Forgotten Hero: Dinesh Thapa (Sarlahi, Nepal):
When I used to remember my days working at the Sarlahi District Forest Office, I have plenty of important events, people, incidents to remember. During my 10 years of professional jobs working as the Forest Officer, in Nepal, I have encountered many people, and faced many problems. Some characters are quite good and some are bad enough to remember however both of these character have strong impressions to me. During my jobs, I have served mostly in Dang, Achham, Sarlahi and Doti ranging from Terai to High hills. Many people including fellow staffs seniors and subordinate, politician, social worker, journalists were interacted. Some people are very supportive to me. They have shown great trust to me. They believed me in the exteme cases. They never thought that I can lie and do bad. They had blind faith on me. I was believed even when I was wrong. Some people are very critical. Some are very biased. For them, whatever good we used to do, they used to find mistakes on it. Between these two extreme, I have some important memory working with two noteable characters in the Sarlahi. They were shown their great support and faith on me when I was doing right for the development of forestry sector and upliftment of people's livelihood. And, on the following days, when some thing wrong occured due to policy lag behind, they didnot sit behind from protesting me. Working with these kinds of people, supporting good activities and strongly opposing the weaknesses and mistakes, used to be the source of motivation and encouragement to me and others.
This time, I will talk about a Old man who is around 55 years old, but he is so energetic, he left us behind in many cases. The name of this 55 years young(!) man is Dinesh Thapa (Chhetri). He is old but he was always ready to work for the people and for the forest. He has been backed with strong public support. He was the elected chairperson of Bihani Community Forestry User Group, Murtiya-3, Sarlahi. This place lies around 14 kilometer south from East West Highway. They fought several years with district forest office demanding the hand over of Community Forest to user group. Many DFOs, AFO, Rangers provided plain words to them bud didnot hand over the rights to manage their forests by themselves. They rallied, protested, advocated but the District Forest Office, didnot hear their voice. The DFO were not able to convince their fellow staffs to hand over the forest to the community. Handover of the forest to user group is loosing their rights.
One day, we became able to hand over the forest to 4 different user groups. I used to remember the day, when we fought against the illegal pressure from local maoist (then rebellion) and managed to hand over four community forests to 4 different users groups of that region. On the day of handover, there were big rally organised in support of District Forest Office. People were decorated us with the garlands of flowers. They chanted slogan in favour of us and our office. The people who were extreme against of the office, were honoring us and chanting loud slogans for us! what a change! That shows their respect can be won if we work for them.
Unknowingly I deviated from the topic. Sorry for that!
After hand over, these 22 hactare of forest (90% Dalbergia sissoo plantation), they were conserving and managing forest prudentally. They have allocated land to all 73 members of their user groups to grow improved grass. Dinesh Thapa brought seeds and seedlings from several places and grew their and distributed to all members freely. His endeavors worked out. People, mostly farmers, are getting higher quality grasses to their livestock which increases the productivity of their livestock. Once milk dry zone of Sarlahi, is now selling milk to the surrounding villages. The coverage and diversity of forest have been tremendously improved in short times. Once disappeared 22 species of NTFPs were reappeared there. That might be retrogression or Succesion in Ecological term. His Community Forest Used to be visited by Academicians, Foresters, Social worker and others as the open university for the forestry and livelihood improvements. He has vision and courage to materialize his vision into field. He has inspired the true empowerment of women and Madhesis since long time.
Besides, he leased out barren land from Sagarnath Forestry Development Projects and cultivated Citronella, Pamarossa, Chamommile and Asparagus. He has been involved all the poor people of that region on the cultivation of it. He was expecting the upliftment of the poors livelihood with the production of high demanded NTFPs.
He has been inspiring other people to work and unite for the community forestry. He inpired many to grow NTFPs in their land and in forest too.
Moreover, he was phenomenal to stop the illegal encroachment and smuggling of forest products from that regions. This regions was quite notorious for illegal smuggling of forest products, but now this is almost peace zone without no illegal activities. All these credit goes to Dinesh Thapa, who spent tolls and toils to the betterment of forestry and the people. He was nicknamed as Ban Thapa (Forest Thapa) for his involvement in this sector. He has been honouring by several organisation including District Forest Office, FECOFUN and several NGOs and civil society. Everybody is willing to acquire good name via his hard work and fame. This short memory might follow the same intention. My salutation goes to him.
(Please write me about your experience with any other such a motivational man! )