Keeping more forest or biodiversity with many empty stomachs does not make any sense
Göttingeli Nepalese Society, popularly known as GöNeS, proudly started to introduce the well-known Nepalese academician in Germany who has already set a standard in their respective field. Their story of hard work and struggle, their experience and broader spectrum of thoughts might be very beneficial to other Nepalese working towards. This is an attempt to explore the unknown facts about their hard work and struggle in their personal life however they are already known to scientific communities. In this column, we would like to write about the successful story of well-known and established Nepalese in Germany.
As the first endeavor to start to write about the successes and their struggle to achieve this status, we chose an academician who has a very long list of scientific contribution and inspiring stories of moving from ground to the apex. In this issue, we are writing about Dr. Krishna K.C., Scientific Staff at the University of Hohenheim, Germany.
Dr. K.C. has a brilliant academic career started from Institute of Forestry, Pokhara, followed by Master study from Asian Institute of Technology (AIT, Bangkok) and completed Ph.D. from University of Hohenheim (Germany). He has extensive work experiences in the forestry sector of Nepal. As a very hardworking, dedicated forest officer, he had served many years in the scientific management of forest in different districts of Nepal. He has further provided his services for the rural people of mountainous regions of Thailand. Presently he has been teaching and supervising Master and Ph.D. students at Hohenheim University, Germany.
He is the author of the books combining socio-economic and spatial methodologies in rural resources and livelihood development; water resource development and its impact to rural livelihood: Integrating GIS into farming system research. He has extensively published scientific articles in many well-known international journals. Besides English, Dr. K.C. is fluent in Hindi and Deutsche languages!
Dr. K.C. was born in Baglung District in medium class family. Here is the short exerpts of our informal interview in broad spectrum of life, from early day’s memories to present professional experiences. From his story, we can conclude that there is nothing impossible to achieve if there is hard work, continuous efforts, honesty and dedication to own profession. Each and every Nepalese has same potentialities, only the basic prerequisite is dedication and devotion; and opportunities to convert their education into practice. We hope that this short interview will certainly helps to inspire many people to achieve the path that followed by Dr. KC.
GöNeS: Would you please to explain about your family background? How was your early education and motivation towards it?
Dr. K.C.: I was born in a farming family in Biguhkot VDC of Baglung District. I had very hard time during early education. I started primary school relatively late. I was already 7 years old when I got admission to class 1 at nearby primary school. The reason for late starting was my frequent movement. When I was baby my father used to work in India so I was also accompanied with him. We spent few years there and returned back to Nepal. By that time I was almost 7 years old. After living for 5 years in Baglung our family again migrated to Chitwan. In Chitwan too initially we lived in Bharatpur municipality for about a year then we settled to Jutpani VDC. These frequent migrations had very strong impact to my early education. I went to three different schools.
Regarding the early school motivation, as you know generally during the primary school you don’t have every specific motivation to visit to the school. It is some how compulsion that you have to go. When I was in upper grades, grade 3- 4, then slowly I was motivated from some key persons of the society. Many of them were teachers. In addition, during that time when I heard that many people in our neighborhood used to say that I was very active and intelligent, can be a big person in future. That simple comment on my ability was in fact the big motivation in the early days of schooling.
GöNeS: Do you have any remarkable memoirs from your school days? Do you remember any particular person or teacher who had impressed you a lot? Why?
Dr. K.C.: There are many memories from my school days. What to say! The very first person from whom I had impressed very much was my Nepali teacher (Bhupendra Bhatta) while I was in grade 4 who taught us Nepali grammar using poem. One line of the poem like “pesa jati thar dirgha hunchhan dirghai lekhne gar” I never forget this statement while writing something in Nepali.
Next one also somehow comes from the similar time, that time generally we used to have two exams in a year: mid term exam and final exam. In the first mid term exam of Mathematics I secured 19.5 out of 20 marks but all the remaining students got failed. Then our Math teacher (Govinda Kandel is campus chief at Mahendra Multiple Campus Baglung at the moment) repeated the exam. In the repetition exam I secured full 20 marks but only 3 more students were able to pass. We had almost 40 students in the class.
During my primarily school at Baglung one time I bought a fountain pen in credit from a shop nearby to school. But I was not able to pay the money of the pen for several weeks. Then I used to go to school by another way to escape from the shopkeeper. I walked the other long and difficult ways until shopkeeper was able to get money paid by my father. I almost walked for a month through such difficult route which I never forget.
Next one was after we migrated to Chitwan, when we were migrated to chitwan there was a big education strike in the schools. All schools were closed. So I moved to Chitwan from Baglung without mark sheet and certificate. Latter when schools were open, I tried to get admission at Narayani Lower Secondary School Lanku, Chitwan at class 6. Teachers of that school asked me to sit for oral exams. I needed to sit for the exam of different subject teachers. Some teachers asked oral question of their respected subject but the headmaster of the school Nar Bahadur Ranabhat asked me to sit in one of his English class. During the class he wrote one sentence and asked the student whether the sentence is correct! The first boy of that class of that school then answered that was correct then the headmaster asked me the same question. I said that was not fully correct! I replied the article ‘the’ is missing in a specific place. He said excellent and I got the admission. In fact that time I myself did not know much about that. So it looked like a magic of a word. I never forget this incident.
Other interesting memory was while I was in high school at Panchkanya Secondary School, Chitwan. One day after the correction of English class test, teacher asked me to beat all the students who did not perform the test correctly by stick. Initially, I refused to beat others. Then teacher said he would beat me if I do not obey him. So, I accepted the task because I had no other choice. I beat all friends for their mistakes. Many of them were girl. Latter, some girls complained to me that I beat them strongly and they were very much angry with me. From that day I stop accepting that kind of task from any teachers.
GöNeS: Why did you choose forestry education rather than other technical subjects? As the brilliant student, you have wider choices such as medical or engineer who has better recognition and financial benefits in Nepal?
Dr. K.C.: The main reason why I selected the forestry education was my poor family background. One of my high school teachers, who had also studied forestry, recommended me to study forestry because there was almost job guarantee immediate after we finish two years of forestry education. In my time there were only 1100 students who were passed SLC in first division so generally there would not be problem for me to get admission in any faculty. Getting admission in forestry was more difficult compared to getting admission in engineering at that time.
GöNeS: How was your experience working as the forest officer in Nepal?
Dr. K.C.: I had mixed experience working as the forest officer in Nepal. I worked in many districts, both in Terai and Hills my experience ranges from day to day administration, patrolling to monitoring, training and teaching. Sometime I found myself happy while I was doing something interesting and challenging for example giving the lectures in training and workshop or using knowledge of forest engineering and surveys or giving the lectures and trainings for the different community forestry user groups about the forestry management and development activities.
Sometime I found myself so unhappy by listening the vertical blame from the people about the forestry profession even we forester worked for day and night not saying rainy and hot weather. We protected hundred of hectares of forestry land from the encroachment and converting to other uses. We sometime put our live under the threat and fight against the big timber smuggler. So even working hard and dedication for the conservation and protection you might found yourself in so frustration when you will not be able to achieve any measurable success in the conservation of forestry land and products because of unable to get support from policy decision marker and politicians.
In addition I also feel uneasy by hearing the blame from the general public that normally forestry professional earns the money by secondary or illegal means. Despite of hard works performed by many foresters, people used to generalize all of us by viewing handful of corrupt and lazy foresters, which is in fact not justifiable and logical.
GöNeS: We know that you have many experiences and interesting stories that you gained during your tenure working as forest officer. Would you please to share some of these to our readers?
Dr. K.C.: As you know working as a forestry officer you always need to work against the general public especially when you are working in Terai region. As you know all the land whether it has tree cover or not belongs to forestry and you will be responsible for the protection of that. And as you know all the people’s eyes are on those lands and of course on the forestry products too. Thus, every day you have to fight with general public, local politician and other in different areas including protecting forestry land or any kind of direct forest product or sometimes even other materials such as soil and sand form forestry ground.
So most of the time we will not have chance to come with good interesting stories beside fighting with other people or spending nights and days out of your place to sleep. In addition we do not have good team approach of working. Sometime I found we forester are lacking team spirit. So one hand you have to fight everyday to others and on the other hand you do not have good team spirit. Then imagine yourself how you could enjoy doing your job. So, in this regards I did not find myself very much happy and satisfied.
As you know most of the time I was working as second man I feel myself so unhappy when your immediate supervisor would behave like a big boss and a dictator even he is similar to your position and qualifications. I would like to tell you a story of a day during my work, one my immediate supervisor asked me to go somewhere to inspect something. in addition to going there I went some other places where I found some timber smugglings was going on when I returned back and informed about that incident then my supervisor was reacted to me that ‘Oh KC ji pni! why did you go there?’ You might have already understood what I mean. You know that activities were already under the knowledge of my supervisor and he would like to escape me from that.
Besides, we have a large level of feudalism in our profession and they need to be corrected in order to achieve the goal of sustainable forestry management.
There is also the positive side of the coin. The job of forester in Nepal is one of the most responsible, people focused and democratically functioned. Even in the conflict periods in the past; me, my predecessors and other staffs worked hard to protect and manage the forestry resources in the country. I remember that the early days of community forestry when no one has full trust upon the proper running and successes of community based forest management. Foresters really did hard work! Finally their hard jobs and continuous efforts paid out. Due to their efforts, the country is widely known as the pioneer of Community Forestry in the world. Being a part of this movement, I feel myself proud and provide huge sense of satisfaction.
Many of our colleagues have been working hard even in the conflict and political sensitive periods. They have been providing their service during the state was on internal violence! Their contribution is unimaginable! They are really great! But… their contribution was not well credited! I am sorry for them too!
GöNeS: In your opinion, what might be the most crucial reason in success and failure of forest management in Nepal? What do you pinpoint for our inability to get maximum benefits from our vast natural resources and biodiversity?
Dr. K.C.: Well, in my opinion forestry or any kind of natural resources or biodiversity conservation must be for the betterment of people living adjacent or around. If such resources conservation or protection is not providing anything to the people living nearby would not make any sense for the conservation. It would not be justifiable. In addition I am sure in long run it will not be sustainable.
What the real economic role does our natural resources play to the development of the country has to be studied which could be good reason for the protection of such resources. From the global prospective it is certainly good to keep more areas under forest cover or national park and reserves. But in my opinion keeping more forest or biodiversity with many empty stomachs does not make any sense. So conservation of natural resource must be justified by their role how and why they are better for the people and nation………
I think we have not been practicing real scientific forest management. Where is the scientific forest management? Either we are cutting and consuming the forest products in the name of forest utilization, forest product supply ‘aapurti’, TCN or community forest development, buffer zone and private forest. Is there any study that shows how many trees or cubic feet of timber we cut and used in the name of ‘aabadi’ for last few years? In my opinion it is not enough just to declare an area a ‘buffer zone of a national park or a reserved’ or hand over the national forest to community just to sell matured trees. There must be a clear strategy that should not allow cutting any standing trees or removing any other types of biomass that exceeds the growth rate.
Till today although we are finding in the literature that about 40% of our land is covered by forest area. Does it mean that there was no deforestation in last two decades at all? For me it is really difficult to believe. Since we have been seeing that every day hectares of forestry land has been encroached and converting to other use. We can see in last two decade how many different infrastructures were developed on the forest ground but still the forest area is same, how?
On the other had community forestry has been doing better since state was not able to protect the resources properly in the past. As I mentioned earlier, before the commencement of Community Based Forest Management Approach (1978), state was not been able to motivate and convince the people about the management of forest and its roles to their day to day livelihood. If people are not getting any benefit to manage the forest resources why do they participate! They were really not getting any benefit that’s why they were not participated to manage it.
In whole last two decades I have not seen any growth of new sapling converting into poles and mature trees in our country. What we have been doing is just harvesting all the mature trees in the name of government or community management. Do you have any such example where certain hectares of areas of different stage of forest cover have been growing and developing which could serves the needs of furniture industry or others without declining the forest areas and biomass. This is the challenge for foresters.
Further to get maximum benefits from our vast natural resources and biodiversity, we need to globalize our issue of natural resources and biodiversity conservation, for example we can bargain to sell our carbon and get carbon quota and development the tourism by attracting the tourist by offering our huge diversity of flora, fauna and landscape.
GöNeS: You have got opportunities to study in Nepal, Thailand and Germany. We can take these three countries as the education system in less developed, developing and well developed countries. Also, you have experiences as the faculty members in Thailand and Germany, what are the differences among these. What are the positive and negative things in our education system?
Dr. K.C.: This question reminds me the recent Bollywood blockbuster “3 Idiots”. Nepalese education system is somehow similar what we can see in that movie. Responding to the education system as a whole it covers different aspects like school education, higher education, university education or practical, theoretical or vocational education. How does the over all education system look like? Further more, whether education system is managed by state or private. I do not want to go deep into these sectors. In fact that would be very important for the country like ours. Let us talk education system here in Germany which is mostly public system. The capability and interest of candidate is not limited or benefited being the child of big politician or business man, it is all based on individual capabilities. If someone is capable, he or she can earn the degree as he or she likes. But as you can see in our country person can be engineer or medical doctor just because of a children of rich or influential person.
I have got the opportunities to study, Nepal, Thailand and Germany, my early school to undergraduate education from Nepal and graduate and post graduate education are from aboard. I did master from Thailand, however I am not much familiar with the Thai education system since I did my master at Asian Institute of Technology which basically follows the American systems. The basic different I found between Nepal and Germany is our system is as “Suga ratai” less practical, less creative and applicable. System does not help you to stand or market yourself rather it forces you to earn the degrees and certificate and sell them. And more focused on course work and relatively less focused on research and practical things.
There are some positive systems in our education system too. Firstly our system forces to everyone try their best to achieve possible higher level of education. Self motivation and not forceful systems like here in Germany, there remains some risks that during child and adult stage people can be distracted from many things and they will not be able to concentrate on education. So in the forceful system parents and society put pressure on each to do their best. Our system is ego based system sometime that also helps to develop someone by looking how other is developing. ‘phalano ko chhora chhori jasto…..!’
GöNeS: Nepalese students, studying in developed countries like the USA, England, Germany and any others, has a very high success rate. Many of them are found to be among top students in the world renowned universities. Why? With these success rates, can we still blame our education system?
Dr. K.C.: What I mentioned before that our system was basically focused on hard course work and we believe that we need to know everything written in the book by heart. I think students who studies in such system generally would be better off in all different theoretical concept and areas of their subject specific. Secondly hard working, intelligent and brilliant one secured the good marks and got the opportunities for further studies abroad. While we start studying in these countries, course work will be rather easier for us as we were used to. In addition we also got the opportunity to develop research and applicability of different theories and models which help to improve our performance hence achieve high success rate.
However in my opinion success or failure of our education system should not be measure based on the performances of few selected students who have got chance to study aboard. Lets go back to the county and try to measure how much percentage of Nepalese populations are using the knowledge gain by education system to run their day to day business and, sustain and able to sell their capabilities. I think we will be disappointing. Our system all the time forces us to run behind getting degrees with higher marks and pass different types of irrelevant exams even to get the job. But, most of the times we are not getting chance to use the knowledge that we gained from education system. Let us remember our self how much percentages of the skill and knowledge we got from our forestry education is in fact needed and applied to do our jobs as junior or senior forest officer!
GöNeS: How can our forestry sector and the motherland be benefited from your extensive experiences and skills?
Dr. K.C.: My experiences are basically in the broad areas of natural resources management particularly my work during and after the postgraduate studies are focused on the development of resources and livelihood of mountainous areas in South and Southeast Asia. I worked on natural resources mapping, modeling and management and linking & integrating them with socioeconomic development of farming people to see the interaction between resources and livelihood. I have published two books one is combining socioeconomic and spatial methodological in rural resources and livelihood development in mountains of Nepal and the other one is water resources development and its impact to rural livelihood: Integrating GIS into farming system research from northern Thailand. I also published some journal papers in these regards.
From my 10 years of research experiences in the sectors of natural resources management and rural livelihood in the mountainous region particularly in hills of Nepal and mountainous region of Southeast Asia specifically Thailand and Vietnam, I found that resources and livelihoods are very much related to each other. In simple word there is strong relation between place and people. So in order to achieve the sustainable management of natural resources with improving living standard we should follow the resources and livelihood concept which means there should be special interaction between resources and people living in an area which has to be studied and the area specific suitable strategies can be tested and applied to achieve both sustainable management of resources and improve livelihood. In addition what I mentioned to responding your question earlier also relevant specifically for the development of forestry sector of Nepal.
One addition thing what I like to mention is the ‘system’. In our country in every sector we are lacking the system. Nature gave us everything but we are just lacking the system. We need to develop the system and implement it strictly making sure that everything will be run smoothly through the system.
GöNeS: What are your plans and prescriptions to modernize for the forestry sector particularly in Nepal?
Dr. K.C.: In addition to what I mentioned to respond your earlier question about the development of forestry sector in Nepal, I think we need a plan of scientific forest management that allow us to use forestry product and services that should not exceeds the growth rate/ with out minimizing future needs. Besides, the hard and honest dedication from foresters and politician, civil society is needed to manage the available resources. The trust between stake holders and their healthy networks and relation is required for the implementation of any kind of policies and plans.
GöNeS: Finally what message would you like to share with our valuable readers?
Dr. K.C.: Well, in whole universe our country is only Nepal and we are Nepalese. When country remains then only we remain. So whatever we will be able to do for the betterment of our nation we must do it wherever we are whatever capacities and the position we will be. We are living different corners of the world because of searching options, opportunities or compulsion we should not forget our nation and do our best using our skill, knowledge and experiences to our motherland.
GöNeS: On behalf of me and Goettingeli Nepalese Society, I would like to extend our thanks to you for your valuable time and opinions!
Dr. K.C.: Thank you too!