Section: News

Asmod Khakurel ’24 receives funding for Davis Peace Prize

On March 15, the Davis Projects for Peace announced that Asmod Khakurel’s ’24 proposal to build greenhouses in a rural region in Nepal will be selected for funding this summer. Khakurel will receive $10,000 to fund his project. 

Because of the pandemic, Khakurel was not able to get a visa and has been studying remotely in his home country of Nepal for the past year. Unable to be on campus, he was not eligible to apply for a job or summer project at Kenyon, so he began to look for other opportunities. He learned about the Davis Projects for Peace from a history professor. 

The Davis Projects for Peace funds 100 grassroots projects designed by students every year from colleges that are part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program. Projects for Peace encourages students to resolve conflicts and promote peace across the globe. Typically, one student from Kenyon receives funding every year.  

Khakurel took this mission to heart. When given the opportunity to study in the United States, he felt inclined to use the skills he learned at Kenyon to contribute to his community back home.  

His project focuses on a specific region called the Dho Tarap Valley in the northwestern part of Nepal. According to Khakurel, one must take two domestic flights and walk for three days through the mountains to get there. “This is one of the highest human settlements in the world,” he explained. 

Through a history course at Kenyon, Khakurel learned about how Bangladesh promoted local economic growth through a variety of financial tools. Inspired by the course, Khakurel came up with the idea of using ecotourism (tourism centered around protecting often-threatened natural environments) as a way to improve the standard of living for local communities in Nepal. He then worked with the Center for Global Engagement to turn his ideas into a two-page proposal, titled “Building Greenhouses at 4000m+ Altitude: Promoting Ecological Peace Through Education And Eco-Friendly Economic Practices at Dho Tarap Valley, Nepal,” and submitted it to Projects for Peace. 

Due to the extreme conditions in the Valley, food has always been in short supply. Therefore, Khakurel decided to build greenhouses in the region so that the locals could plant vegetables during all seasons. He also noted the extra economic potential of his plan. “When they have [a] surplus of vegetable[s] grown which they can’t consume, they can sell it to the local markets,” he said. 

Besides helping to solve the food shortage, Khakurel also plans to start workshops and educational programs for local students to help them understand the future potential of developing their village through ecotourism. “Here is the unbalanced thing: There are people living in poor conditions on one side, while on the other side there is a very big economic possibility, tourism possibility,” he said. 

Khakurel expects to work with a French nongovernmental organization called Action Dolpo — which started the Crystal Mountain School project, the very first “functional school” in Dolpo — to design courses that focus on concepts of ecotourism. By taking the students on a trip around the Shey Phoksundo National Park and Shey Phoksundo Lake, Khakurel hopes to make them aware of how to take care of their own village while preserving the ecological environment as much as possible. 

Khakurel plans to spend two months at Dho this summer. After the nomination was official, Khakurel got in contact with a sophomore at Dartmouth College who was also interested in the project to work with him over the summer. 

Right now, the biggest challenge for Khakurel is the rise of COVID-19 cases in Nepal and India, which might prevent him and his colleague from traveling to Dho. He is preparing backup plans for his project in the event they cannot travel. “We might do the exact same thing in another place,” Khakurel said. 

Despite the concerns, Khakurel is excited about his upcoming trip and confident that he will put forth his best effort to make change. “We are prepared enough with mindset and everything to be in that place,” he said.

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