Kathmandu, February 13:

The number of international volunteers in development programmes — especially in the education, health and natural conservation sectors — has increased by 200 per cent after the beginning of the peace process.

The number had gone down considerably during the 12-year insurgency.

Deepak Adhikari, the director of Volunteers International Partnership, which is working for education and conservation, said: “I was very optimistic about the flow of volunteers after the peace process.”

According to him, the number of international volunteers willing to come to Nepal in January this year was 200 per cent more than the previous years. “This year, we are expecting more than 400 volunteers, while earlier, it never crossed the 120 mark,” he said.

Adhikari said that during the insurgency, volunteers had to face a lot of problems from the Maoists and they were limited to urban areas. “We were not able to work for the remote regions despite invitations. Now, we are planning to concentrate more on the rural areas,” he said. American volunteers top the list followed by Britons and Japanese.

Matrika Rijal, the coordinator of Volunteers Service and Support, Nepal, said that the number of international volunteers has gone up beyond expectations. “After April 2006, 35 international volunteers came to Nepal through us, but during the insurgency the number never exceeded 20.”

“During the insurgency, volunteers, even after purchasing tickets for Nepal, used to cancel them and head for Latin American countries.”

“The websites of embassies were flooded with warnings to foreigners against visiting Nepal,” he added.

The recent travel advisory updates by the embassies have played a crucial role in bringing more volunteers here.

The travel advice posted by the British Embassy in Kathmandu on its official website was updated on February 8 2007. “Peace agreement on November 21, thereby officially ends the 11 years of conflict in the country. The security system in Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal has improved,” the advisory says.

“When I first came to Nepal, our areas were fairly restricted. Because of safety concerns, we were not able to visit the rural areas of the east and the west, but the improving situation has made us optimistic,” Said Samantha Allen, who came to Nepal six months ago from the United Kingdom.

Allen, who is working with Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP), said: “I have got calls from Dolakha and I will probably go there soon.” “During the insurgency, our volunteers were restricted to the cities, but now our team has started working with renewed vigour to construct a New Nepal,” said Srijana Rayamajhi, volunteers’ coordinator of KEEP, Nepal.