A Memorandum of understanding has been signed between Canada Foundation for Nepal (CFFN) Canada and International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Nepal office to pursue collaborative research in the areas of mutual interest such as sustainable development of Nepal, equitable management and use of natural resources, rural and urban planning, and development and dissemination of knowledge and information. Currently, both parties are working for the publication of a book titled, “Sustainable Rural Livelihood Systems in Nepal”.

Women of Zaheerabad take on Monsanto … and show the way to food security

Arun Shrivastava CMC, May 2008


Right of access to natural resources-like land, rivers, forests, air, and everything that Nature has given us including seeds-is the fundamental right of the communities, not of the corporations or the state or the individual. No corporation has the right to expropriate what Nature gave us. We have all been misled that the state cares for us and will use natural resources for our welfare. Whilst community rights will help us survive, tide over the crisis of survival and may be extend our survival by a few centuries, it would require a different standards of equity, and different constructs of morality, mores and law. Only that paradigm shift would ensure our survival.

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Research: Turning the Maoist Victory into Nepal’s Good Fortune

By Kul Chandra Gautam

In the focus on constitution-writing, let’s not forget about the economy, including reconstruction and development.


The people of Nepal have voted for radical change by sidelining old, established parties, and opting for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The party has now a historic opportunity to deliver better governance, infrastructure and basic services, as well as greater social justice, than either the other political parties or the previous royal regimes, which squandered their chances to do so. To achieve that they may adapt an ambitious long-term reconstruction and development plan that includes all key stakeholders. Focusing on an sensible economic agenda would help to establish the Maoists as a progressive force for change and would help all Nepalis in the long term.

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Rural and Agricultural Communication

This page is brought to you with the courtesy of Agricultural Communication Documentation Center (ACDC) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA. The links provided below takes you to a small sample strictly related to Nepal from a large repository of articles brought to you by ACDC. The articles cover communications aspects of agricultural and rural development in Nepal. Published during the past 30 years, these documents help reveal a wide range of efforts to improve rural communications. As a university-based resource and service, these resources bear an educational purpose. This repository is believed to be the largest electronically-searchable collection of literature about agriculture-related communications. It currently contains more than 32,000 documents involving 170 countries. The Center provides a unique service because the literature of this field is widely scattered and difficult to locate.

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Globalization, New Agricultural Technologies and IPRS: Implications of Modern Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering for Capabilities, Exclusion, and Livelihoods in Developing Countries

By Devanathan Parthasarathy


The paper seeks to develop a broad framework for analysing the implications of changes in intellectual property rights regimes deriving from both new international legal mechanisms and conventions, and from new agricultural technologies based on modern biotechnology and genetic engineering. The framework can function as a model for analysis and further research on the impact of these changes on the commons and related issues such as biodiversity, and on indigenous knowledge. These impacts could be in terms of social exclusion, loss of skills and knowledge for specific groups and categories of people resulting in a loss of capabilities and entitlements, and a consequent reduction in livelihood choices and strategies. It is also stated that these technologies have the capacity to perpetuate inequalities among groups within a community and between nations and economies. This occurs through excluding people from access to forms of knowledge, skills, techniques, and markets, which are important for subsistence, survival and for competing in a globalized economy.

Click here to view the whole text as a .pdf.

Devanathan Parthasarathy
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
Powai, Mumbai – 400076, India

There Has Been More Secession in Unitary Systems

Prof. Ronald L. Watts 


Federalism can provide a democratically successful combination of unity and diversity. Four of the longest existing constitutional systems of the world today are federations – the United States, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada. UN Human Development Index of various countries shows federation can be successful. Federalism is especially successful in multiethnic countries like Switzerland, Canada, India, and Nigeria. But for the success, even more important than the structure is the existence of a political culture and public attitudes that support federalism. The structure has to recognize shared rule and regional self-rule. And, you cannot just look at models and pick up one because every country has its own unique circumstances and conditions.


Kantipur: Prof Ronald L Watts is an internationally acclaimed scholar who has spent his life studying federal systems all over the world. There are many important things that Nepal, particularly at this stage, could learn from his rich experience of working in the shaping of 22 out of the 25 federations around the globe. Currently, a professor emeritus of political studies at Queen’s University, Canada, he was also a fulltime advisor to the Canadian government on constitutional affairs.

Prof Watts, who was here last week at the invitation of the UNDP, spent a few minutes before his departure with Puran P Bista and Kamal Raj Sigdel of The Kathmandu Post, talking over issues such as the prospects and challenges for a unitary country going federal vis-à-vis the experiences of different countries that went through similar transitions.

Q: You have come to Nepal for a certain purpose. What is your impression?

Prof Watts: My impression is that this is a very important time for Nepal right now with the elections going forward to the Constituent Assembly (CA). And my role was with the workshop that the UNDP organized to bring some leading academics and political people together to talk about what sorts of issues will need to be dealt with by the CA in creating a federal system.

I have spent my life studying federal systems for 50 years and comparing federal systems all over the world. There are 25 federal systems in the world; I’ve visited 22 of them. My purpose here was not to tell the Nepali people what to do but to make available to them information on what has been done elsewhere from the experience of using federalism in 25 different countries all over the world. What things have succeeded and what things have not succeeded so that you can learn from success and from failure. So that has been my role.

Q: There have been debates regarding federalization of any country. Some countries that have opted for a federal system have failed while some have succeeded. What are the factors that determine failure and success?

Prof Watts: By and large, countries vary in terms of their internal diversity. Some countries are relatively homogeneous in terms of language, religion and so on. Japan, for instance, is a relatively homogeneous country. So there is less difference amongst groups within the country. But other countries, like my own Canada, either because they are very large or because there have many different groups inside them have found it desirable to give those different groups some measure of self-governance within the unity.

There are 25 federations in the world today representing 40 percent of the world’s population. At the beginning of the 21st century, this is a remarkably popular form of government.

But have all these countries successfully practiced a federal system of governance? Some federations, like the Ethiopian federation, have not sustained.

One of the things I would have to cite is that many federations have succeeded, some have failed. Therefore, it’s important to look why some federations have succeeded and why some have failed.

The first thing is that federalism can provide a democratically successful combination of unity and diversity. My evidence for that is four of the longest existing constitutional systems of the world today are federations—the United States, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada. Each of these has been under the same constitution for more than 100 years. The United States, more than 200 years.

In addition, if you look at the UN Human Development Index which tries to measure countries according to their economic prosperity, respect for rights, quality of the lives of their citizens, it ranks a total of 175 countries. Out of the top 20, eight are federations. So federation can be successful.

On the other hand, I’d argue that federalism is not a panacea. Adopting a federal system does not automatically create success. You have to create conditions. There are a great variety of federal forms or structures. So you have to have an appropriate structure of your own.

So my first point is federalism can be successful and has been, especially in many countries that are multiethnic like Switzerland, with many different languages and religions, like Canada with French and English, India with many different religious groups, Nigeria and so on. But my second point is federalism is not a panacea. In certain places it has failed. You can identify the reasons for the failures. And I think the lessons from these failures are twofold.

One is that even more important than the structure is the existence of a political culture and public attitudes that support federalism. A federal system is based on the constitutional definition of federal powers and regional unit powers. And unlike in a unitary government where the central government decides, in a federation the constitution sets out the powers.

Therefore, respect for the law is crucial. If there is no respect for the law, if people pay no attention to what the constitution says, federalism will not work. And federalism requires on the part of all groups to trust each other, to compromise, to recognize and tolerate the existence of different identities within different groups. So, I always argue that a fundamental requirement for any federal system to work is respect for the rule of law, compromise, tolerance and so on.

Secondly, I’d argue that the structure has to recognize the two basic elements of shared rule and regional self-rule, because a federation involves both elements. A federation is not just regional self-rule, which is an important part, because it lets different people to run their own affairs on matters that affect them; but equally important is the element of shared rule in areas in which they are involved. If you don’t have shared rule, they will fall apart. So, I’d emphasize that the political and constitutional structure must have an element of shared rule which brings the people together inclusively. You have genuinely shared power at the center, but you have autonomous self-rule in the units. In this regard, all the different groups can feel that they have an opportunity to run their own affairs but that they also participate in central government. Therefore, I say those two elements are crucial.

Now where it has failed it is because of lack of one of those elements—either a failure to trust each other or reach a compromise. Federalism will not work if groups are intransigent and say, “We must have our own way; we cannot compromise at all.”

Q: If you look at Nepal’s case, it is moving from a unitary to a federal system. But if we look at successful federations like Switzerland and America, they moved from being separate countries to a federal system. Don’t you think that Nepal will face problems or that it will not work in this country? Can you cite any example of a country that moved from a unitary system to a federal system?

Prof Watts: There are many countries that started as a unitary system and became a federation. For instance, my country Canada was a unitary system in 1840. It did not work because of the different groups in the country, and so in 1867, we divided what was a unitary Canada into Ontario, which is English-speaking, and Quebec, which is French-speaking. So there is a clear case of devolution to form a federation. But there are other examples as well. Spain is an example, Belgium is an example. There are many examples of unitary countries that have moved into federalism.

Q: In Nepal’s context, there is no clear demarcation to federalize the country on the basis of caste, religion, ethnicity, etc. Everything is mixed up. Do you think it is possible to federalize such a heterogeneous country?

Prof Watts: Yes. I think it is possible. For instance, they had a great mixture in South Africa, which also is one example that devolved from a unitary to a federal system. They established a constitutional commission which took various things into account—the demography, geography, economic development and a variety of factors into account in defining nine new provinces when they became federations after the end of apartheid. In the case of Nepal, I can’t tell what the units should be. That’s what Nepalis should decide.

Q: Do you think that the units which will be federalized will be able to sustain themselves without adequate economic activities?

Prof Watts: They will need to be given powers to run their own affairs. It will take time to build the capacity. You cannot switch from a unitary to a federal system in 24 hours. Belgium is a classic example. It went through four different states before it became a federation. Spain has been going through stages.

I am sure that Nepal needs to think in terms of the stages by which it builds the capacity of the units. I can’t tell you what the units should be, but I can tell you about other countries that had to define units. And in the process of defining units, when you proceed by devolution, they have taken into account not just ethnicity, language and religion, but also economic development, sustainability, geographic outline, communication and transportation system and all that.

The Constituent Assembly will need to set up a committee or a commission which will study all these things. Creating a federal state is never a simple task. It is always complicated.

Q: You said there are several models of federalism practiced all over the world. What sort of model do you think will go well with heterogeneous countries like Nepal?

Prof Watts: The first thing I never emphasize is that … you cannot just look at models, say, like at a shop, and pick up one model because every country has its own unique blend of particular circumstances and conditions. But what you can do is look at other federations and see what arrangements have worked there and what arrangements have not worked.

For instance, let me give you an illustration of the sorts of things that will be able to be sorted out. Apart from designing the units themselves—taking into account not just ethnicity, but economic development and all sorts of things, the powers of the federal government and the constituencies—Malaysia has a relatively centralized governance. If you take the combined expenditure of the federal and state governments of Malaysia, the central government takes 83 percent of that expenditure and only 17 percent is performed by the states.

On the other hand, if you look at Switzerland, which is at the other extreme, the federal government only does 32 percent of the combined expenditure, 68 percent is done by the units, the cantons. Canada is similar to Switzerland in that way, and different federations all fall in between.

So one of the things you need to decide is how much power goes and in what specific areas to the federal government and what will be the specific powers that will go to the units. When you talk about the units, you need to decide what should be the number and relative size of the units. The Russian federation now has 86 units. The United States 50; Switzerland, with a population of only 7 million, smaller than Nepal, has 26 units, cantons; India has 27.

On the other hand, Belgium has only six. So, one of the things you need to decide is should you have many like in Switzerland, 26 units, or should you just have a few units? My advice is do not make them too few, because where there are too few they have usually turned out to be too difficult because they become too competitive with each other. See the federations that have collapsed—Pakistan, East and West Pakistan; Czechoslovakia, two units; Serbia Montenegro, two units. Federations of two, three or four units usually tend to be unstable. So you want to make at least six units. But you could be anywhere from 6 to 26. It gives you an enormous range.

Again, in terms of the central institutions, the institutions of shared rule, you could have a presidential or a separation of powers system, which you have in most of the Latin American federations like Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and of course the United States. Or you can have a parliamentary system combined with a federal system, such as in Canada, Australia or most of the European federations like Spain, Germany and so on.

Nearly all federations have a second chamber to represent the diversity in a country. The first chamber is based on the population, but that would leave the larger units predominant. So most federations have either equal representation or weighted representation in the second chamber. But the powers of the second chamber and the method of appointment—whether the states are represented equally and what their powers are—vary from federation to federation. Most federations have a judicial court system to umpire disputes between governments and adjudicate between them. But some federations have a supreme court, which hears appeals on all laws. Others have a specialized constitutional court—Germany, Belgium and Spain are the examples.

The constitutional amendment procedure requires that both levels of government be involved in amending the constitution. But in some federations, it is done by the legislatures, the regional units and the federal parliament. In others, it is done by a referendum.

Because of overlapping between governments, if is impossible to divide central and regional functions in watertight compartments. Then it is necessary to design instruments for cooperation between governments. And the instruments, the particular mechanisms vary from federation to federation. What I am trying to say is that there is an enormous range of questions and issues.

Q: Heterogeneous countries that have gone federal have not been able to succeed in comparison to those which are homogeneous and federalized. What do you say?

Prof Watts: One of the lessons from looking at other federations is that where you have a bipolar population, where you have two units, that turns out to be unstable.

But some of the other multiethnic countries have been fairly successful. Remember that countries like Canada, Switzerland and the United Sates are now very prosperous. But don’t forget that when they first became federations, they were not so prosperous. If you look at my country or the United States, when they first became federations, they were quite backward countries. There were no railways in Canada when Canada became a federation. It was an underdeveloped country. But over a century and a half, it is developed and now it is prosperous. But it is important to say that it is not a federation because of which it is prosperous, but being a federation enabled it to become prosperous.

I don’t say that there are no problems. Every federation has its own problems. But the crucial thing is that those problems are less than what they would be in a unitary system. Remember that Canada adopted a federal system because there were problems with the unitary system. So the point I am getting at is don’t look at federalism in terms of only prosperity now. But there are problems in Canada, the United States and India. Federalism will not eliminate problems, but it may make the problems less than they would have been otherwise.

In fact, there has been more secession in unitary systems than in federal systems because, in federal systems, the groups have an opportunity to have some say in their own affairs. To cope with their problems, countries have adopted federalism. Nepal will not eliminate problems, but you may have fewer problems than you could have otherwise.

What about the secession of Kosovo? It is a problem of unitary Serbia. The separation of Kosovo is because the unitary structure could not cope with the different views and feelings of the people in Kosovo.

But it is very dangerous and over expecting to think that by simply adopting a federal system you solve all problems. Federalism is not a panacea as I said. The task of federalism is not to eliminate problems, but you try to make it possible to manage them.

Let me give you one illustration. I’d recently been to Sri Lanka they were talking about whether a federal system was appropriate for Sri Lanka. Some said, “Well, you know there were problems even in federal Canada, the separatism movement in Quebec.”

I said yes, that is true. We’d had a separatist movement. But now let’s compare Sri Lanka and Canada. How many people do you think have been killed in Canada over 140 years of its existence because of the Quebec separatism? Do you know how many?

Q: Sorry, we don’t know. How many?

Prof Watts: One person. And tell me in unitary Sri Lanka, how many people have been killed because of Tamil separatism? 70,000. That tells something about the way different systems can operate.

Posted on: Kantipur Online 2008-03-09 20:33:18 (Server Time)

Dr Watts is Professor Emeritus of Political Studies and Fellow of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen’s University, Canada. Click here to know more about Dr. Watts.

Published in: Kantipur Online
Sunday April 11, 2004 (Chair 29, 2060)

Research: What is a Nation?

Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?

Ernest Renan


“The piece in this volume to which I attach the greatest importance is the lecture ‘What is a a nation?’ I weighed each part with greatest care. It is my profession of faith regarding human affairs, and I hope that these twenty pages will be recalled when modern civilization flounders as a result of the disastrous ambiguity of the words: nation, nationality, race.’ – Ernest Renan

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World Potato Atlas – Nepal


The potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) was introduced to coastal southern Asia in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century by European (initially Portuguese) mariners, but the historical record for roughly the following two centuries is complicated by the word itself.  “Potato” is derived from “batata,” the Carib term for sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas), which preceded the potato by eighty years in its introduction to Europe from its area of origin in the American Andes.  Both crops were subsequently introduced by Europeans to ports throughout Asia and Africa, but documented references to “batata” during this era could be referring to either (Purseglove 1968).

The first unambiguous evidence of potato cultivation in Nepal dates to 1793, in records by a British Colonel Kirkpatrick (Akius et. al. 1990, cited in Katri and Rai 2000, p. 61).  The potato remained a relatively minor and unrecognized crop in Nepal for over 150 years, until the first official attempt to improve potato production in Nepal occurred in 1962 under a program sponsored jointly by Nepal and India.  In 1972 the National Potato Development Programme was founded by the Government of Nepal, focusing on the production of higher quality potato seed tubers. Over the past few decades, potato has become the fastest growing staple crop in Nepal. Production trends are summarized graphically below.

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Bribe versus Gifts

By Narayan Manandhar


A GIFT must be Genuinely offered in appreciation for something done well. It must be Independent from your functioning in the future. It must be Free of obligations. It must be Transparent. You must be able to declare the gift in a completely transparent way, to your organization and its clients, to your professional colleagues, and to the media and the public in general.


First, an anecdote: A couple of years back, it was rumored that in a wedding dinner party of a business tycoon’s son in Kathmandu the invited guests were requested to not bring any gift in kind but if they were in anyway planning to offer gifts, they were politely requested to bring them in cash. This awkward invitation could easily raise the hairs of many readers. Are you asking for a bribe or a gift here? Hang on a minute! The business tycoon was strategically using the son’s dinner party as a platform to raise funds for a non-governmental organization. Now, tell me how many of our so-called successful entrepreneurs have such philanthropic visions?

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The Royal Army: An Analytical Obituary

By Nishchal M.S. Basnyat


The safety and security of the nation should never again be a family run business. Yet, in the midst of diversifying the army’s upper-hierarchy and “de-royalizing” this inherently royal institution, it is also imperative to keep the army out of political hands. As the country’s most powerful entity, it is also the most perilous and potent.


As the backbone institution that predates the country itself, Nepal’s army is irrefutably the most polarizing entity in the country. People either fervently love or passionately loath the organisation. An element of heated debate, the army has been regarded as a personal force of the King and his bourgeoisie sycophants. Marred by reticent corruption and apparent nepotism, today it has lost the trust of the very people it claimed to proudly protect.

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Rainwater Harvesting: A Key to Drinking, Irrigation, Disaster Prevention and Poverty Alleviation in the Mountains of Nepal

Bhuwani Paudel

Proceedings of Unfolding Futures: Nepalese Economy, Society, and Politics
Friday-Sunday, Octobet 5-7, 2007, Ottawa, Canada


Despite bestowed with abundance of water resources, rainfalls, and precipitation, Nepal seems to be a country in dire need of clean drinking water and irrigation for its people. The mountainous region of Nepal has so many places where water resource utilization is considered as technically and economically not feasible for irrigation. In absence of new technology and in face of harsh geographical challenges, peoples in the mountains regions are living with their conventional irrigation practices, which have not undergone through improvements for ages.

Immense fresh water, on an average precipitation of 1400 mm per year, that falls over Nepal runs off without effective use and largely drains as monsoon flood. Such marvelous natural gift is barely able to improve the quality of life of people due to an absence of appropriate techniques or technologies for its sustainable use. Improvement of conventional ponds and development of water-harvesting reservoirs with exploitation of locally available impervious natural materials is a crucial demand of the time. Construction of numerous but reasonably sized water harvesting reservoirs have a greater potential for transforming Nepal than small number of massive reservoirs, which are potential environmental hazards.

Development of environmentally non-invasive rainwater harvesting reservoirs constructed from locally available materials integrated with novel techniques for its consumptive use are important for bringing people of the mountains into the development mainstream. However, developing knowledge, technology, and methodology, and taking them to people in the form of standards, guidelines, and operational manuals is not an established practice in Nepal to this date. Works in this front are urgently required if Nepal is to enable its people to appropriately harvest and utilize rainwater. This paper outlines some key elements that must be parts of such guidelines, and it highlights prime areas for further research.

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Why federalism is necessary

By Yubaraj Sangroula


Federalism is basis for ‘consolidating the democracy’, without which the ‘protection of individual liberty is impossible’. Finally, the federalism is a means of ‘promoting the individual liberty and freedoms’. To see from this perspective, the scheme of federalism must be agreed by all population, and its characters need to be set forth by consensus. Without consensus the ‘scheme of federalism’ might be a source of conflict among people.


The political scenario is facing crisis to attain legitimacy. Over the last one year, the crisis is mainly deepening owing to obstinate decline to understand the ‘gravity of the problem’. The game hatched to ‘prolong the uncertainty’ of the course of unfolding resolution of the crisis is thwarting the positive transformation of the ‘politics to progress’. The safety of the society is vulnerable. The breakdown of law and order is serious. The diversity of the population, culture, geography is gradually marching towards adversely affecting the unity of the country.

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