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IFFCO and NACCFL partner for Nepal relief
The following article was authored by Mr. Balu Iyer, the Asia-Pacific Regional Director for the ICA. The article was originally entitled 'Nepal Doors Without Walls' and appeared on www.ica.coop
As we drove towards Dhading, the main road was suddenly overrun with people. Some looked anxiously at buildings and others spoke restlessly on their mobile phones. A magnitude 4.8 quake had struck and residents rushed out. More than 49-shocks measured over 4 on the Richter scale (two above 7, two above 6, 16 above 5 and 29 above 4). The tremors below 4, which number in the hundreds, are not reported. Meena Pokharel and Rudra Bhattarai, the Central National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACCFL) and Babul Khanak, National Cooperative Federation of Nepal (NCF / N), accompanied me in the jeep. They immediately took out their phones to find out if their loved ones were okay. ''You can imagine our mental state,'' explained Rudra Bhattarai. ''One month after the first big tremor and two weeks after the second, we are unable to restore order in our lives. As soon as we think we can have a normal life, whatever that may mean, a new tremor hits. ''
The district borders Dhading and Kathmandu is less than 32 km as the crow flies. The mountainous terrain and road conditions nevertheless lengthen journeys from one place to another. Some villages of Dhading were very affected by the earthquake, due to their proximity to the epicenter. The first village we visited, Jiwanpur, was in ruins. Many houses had collapsed, some were half demolished and only some were still standing. New temporary structures were installed next to the ruins. Some structures were polyethylene sheeting roof and others corrugated iron. The building of the Small Farmers Agricultural Co-operative Limited (SAFCL) was still standing, but the neighboring building, which hosted the staff, had collapsed. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. President Ramesh, who is a teacher, told us: ''In the CDV (a village development committee is the basic administrative unit in Nepal, which aims to organize the villagers locally and create a partnership between the community and government to better service delivery system), only 24 houses of 2400 are still habitable. Many houses seem perfectly stable from the outside, but cracks were formed and people are afraid to stay inside. We receive help from the NACCFL and a local NGO. That's all. '' All schools in the village, like the other affected districts' schools were closed until the end of the month. Many of these schools were damaged and those that have not been demolished are used to accommodate the displaced. We went to a second village, Chhatre Dyaurali. The fate of this village was very similar to the previous one: 90% of houses were damaged and livestock had also been affected. Mr. Krishna Luitel, the president of the company, said: ''We use the equipment that we have to rebuild our homes. We plan to provide loans from the funds of the company, to help our members to buy equipment. '' The main source of livelihood is agriculture, an activity that has continued, and the villagers continued to grow vegetables and provide for Kathmandu and other places. It was poignant to see, in many places, the doors on the road, without walls to support them.
I visited the NCF / N on the morning of May 20 and was greeted by President Keshav Prasad Badal. The first thing he showed me were the cracks that had formed on the exterior walls of their new building, opened a year earlier. As we visited every floor and every room, we saw visible signs of the effects of earthquake. ''There are cracks in many places, but the structural integrity of the building is preserved, so all is well,'' said Badal. ''I cannot say the same for thousands of other buildings.'' The NCF / N represents about 27,000 cooperatives throughout the country, 4.7 million members. It has 18 cooperative unions at the central level (consumption, savings and credit, dairy farming, farming, beekeeping, growing fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits, tea, sugarcane, health, coffee, herbs, electrical, multi-purpose, information and communication, fishing, seeds and tourism), a national cooperative bank, 302 cooperative unions at the district level and 12 associate members.
During my meeting with the staff and board of directors of the NCF / N, I was informed of the extent of the situation and the work of the committee, staff and members of the NCF / N. In the hour that followed the quake, the NCF / N has appealed to all its members. On the other side of the border, IFFCO India was ready to respond. In a telephone conversation between Mr. Badal and Dr. Awasthi, MD of IFFCO and Mr. Aditya Yadav, a member of the International Board of Directors of the Alliance, a plan was prepared to send 10,000 kits of first aid equipment as an emergency measure. A rescue package provides a family with all that it needs to live for a week: Polyethylene tarpaulins, mattresses, blankets, dhotis, saris, rice, pulses, sugar, salt, roasted chickpeas, saffron, tea, milk powder, vinegar, matchboxes, and candles. These packages have been prepared in one of the buildings of the IFFCO India and trucked across the border. They were then received by the staff of the NCF / N, cleared, and then distributed to the affected districts. In most cases, the material was distributed via the Cooperative Union district, the administrative department district and the Central Commission for natural disasters. The NCF / N is currently collecting data from affected districts, transmitted by its unions. According to figures, more than 1,000 cooperative members were killed, 50,000 were injured and thousands of houses and cooperative buildings were damaged.
In the afternoon, I visited the NACCFL, the umbrella organization of SFACL. There are 611 SFACL offices in 68 districts across the country, servicing more than 615,000 members. The mission of the NACCFL is to provide non-financial services appropriate to its member organizations for socio-economic and institutional development. A survey indicates that 440 NACCFL members were killed and 925 were injured; 72 SFACL offices were damaged; 85,000 houses have collapsed; 30,000 homes were damaged and 145,000 head of cattle perished.
With the help of its members, the NACCFL provided aid kits, medicines, and rescued several people from the rubble of 85 Village Development Committees. In the second phase, efforts will focus on building (offices, warehouses, members, livestock), income-generating activities, the distribution of seeds, livestock purchases, and training. All interested people can benefit from the NACCFL.
The most dramatic visit was that of the historical city of Bhaktapur. During my previous visits, this city was full of tourists and buzzing with activity. This time, visitors could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the normally bustling cafes were empty. We visited the premises of the cooperative savings and credit samuhik local (SACOS). Nearby buildings were badly damaged. Four weeks after the earthquake and cleanup activities by the community, the city still looked like a war zone. The back room on the second floor where the bank was damaged. The bank has therefore been moved to the ground floor. ''We quickly reviewed the local organization to resume our activities,'' explained Dhanesh, Secretary. ''We do not want to affect our members as a result. Starting work again gives us a feeling of being back to normal. '' The SACOS Management Committee recently met in the house rented by the President (his house was damaged), to decide the next steps. The committee decided to postpone the penalties on late payments, to help members (including those who are saving for their children) who perished, and to find solutions for reconstruction grant loans to members. They collected data and have forwarded it to their national federation.
The arrival of the monsoon in three weeks could seriously threaten the livelihood of the people and their homes, their sanitation, and their health. The government declared a state of emergency and exercised its authority to use the Prime Minister's relief fund to invest in reconstruction projects. The government has so far been unable to coordinate and remove the bottlenecks in the delivery of aid. Most Nepalese people wish to start building their homes with their own resources and support local initiatives. To proceed with the reconstruction of buildings, our cooperative members must work in coordination with the government. National Alliance members operate nationwide and are very present in the villages. They therefore have an important role to play in influencing the government and channeling reconstruction efforts. A daunting task awaits them. They could consider granting loans to members so they can perform the construction work directly. There are other possibilities: providing assistance for income-generating activities for the purchase of livestock and provision of seeds to farmers, among others. Internationally, our members have supported through donations. In-kind and technical assistance could also be considered.
I met Dr. Awasthi in his office today to thank him and the IFFCO. He said that cooperatives should lend a hand to cooperatives, and that is precisely what they did. I replied that our Nepali members intended to distribute seeds and wish to benefit from their help. Dr. Awasthi replied that they had their support.