Julien Bettler: A new role at Norlha

Norlha’s Executive Director Julien Bettler has stepped down more than 11 years after he founded the NGO. Julien relinquished the role after deciding to move his family to the country of his wife’s birth – Nepal.

Here are seven things he told Global Geneva magazine about his time at the head of Norlha.

Q: How did he discover and fall in love with the Himalayan region?

A: I was taking a gap year before returning to study Sanskrit and Asian Studies at Lausanne University. This first visit to Nepal changed my view of the world. I became inspired to tackle poverty and social injustice.

Q: What were the first Norlha projects?

A: One was to build a school in Tibet and the other to support a group of nuns in Nepal. We set up an NGO and chose the name Norlha, which means ‘Providence’ in Tibetan.

Q: How did Norlha begin to focus on food security?

A: The path we chose was to help parents feed their families but also benefit from the enormous opportunities that could emerge: better health, cash crops, money for schooling and the means to invest in tools and seeds…

Q: What has Norlha achieved?

A: To date, we have built over 200 greenhouses supporting thousands of people in Nepal and Tibet, China, and more recently Bhutan where we have launched an environmental project.

Q: What role do women play in Norlha’s work?

A: Some 70 per cent of (Norlha’s) farmers are now women, so we have been increasingly developing projects focused on their needs.

Q: What does the future hold for Norlha?

A: We are… developing a Centre for Women in the Himalayas, a platform to exchange ideas with experts and each other… it is crucial to make such experience available as widely as possible. This is the only way rural development can succeed properly.

Q: How does he see his new role at Norlha?

A: I will continue to advise, notably in Kathmandu, where I will no longer be a well-meaning visitor but a part of the social fabric.

For the full interview visit the magazine on line: Global-Geneva.com

© Norlha | Helping people in the Himalayas
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