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Post-disaster resilience and agro-ecological transition in Nepal

 A collaborative team comprising Professor Inger Maaren ( University of Bergen), Bikash Adhikari, Govinda Paudel, Dinesh Paudel (ForestAction Nepal Researchers), Jessica Dicarlo, Katie Epstein ( University of California, Berkeley graduates) recently completed an intensive 5-week fieldwork session from May 28, 2016 in Dolakha district. The goals of the project were to broadly examine the impacts and implication of the 2015 earthquake on households, communities and agro-ecological systems. This project was conveived , written and funded from a Peder Sather Grant Program Collboration ( Norwegian government funds) between the University of Bergen, Norway and the University of California, Berkeley.

The field team employed a broad set of investigatory and participatory methods including household surveys, key informant and informal interviews, focus groups and discussions, participant observation, crop calendars and participatory budgeting. Extensive time was spent in the district’s commercial capital, Charikot, where the field team interviewed numerous stakeholders including members from the District Administrator Office, District Development Committee, District Disaster Relief Committee, District Forest Office, District Agriculture Development Office, District Soil Conservation Office, District Livestock Office, District Police Office, VDC, major political parties, journalists, leading farmers, NGOs and INGOs. Data was collected on agricultural production and aid development project spending and allocation. Household surveys were completed in two contrasting villages, Sundrawati and Boch, with subsistence-based livelihood and increased market-orientation and access respectively.

Findings from the data are numerous and far-reaching. The earthquakes had a profound effect on individual households, communities and district-wide infrastructure. Physical damage to property and landscape is visible and persistent and many of the individuals interviewed and surveyed remain without adequate housing, despite significant efforts by the government and aid organizations to deliver much needed materials and cash. Agricultural systems were most impacted by damaged water sources for irrigation and drinking as well as widespread livestock death, which hinders manure production, an essential input for subsistence-based crops like maize, millet, wheat and paddy. To meet the needs of increasing income and reduced labor availability, many farmers are turning to low labor, high value and market-oriented crops like kiwi, cardamom and vegetables. These findings and more will be discussed more extensively at an upcoming FA workshop on July 26th and in a Social Science Baha paper presentation. A collaborative team from University of Bergen, UC Berkeley and ForestAction Nepal, developed and refined the survey instruments and will be collaborating in the future on data analysis, writing, and dissemination.

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