SISTEER Nepal Day 6 - ACAP at Ghandruk

(Our amazing sunrise view!)

After a good night’s rest at Hotel Milan and a refreshing view of snow-capped mountains at sunrise, we headed over to the ACAP office situated at Ghandruk. Our engagement with ACAP was a simple and straightforward presentation, held at an office a short walk away from the hotel. ACAP has many operations grounded in issues pertaining to integrated tourism management. I personally found their move to tackle tourism to be very brilliant- managing the behavior of tourists has many potential trickle-down benefits, both on the environment and economy of Nepal. ACAP had a surprising diverse network of partners, and even branched out to fields outside of environmental conservation such as women empowerment. It was a pity that the engagement lacked sufficient time to delve deeper into their project operations, but what baffled us was learning about the fact that their conservation efforts were simply a small piece of the entire puzzle in Nepal. The amount of effort and attention paid to the environment by various environmental organizations was on a scale even greater than we had imagined.

ACAP claimed to play a catalytic role for projects between the government, donor organizations and the common people. It was clear how integral their position was with respect to their partnering organizations, which may not have access to the desired support they require from the government.

ACAP reinvents what it means to be self-sustainable. They engage with communities and aid them to be self-sustaining on their own, imparting onto villagers a sense of ownership in the community which would be far more useful in ensuring long-term progress as well.

Many questions concerning their operations were also raised after their presentation. How were the allocation of resources determined amongst the whole range of their activities? Which project had more priority than others? These were questions that could not be easily answered by a simple cost-benefit analysis due to other complex social factors at hand.

Asset-mapping in Ghandruk

After thanking them with a few gifts brought from Singapore, we move on to the second part of our day: learning more about asset-based community development. Benson, Shi Yun and Hui Ying gathered all of us together back at the hotel to shed some more light on another integral framework under the umbrella of social innovation, asset-based community development. Asset-based community development looks at the community around us and identifies the strengths and assets a community has. Assets are broadly referred to as resources whether it be in the form of social capital, physical resources or institutions, skills etc.

We then set off with the task of creating an asset map to hone us in our skills of observing the community around us and identifying useful assets. In our own groups, we split in different ways and traversed up and down the countless steps to cover as much ground as possible. It was interesting to see the different features of what once was a Gurung village and how it differs from the hustles and bustles of city life back home. The people of Ghandruk really do take things at a much more relaxed pace of life and it was refreshing for us to appreciate their way of life in contrast to our hectic ones.

The trail I took led us to monasteries and a great big field with a secondary school located nearby while others chanced upon a post office and a handicraft centre. When the day drew to a close, we were gathered together to share our main takeaways from the session. Many enjoyed admiring the scenery and the exploration as a whole, and with that our day drew to a close.

Written by: Stella Pang