South Asia Features
Activists fly kites for a hunger-free Nepal (News Feature)
By Pratibha Tuladhar Oct 13, 2010, 14:20 GMT
Kathmandu - Over a dozen kites dotted a fragment of the Kathmandu sky Wednesday, as a group of young people from seven nations gathered to fly them for a Nepal free of hunger.
'Mine was the first kite to go down,' smiled Sanjit Maharjan, 25, who came from the nearby district of Patan to participate in the kite-flying competition.
'But it's not about winning, like you do in your childhood,' said Maharjan. 'I've flown kites before, but it's fun when you're doing it for a good cause.' In Nepal, during the festive season of September and October, flying kites is a popular pastime.
'Sometimes, we need to do things in a fun way to get an important message across,' said said Bjorn Hansen, 28, who coordinated the event for Activista, a global network of youth activists.
The activists hope their kites can unite in more than one way.
'The kite festival had stopped in our country during the time of the Taliban,' said Ahmed Nasir, one of the participants from Afghanistan. 'But we're back with the kites culture now.'
'Kites are a great way for family bonding,' Tri Le, a Vietnamese participant, chimed in. 'But of course, we all have different ways of doing it and the shapes can be interesting and different in every country.'
The kites used by the youth group bore the slogan 'The right to food is the right to live.'
'We're doing this with two objectives,' Hansen said. 'We hope to draw people's attention on the right to food and food sovereignty in the constitution and its effective implementation afterwards, and to develop a functional mechanism, through which the people can claim their right to food.'
According to a joint study conducted by Nepal's government and the World Food Programme in 2009, 23.9 per cent of Nepal's 30 million people suffer hunger, whereas 66 per cent of households suffer from food deficiencies. Some 45 per cent of Nepalese families get only one meal a day.
The far-western region of Nepal most affected by the food crisis, as much of the land there is barren and people live in abject poverty. The government supplies food to the locals with the help of the World Food Programme and other agencies.
As Nepalis prepare to celebrate Dashain, the country's biggest religious festival, local media has been flooded with reports of food supplies running low in the west, with delivery interrupted by blocked roads due to monsoon rains.
Rice is supplied to the western districts all year, as the region does not grow the staple. The government's strategy of supplying, instead of initiating alternative crop cultivation, has often been criticized.
'It is not enough to supply food and make people dependent on food aid in western Nepal,' said Anjana Luitel, one of participants at the kite festival.
'The amount spent on ferrying food - which is often of bad quality - to the region can be used to encourage them to find alternative ways for agriculture.'
'We have spoken to the three major political parties in the country and hope we can have the food right enshrined in the constitution,' said Rijana Shrestha, a volunteer at the event.
Nepal is in the process of drafting a new constitution, with the deadline set for January 2011.
'I decided to join when I realized there are incredibly high numbers of people starving in Nepal,' said Inda Memic, 24, who came from Denmark to participate.
'I've never flown a kite before, but it should be fun!'
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