Today we are celebrating eco-heroine Rachhya, who is the assistant Director for Eden Projects in Nepal. It is very unusual for a woman in Nepal to hold such a position, which is just one of the things that makes Rachhya so extraordinary. She's also helped to plant around 1.6 million trees, and has passion both for the environment and helping women in her local area.
Nepal sits between India and China both of which are very large countries with large populations. Demands on the natural environment have increased and with them an increase in deforestation. In Nepal 70% of their natural forests have been cut. When the trees are cut, it changes the environment. The ground becomes less fertile, the soil washes away, the land doesn't have the same sources or retention of water as it does when trees are present. The country also has economic and human rights concerns combined with a culture where women are often expected to stay in their homes and do not have access to education. Eden Projects works in these areas to not only plant trees to improve the environment but it also employs women allowing them to gain stability and and take a part in their community.
Jessica, a treesister from the UK, happened to be traveling to Nepal just before Earth Day and had the amazing opportunity to get to know Rachhya. Here are some highlights from their time spent together!
Jessica: Hello and thank you so much for sitting down with us today. Can you introduce yourself and tell us about the work that you do and how you became involved?
Rachhya: I am Rachhya, and I work as an assistant director for Eden Projects in Nepal. How the project is important to me... I had been interested and involved with the environment since my childhood. As I grew up, I took some classes to enhance my interest, to work and get more involved. I had done my studies in Life Science and later I have come to take my Masters Degree in Natural Resources, and with that I got an opportunity to work with Eden USA. By nature, I love to work with people. I also enjoy working with the environment so this project has given me the opportunity to work for the environment with people so it's very important to me.
Jessica: Oh how wonderful. Can I ask how many trees you've helped plant?
Rachhya: I joined this organization in 2016... we have planted around 1.6 million trees with the hope to plant more in coming years.
Jessica: What difference have you seen this project make?
Rachhya: First I'll talk about environment... at the start of this project, there were many lost species, and the forests had been very degraded. So we went into the communities where reforestation is needed... much of the forest cover has now increased in theses areas.
Jessica: That sounds amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about what the environment is like in Nepal? And what are the challenges in working with that environment? Are there any particular issues that relate to climate change?
Rachhya: In Nepal there are high mountains and hills. Some of the challenges we face include landslides, floods and droughts. Before, there used to be specific patterns for rainfall, but now there are changes in rainfall, the seasons have been changing, and also the temperature is changing. People have been experiencing the temperature going up in the summer and very low in the winter.
"Due to climate change these problems are more severe." Rachhya
Jessica: What do you love about your work? How does it bring you joy?
Rachhya: Being involved in this project often provides me the opportunity to be in nature. I can go on field visits, I can go to the planting sites... I also like involvement with the local people. Whenever I go over and talk with them, I get to know more about the area, I get to know more about Nepal. Like right now in our project area mainly the women are involved... I feel happy and proud that this project is giving opportunity for females to come out of their house and work and get involved in community work, so it makes me happy.
Jessica: So you said that you really enjoyed the project because you get to be close to nature. What do you think the benefits are for people who are close to Nature?
Rachhya: When we are in the environment and close to Nature, we learn from it... and we get to know ourselves.The forest has increased, and there are many benefits from that. There is water from the trees, and grass is available for the animals. Our tree program can address long term problems but also long term solutions as well. For example, the trees that take root and grow help reduce landslides and flooding.
Jessica: How has your work here helped women?
Rachhya: In the case of Nepal, women are often housebound in their work. They are given the responsibilities of housework and must remain from going out... but Eden is giving women the opportunity to plant trees in their area, but they don't have to go far away from their family and house to work. They gain strength in the economics of the family, they can support their family financially.
In most of the villages, men go abroad to do work and only the old people, children and females are left. So with this project, they are strengthened, and also have the opportunity to work so that they can support their family.
"The women are strengthened, and can participate in the tree planting... they are involved in decision making activities, too, so they have positive and happy moments to get out of their home be part of the community. It also provides exposure to the outer world." Rachhya
Jessica: That's very interesting. I want to ask you about your dreams, What are your personal dreams? What is your vision for the future of the forest?
Rachhya: It used to be said that green forests are the wealth of Nepal, but deforestation activities are increasing. Because of this project there are now reforestation programs, which also alleviate poverty that goes along with deforestation. I have dreams and a future vision to extend these projects and these activities to more sites where it is required, so that the forest cover can be increased, many environmental benefits can happen, and we can benefit from these activities, strengthening the community people to have their own work in the area.
Also being female, I want to have more females involved in this project, so that they can strengthen and be proud to support their families and the environment.
Jessica: That's beautiful. I'm going to ask one more question about Earth Day - which I believe you celebrate here in Nepal, too. What does the day mean to you, to the Eden Projects, and what might it mean for forest around the world?
Rachhya: I feel these days are like a reminder to protect the environment, but we should be concerned every day, and also have environmental days around the whole year, so we can continue conserving and protecting the Earth.
Transcript by Terra Canova
Published 25 April 2018
Photographs courtesy of Eden Reforestation Projects