late 60’s after they finally eradicated (actually drastically mitigated is more appropriate) malaria in the region. In consequence, it is a relatively prosperous town that is mostly inhabited by Paharis. (Tharus live on the outskirts and in surrounding villages.)
Usha Pandey, the enthusiastic COCAP coordinator for the far-Western region, found me a great room just a few minutes walk from the SWEET-Nepal office, and I am already falling in love with the languid tempo of the town.
However, communication proves to be one of the most difficult challenges I will face here, whether it is pantomiming sleep to the family I share the house with, waiting days for a workable internet connection (hence the delay in my blogging-sorry all!), or attempting to contact the various COCAP member organizations I hope to be working with this summer.
In Kathmandu, the COCAP secretariat asked us to try and develop a collective proposal that would involve the participation of all of the regional COCAP members, as well as to organize several trainings in proposal writing (actually more of a workshop in which each member organization can ideally develop an individual proposal as well,) report writing and documentation.
Yet while the secretariat lamented the inability to communicate effectively with the focal points, it seems that this is a two way street, and the focal points seem just as frustrated by the perceived unresponsiveness of Kathmandu. Moreover, the lack of institutionalized regular communication, coupled with the limitations of infrastructure, mean that it is difficult for even the focal points to remain in contact with the regional member organizations.
A big challenge in my first few weeks here will be just to connect with these organizations and to let them know who I am and why I am here. Even SWEET-Nepal seemed a little bewildered by my presence, as their office merely houses the COCAP staff member (and they are quite busy with their own work and projects.)
In my opinion, open and free communication is vital to utilizing the collective strength of a network and to fostering a collective vision and purpose for one’s work. I believe that I may find that the perceptions of the COCAP secretariat regarding the strengths and weaknesses of these organizations may prove to not line up with the reality on the ground. Nonetheless, I enjoy the challenge that this situation presents and I have a great resource in Usha-ji as she is fluent in English and eager to work together towards our targeted goals. Additionally, it goes without saying that I am thrilled to be experiencing one of the more remote regions of Nepal. Now if only I could get over the 8 inch spider in my room…
Posted By Jeff Yarborough
Posted Jun 22nd, 2007