Together, Building Back Stronger with PARCI
Bottom-up approach to development is often misconstrued to be either consultation with community members and targeted beneficiary leaders or an GO or NGO-led initiative that has shared decision making with local community people. A truly community empowering initiative has to community initiated, directed and shared with development agencies. It offers more than helping hands and donation, it offers reshaping communities that can take charge of their development.
In the aftermath of the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake, ISAP designed a framework called Participatory Approach to Rehabilitation of Community Infrastructure (PARCI) to enable a demand driven project design for reconstruction of earthquake damaged community infrastructures such as water supply schemes, irrigation facilities, etc.
The PARCI process entails a series of seven interactive workshops facilitated by a WASH Engineer and a Social Mobilizer that guides the community to understand each other’s needs, prioritize reconstruction efforts, mobilize resources, request assistance and lead the reconstruction process.
It starts with forming a PARCI group of enthusiastic community members, prioritizing women, and socially and economically vulnerable people, based on their interest toward the concept and working methodology of PARCI. Such inclusive group helps foster the environment of equality, along with representing infrastructural concerns of diverse communities. Four to Six groups are formed for every VDC. Now, this PARCI group will represent the community and all reconstruction activities will be done through this group in coming days. Between the PARCI workshops, the PARCI group interacts with other community members so that the whole community is informed of the process and has an opportunity to provide information and opinions.
PARCI group gather again for the second workshop where they develop a detailed map of their community. This map showcases all existing functioning and non-functioning community infrastructures, along with others factor, such as settlement areas that affect the impact of reconstruction.
The community mapping workshop does not plainly serve the task of producing a detailed community map, say Dilip Poudel, ISAP’s WASH Engineer but they also point out that this map has been playing a vital role in developing a sense of empathy toward other community members. They say, usually PARCI groups are absorbed in their individual problem, but they realize the severity of problems faced by others once they do community mapping. Members of PARCI group realize that someone else has to walk several miles more than them, someone else’s water supply is non-functioning while theirs is at least serving few, and so on.
Community infrastructures to be rehabilitated are then prioritized based on the number of community people it benefits, and the severity of their necessities, on the third, fourth and fifth workshops. Together with ISAP’s technical team, materials and labor required to rebuild the community infrastructures are calculated. Before the cost-analysis, communities usually pressurize on rehabilitating infrastructures without considering its feasibility, says Mr. Praveen Shrestha, ISAP’s District Technical Coordinator. But, by the end of these workshops, the habit of prioritizing development and reconstruction activities based on the impact it creates, without exceeding the budget constraints, is developed.
The sixth workshop is on resource identification, taking advantage of complimentary capacities and resources of other agencies. The community identifies government agencies, organizations, community resources that could further assist the community in rebuilding their infrastructure. The community in Pouwa, Sanosirubari-9, is one of the examples where the cost of their priority infrastructure, reconstruction of water lifting system, exceeded the given budget. But, the budget constraint did not lower their spirit of reconstructing that water lifting system. They visited district office and requested budget for construction of two water tank and requested ISAP for materials for electrical work. There are many other instances where the locals on their own have pulled recourses for the reconstruction work such as combining with other agencies, channelizing development funds from VDC, and raising funds among their own.
On the seventh workshop, the members of PARCI group take charge of each part of the plan based on their personal qualities and skills required to carry out the allocated task. The group is now responsible for registration if required, purchases, identifying trained manpower, excavation work, and construction.
The workshop ends with re-thinking about possible problems in the plan, finding out possible solutions, and making changes in the plan if required. They also develop a procedure for monitoring the project progress.
From the very first day of PARCI, the PARCI group is led to the path of leadership, from introducing oneself in front of masses to developing and executing the project to taking charge of each part of the reconstruction activities. Even for those who are intimidated by public speaking speak out sooner or later, says Mr. Pankaj Parajuli, Executive Director of ISAP as they realize that their infrastructures will never be considered for reconstruction if they don’t forward their problems in the workshops and community meetings.
Finally, when asked about what achievement that strikes out the most while implementing PARCI workshop as Social Mobilizer, Mr. Gopi Dangal shares that seeing how economically and socially vulnerable groups who have rarely been given chance to voice their need, have come forward in decision making once they are given important positions, is impressive.
Utilizing the PARCI method, ISAP together with its implementation partner Peace Winds Japan has been assisting the locals of Sindhupalchowk reconstruct 38 different water supply schemes which had been damaged by the earthquake. Cost contribution from Peace Winds Japan/ ISAP ranges from 5% to 85% of the total scheme costs while the rest are born by various other agencies, locals or government organizations.
(PARCI draws upon PASSA and PHAST developed by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to empower communities and modifies to suit local conditions and the context of reconstruction after the earthquake)