Fellow Since 1990
Environmental Camps for Conservation Awareness (ECCA)
This profile was prepared when Anil Chitrakar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
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.