KATHMANDU, Sept 28: Sharmila Shrestha was so happy when it was decided that the first ever Collaborative Partnership on Forests, Wangari Maathai would be awarded to Dr Narayankaji Shrestha -- a pioneer community forestry activist in the country.
She has been working with him for more than two decades and recalls him as a man of passion. “He always used to say that we shouldn´t waste time and only work can make life fulfilling,” said Sharmila.
Narayankaji bagged the prestigious award named after Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya who founded a green revolution through Green Belt Movement Campaign in Kenya. “When I learnt that call for Wangari award was open I consulted with his friends at national and international arena but international ones took the lead and nominated him for the award,” added Sharmila who works for Women Acting Together for Change (WATCH).
Narayan who did his PhD in education from Michigan State University in USA in 1987 is one of the pioneer community forestry activists in the country who spent decades to mainstream the community forestry movement at the national and international level.
“He was the one who led community forestry in Nepal. He played key role in internationalizing community forestry. So Nepali activist getting international award is a matter of pride for the country and for community forestry movement in Nepal” said Ghanashyam Pandey, former Chairperson of Federation of Community Forest User Groups Nepal (FECOFUN). Shrestha worked as an advisor to FECOFUN in late 90´s.
According to Pandey, Shrestha is a very simple person and prefers to keep a low-profile. “He was happy keeping a low profile and worked for the communities, tried to give his best to establish community forestry in Nepal,” added Pandey.
Narayankaji worked for several national and international organizations over the last three decades. He started his career as a teacher of Vanasthali Vidhyasharam in Balaju in 1964. "Shrestha´s work captures the spirit of Wangari Maathai," said FAO Assistant Director-General for Forestry, Eduardo Rojas-Briales. "His vision, courage, commitment, intelligence and praxis is recognized through this award."
"Dr Shrestha is recognized as one of main architects of the community forestry movement which has contributed significantly to restoring forest resources in the country,” FAO website wrote about him after the award ceremony held Thursday in Rome.
He received $ 20,000 at a function organized at FAO headquarters in Rome during the FAO Committee on Forestry and Third World Forestry Week which is underway in Italy.
Shrestha had established many grass-roots level organizations that played key role for the development of community forestry in Nepal. He is the founder of New ERA (Research Organization), Natural and Organizational Resources Management Service (NORMS), NEPAN (Nepal Participatory Action Network of I/NGOs), FECOFUN (Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal), NFIWUAN (National Federation of Irrigation Water Users´ Association Nepal), HIMAWANTI (Network of Grassroots Women Users of Natural Resources), Mahila Ekata Sangathan (Sex Workers Organization) in Nepal, Global Caucus for Community Based Natural Resources Management and International Network of Forests and Communities.