My First Maire’s Yew – Mathis Degand

Bethanchowk, a name I had heard maybe for more than hundreds of times while working on yews with the Greenhood team! I couldn’t believe I was finally traveling to Bethanchowk! It was early morning on the 19th of January 2024 (yes, I remember the day!), my first trip to Bethanchowk in Kavreplanchowk. As soon as we passed Panauti, the road started getting bumpier; I however, focused on the magnificent scenery of hills and lush green forests as they were signalling the approach of Bethanchowk municipality. I could feel my excitement was growing – I knew we would be there in less than an hour! We were traveling to Dhunkharka in Bethanchowk to organize an interaction with local community including the yew growers and harvesters.   

We approached a mine, and I could see a gaping hole in the hill. At its foot stood a survivor and “my first Maire’s yew”. 

As we drove quickly, a few thoughts crossed my mind. This tree is a real example of victory; it had a narrow escape from the mine, yet it is alive thanks to Greenhood team who saw it and communicated with the forest office to save it. Also, it is now protected and an important landmark, a selfie-spot! While I was thinking all these, I didn’t realize we were almost there. Upon arrival at Dhunkharka, we met our local contact who seemed warm – a mediator like him plays an important role for a project when working with communities.  

The workshop was smooth as planned with insightful interactions. The team also succeeded to sign a commitment from the community forest leaders. We had some time, so we managed to visit a nearby community forest that host several protected species of wildlife. Everything I saw in the forest was exciting but my encounter with a critically endangered orchid in the wild, needs a mention. 

Besides Kavreplanchowk, I also got chance to visit Makwanpur in early February to join interactions with Division Forest Office and local level stakeholders. It was overall similar but a bit different in terms of interaction and the topics discussed because these were enforcement officials. The speaker faced all the participants who were seated in chairs arranged quite neatly; like a lecture room. The interactions got better during the discussion session.   

After the interaction the whole team visited to a local fest that was held in a riverbed to promote local products and culture. Although such events are not new to me, walking along the pebbles to reach to the fest was slightly new.  I felt like this whole area would be under water during summer; in fact, was I walking along the homes of fishes and other aquatic species? Well, maybe.  A hut with persuasive sound of traditional musicians (some of them were indigenous Chepang children), caught my attention. I also tasted a local dish of a tuber – not sure what it was but it tasted like a yam. To be honest, I don’t know if I liked it, but I was delighted to have tried this new flavour. We then headed into the hills towards Palung for another interaction program. The place was magnificent and full of orchids. I was delighted to be able to recognise a species! Besides orchids, I saw rhododendron, the national emblem of Nepal Over there, after fruitful discussions with community forests people and some pictures from my side, we set off on the return journey. The scenery was still sublime, and we stopped to take a few shots of the Himalayan range.  

I have a lot to say about Nepal and my experience at Greenhood as almost every day brought a new memory and discovery. My internship was itself my first experience in a conservation non-profit. Hearing story of Greenhood that it was created by emerging conservationists, and now it works with partners all over the world, interacts with major players on a national scale and is successfully carrying out numerous projects – makes me motivated to get even more involved in conservation issues back home in my own country. I am very thankful to Greenhood colleagues for offering a nice atmosphere with a great deal of mutual support.  

On a more personal level, I really enjoyed my work. There was nothing more satisfying than going to work every morning on something that was intellectually stimulating, and on subjects that made sense to me. I won’t go into more detail, but I already know that I’m going to miss my life in Kathmandu and my colleagues. 

Mathis Degand, an MSc final year student at Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, France is specialized in GIS, landscape ecology, and forest ecosystem. Mathis joined Greenhood Nepal in November 2023 for a 3-months internship.  Here’s his reflection in Nepal, his time at Greenhood, and more. 

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