Catholic social teaching is an important tool for development work in Nepal, according to Caritas Nepal worker, Manindra Malla, himself a Hindu.
Manindra (pictured) joined Caritas in 1990 and for the past 10 years has been head of programmes at Caritas Nepal. He finds that the principles associated with CST, for example, the commitment to working for the good of all, are vital to the integrity of the work Caritas does in his country.
Manindra says the Caritas mandate for social development is very clear, based on the principles of justice and equality.
‘We work as a team. There are many NGOs who lose their way because they do not have a unified set of values which is one of the strengths of Caritas. People know that we do good work and we are here for the long term.’
Manindra has been promoting Caritas’ Lenten programme throughout New Zealand. He says 38 percent of Nepal’s 24 million population live below the poverty line and about half the country’s children are malnourished.
Rice is the staple of the Nepalese diet and many of the population are subsistence farmers whom Caritas has been able to help through education programmes teaching sustainable agriculture.
Caritas education programmes discourage the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides instead teaching farmers organic methods and how to manage insects.
Caritas Nepal’s programme has increased rice yield by half.
Caritas has also done significant advocacy work with a number of other organisations to ensure that farmers control their seed stock. Manindra says the encroachment of hybrid seeds is ‘significant’ but in the case of rice, this is still not as significant as in such countries as Thailand or Bangladesh.
‘So there is hope and we are confident, especially with the farmers we are working with, they will not go for hybrid.’
Nepal and Cambodia became members of the WTO at the same time ‘but, sadly, Cambodia did not understand these complexities and they gave up the right of their farmers over seeds.’
Manindra says control of seed stock is not something that usually concerns grassroots farmers.
‘The rights to seeds are lost at the international level. This is why we try to be in the middle because we have such good links with grassroots farmers.’
Caritas Nepal also works to raise awareness of the dangers of human trafficking. Women in rural areas are vulnerable because of their innocence and poverty. Manindra says it is hard for potential victims to recognise people who might prey on them for trafficking purposes.
Likewise, he says, migrant labourers need to be educated to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Caritas Nepal is promoting voluntary testing for HIV, he said.