Anil Chitrakar

Ashoka Fellow
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Nepal
Fellow Since 1990
This description of Anil Chitrakar's work was prepared when Anil Chitrakar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990 .

Introduction

Anil is a 28-year-old mechanical engineer who has (prior to his election) been serving with the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology in the field of appropriate technology.

The New Idea

Anil's idea started simply enough when he began engaging children as he worked on solar energy and other appropriate technology demonstrations in their villages. Not only were they fascinated, but the work proved sustainable in the villages. Over the last several years this seed has grown and evolved rapidly. Anil envisions a series of intensive five day to one week camps, typically of 20 11 to 14-year-olds and 5 or 6 volunteer student trainers/leaders, leading to a new type of local youth group his organization will continue to challenge and help. He is pursuing multiple, mutually reinforcing objectives:(1) To give these young people, especially those from the 91 percent of Nepal that is rural, an engaging initial exposure to the scientific world view of their environment -- sanitation, appropriate agricultural and energy technologies, and -- especially -- why environmental conservation is essential for their and their community's failure.(2) To do so through this intense, hands-on experimental approach that will serve as a dramatic alternative to rote/repetition schooling, one that he hopes increasingly to encourage the schools to take up. (3) To involve high school-leavers and college students in this grassroots work, thus both (a) creating the large work force of trainers the project needs and also (b) allowing him to spread both his specific appropriate technology/ environmental message and a sense of commitment to the country's rural poor. This sense of commitment is best arrived at through working together successfully.From informal village contacts to five-day camps for urban children to the first several programs for children from rural schools, Anil's thinking is now shifting to sweeps of rural schools in a region. Thus, for example, a team of his volunteers would spend several months working its way from school to school in the valley connecting Pokaran and Mustang.Anil has constructed efficient, practical methods for his work as it has evolved. For example, he typically organizes a rural school's program, after some advance correspondence with the local school and government, in one or two days during which he briefs the children in each of his four target age groups, gets their parents' permission, organizes the group and briefs it, scouts the opportunities in the area (e.g., a modern small scale hydro facility to compare with the older mills still operating with wood bearings, a modern bee farm, examples of erosion caused by overcutting), and prepares a schedule of activities for the group's typically five-day-long encampment. A typical day in the encampment includes four subgroups, each led by a student trainer, trekking to one of several educational field sites, and benefitting from the disciplines of group living and full-group discussion. A key objective is to encourage these self-selecting youngsters in the school to come together as an ongoing discovery/environment student group. (Anil is considering experimenting with older youngsters in the rural areas if necessary to achieve this end.) Such a group is now meeting monthly, with occasional help from Anil's group, in the first of the rural schools to experience Anil's approach. This experience in group formation and self initiative has broad implications, as important for long term development as for education or the environment.

The Problem

Nepal is one of the world's five poorest countries. Its 17 million people, many of whom cling to the ever more precariously terraced Himalayan mountainsides for survival, are threatened by accelerating environmental damage. Every year a growing percentage of the land sweeps out to the Bay of Bengal through heavily silted rivers that, in the valleys and plains below, meander and flood ever more destructively.

Education and development started only several decades ago. Although there has been striking progress in what is a historically short time, the population does not yet have the technical and organizational skills it needs to create a sustainably prosperous nation. The education system, mired in memorization and group repetition, is not equal to the challenges.

Nepal's future depends on the rapid development of its human resources and, in close parallel, the wise conservation of its limited, fragile natural resources

The Strategy

All Anil's very substantial energy can now turn to translating the last year's experiments into an organizationally sustainable program of far larger scope.

A number of the elements are already in place or promise to fall in soon. FAO has promised to donate the food needed for all the encampments. UNICEF has offered audio-visual equipment where it can be used, and various development and government groups are contributing education materials, as well. A small flow of volunteer trainers has already begun, and Anil is confident he can expand the number significantly. The national parks and forests have been made available; Ashoka Fellow Bharat Koirala's Nepal Press Institute is helping out; and the initial few schools and district governments have responded well.

Anil must now create an organization frame that can systematically:

(1) Attract, train and supervise a large flow of (quick turnover) to volunteer trainers;

(2) Develop the capacity to stay in touch with and provide needed support to a growing number of village youth groups;

(3) Coordinate, track and be accountable for a growing, diverse flow of resources; and,

(4) Develop and maintain relations with government, donors, the press, and other constituencies.

Even as he is launching this ambitious phase in the development of his vision, Anil is looking beyond. He would like the school system to incorporate his intensive field encampments as a regular part of their program and will be experimenting with modifications that would make this more attractive and therefore likely. He's also thinking how he might draw in other institutions ranging from the Scouts to local development organizations.

The Person

Born in Kathmandu in 1961, Anil went to school there before going on to India (Rajasthan University) for his B.A. in mechanical engineering. After returning, he worked in the Royal Academy's Alternative Energy Department.

As a student his instinct for leadership was as obvious as his interests were broad. He was a co-founder of the Association of Contemporary Theater (ACT) and acted in many of its Kathmandu productions; played in many national level football (soccer), hockey, and basketball tournaments in both Nepal and India; ran the Society of Nepalese students in Jaipur, and wrote several articles on the environment, including a major feature in Ashoka Fellow Kanak Dixit's HIMAL, a review of development and the environment through the Himalayan region.