Vegetable: A privilege
For the people in Dadakateri, gaining access to healthy and affordable food is a great challenge until PIWAAI built tap stands in each household in the community. Water in the community changed the lifestyle of the people in Dadakateri and it even changed eating behaviors and food habits.
Dadakateri is a small village with mostly Tamang inhabitants in the Balefi Rural Municipality of Sindhupalchok District. It is at 1720m of elevation from which you can see beautiful range of hills and a calm but passionately stormy Sunkoshi River flowing below them. But the irony of it was that the earthquake of 2015 had wreaked havoc in the community. A village that once thrived in abundant water, the devastating earthquake triggered unprecedented impact on the livelihoods of the people, by drying up the only water source available. People were compelled to travel more than one hour to fetch water to other villages or to another water source for their daily livelihood. This disrupted their livelihood in many ways which was causing household and community food insecurity.
Proper irrigation system is required to produce healthy and variety of vegetables and crops. With no water available, people ceased to engage in agricultural practices, in turn, households’ access to healthy food became lesser. Eating vegetables with rice was a luxury to those who could afford to go to the market, two and half hours far. The nutritional status of each household and as a community thus decreased as there is less consumption of balanced diet. The distribution of food in each household especially among women and children were less prioritized pushing them further into vulnerability. Food insecurity contributed to aggravating poverty, malnutrition, and deteriorated social and economic well-being of the people in Dadakateri.
ISAP’s implementation of PIWAAI project to build tap stands in each of the 18 households in Dadakateri supported in alleviating water scarcity problems. They were also aided with agriculture inputs on nursery and cultivation training on variety of vegetables to improve agriculture income of the community. This has brought changes in the food behavior as people now have plenty of water to irrigate their dry lands and grow vegetables, and other crops. Rice is supplemented by vegetables like spinach, cauliflower, and decorated by pickles made from tomatoes, onions, and coriander. Vegetable spices like ginger and garlic are sown in every household. Eating vegetables with rice two times a day is now ordinary and everyone has the privilege.
Breaking the Bias
Research done in Nepal says that many Nepali women in rural areas return to physically demanding working routine shortly after giving birth. Their daily routine involves lifting 20 kg water containers from the ground and carrying them uphill for hours. There are many socio-economic and cultural factors that perpetuate gender roles, but these traditional gender roles pose emotional and physical burden on women’s daily work.
Prajita, 22, is a new mother from Acharya Tole, Balefi rural municipality who had to return to doing household chores right after giving birth. Water source of Acharya Tole was 20-25 minutes away from the community and Prajita had to fetch water twice every day and sometimes even more, to wash her baby’s and her clothes, and to use for household work. Although many rural women may or may not be aware about the consequences of returning to doing hard physical labor during postpartum period, many women like Prajita see it as a matter of lack of options and necessity for daily survival, rather than choice.
When PIWAAI built tap stands in 11 households at Acharya Tole, the plight of the women indeed subsided. Women like Prajita no longer needed to reach the water source for they had an easy access to drinking water right on their doorsteps. Prajita could now easily wash her and her baby’s clothes in the tap and save more time for other productive activities. Future mom-to-be’s will not be obligated to travel the distance to take care of their babies.
The bias surrounding what is expected from different genders are ingrained in our minds and often throughout our lives, we find it difficult to completely get rid of them. However, what we can do is be more aware of those biases so that women have better chance at living a less difficult life. Let us begin by raising our consciousness towards prevailing gender norms within our society and challenge gender roles and break the bias.
Give a Woman Clean Water, and Let Her Change the World
Imagine carrying 20 kg of jerrycan in each hand and walking for more than 2 hours. It’s a daily reality of women in rural Nepal.
Women and girls are the primary collectors, transporters, and managers of the household water supply. Water sources in rural areas are located far from houses and must walk for 4-5 hours just to fetch water. It is no different in Acharya Tole and Keurinidada in Balefi rural municipality. Moreover, women here have remained voiceless and the dearth of their representation in social, economic, and political life has excluded them from community resource management and decision-making processes further holding women in vulnerable position.
In 2021, when PIWAAI project was implemented with an aim to bring tap stands to individual households in Balefi rural municipality, women were able to change their situation. Women had the opportunity to participate in the frontlines of improving water supply and sanitation services in their villages. They contributed to the laying of the water pipes and construction of water distribution and were members of the water users committee in the village to ensure the proper management of the water revenues, and regular monitoring and technical support to the water supply scheme.
Such community contributions in building a safe water source at the footstep of the house has deemed women as leaders in the community. Furthermore, for many women and girls, the hours spent fetching water can now be spent in studying, working in the fields, or running their own small businesses. Women do not have to go through the arduous task of fetching water, and this will not take a toll on their physical health. The availability of clean drinking water will contribute to healthy lifestyle for all in the community.
Access to safe water at home gives women hope, health and opportunity.
Taking the Leap of Faith
In a country where women are found greatly confined to household and economically dependent on their male counterparts, Ambika Khadka, a 35-year-old resident from Melamchi has a different story to tell. The existing social, economic, and other constraints on women have traditionally marginalized women’s position in the society but the case is far worse for single women like Ambika. Single women are caught even worse in a vicious cycle of patriarchy, poverty, and powerlessness, but Ambika broke free when she built a plastic house over her barren land.
Giving up on a year-old grocery store to transition into agriculture was a significant step for her but building a plastic house with the help of PIWAAI project was a course of action towards building her own identity. A bigger leap was taken when she became the leader farmer of Kadeydevi Farmer’s Group. Ambika was becoming an epitome of what the patriarchal values didn’t say, as she began to lead other women in the path she was heading on, towards becoming active economic agents. Ambika was able to earn Rs. 50000 from her production of tomato, cauliflower, and cabbage, and selling her nursery seedlings. Both women and men are inspired by her role as a breadwinner, as people see her differently now.
“Those who used to call me out for being a single woman, now seek advice about pesticides and solutions for their problems in their vegetables and plants. I can see a lot of changes in people’s perceptions towards women and their capabilities. I am happy for not only myself but for those women to whom I was able to support and help. I hope other women in other places in our country will be able to do what I am doing for my family and myself,” says Ambika.
Besides two plastic houses provided to Ambika by ISAP, she plans to add two more plastic houses to increase production. She also hopes for other women to take the leap of faith to bring far-reaching changes in women’s lives.
A Leader on his way to Success
Krishna Lal Giri used to only farm mustard on his plot of land. His only way of earning was from his small cereal processing mill. However, when he heard about ISAP and PIWAAI project, he considered it as an opportunity to expand his income.
Commercial farming was never an option for him because he was happy with his small earning from his mill, and he could feed his family with subsistence farming. After receiving a plastic tunnel from ISAP, he was able to sell tomatoes worth of hundred thousand rupees within a year. This simply motivated him to commit more time to commercial farming, because he realized that all it takes is time and hard work.
He recently was also able to sell saplings of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, and earned more than ten thousand rupees. He has now expanded farming on his other barren lands. These plots are full of cauliflowers and cabbages, and he hopes to give more of his time into farming as he learnt that ‘personal involvement is a must for success in agriculture.’
Krishna Lal Giri is also a leader farmer of Unnati Farmer’s Group in Melamchi Municipality, Sindhupalchok. Being the leader farmer of a group, also drives him every day to reach his goals and help other group members to reach theirs. With the support from PIWAAI project, Krishna Lal Giri looks forward to honing his skills to add value into the agricultural production and empower other smallholders in his area.
Women as the Agents of Change and Resilience
“They said women like me cannot earn money for the family and I proved them wrong,” Radha Khadka, a mother, and a wife, but more importantly a farmer in Melamchi municipality, Sindhupalchok gives us of an example of how women are the agents of change and resilience.
Radha Khadka has produced more than 50 thousand rupees worth of tomatoes in her plastic tunnel. In the past she used to practice subsistence farming but with proper training and education from PIWAAI project, she now can utilize her small plot of land for earning as well. It is evidence of how strengthening women farmer’s capacities will allow efficient and sustainable production.
While women form half of the agricultural workforce, they are still at a disadvantaged position as agricultural producers, entrepreneurs, and value chain actors. There are many Radhas who have thanked PIWAAI project for giving them an opportunity to improve their agricultural knowledge and skills. Their success and improved economic situation have not gone unnoticed by other community members.
PIWAAI project has strived to improve the position of women in the agriculture sector by increasing the participation of small holder women farmers and empowering them with skills necessary to become prominent agriculture producers in the community.
Breaking the Stereotype
Manju Giri is a housewife and so she did not have much time to offer for farming. Although farming was not new to her, she opted to receive training from PIWAAI Agriculture’s agriculture experts. She was already raising a few veggies in her homestead but with more dedication and enthusiasm, this was her first go.
She was very curious to see what the results could be if she could give her best. She kept asking for technical guidance and started following strictly. During the time of the rainy season, the roads leading to the market were inaccessible and villagers decided to sell their tomatoes at a lower price (as low as Rs:20 per kg) but she persistently sold tomatoes for Rs:50 per kg. Now it’s almost the end of the season and she has sold tomatoes worth eighty thousand, and she now believes that she can go large. She was surprised to see that area as small as 75 meter per square could produce more than 75 thousand (more than one thousand meter per square). She is now planning to go commercial in cucurbitaceous crops as well.
One of the active farmers of Seto Gurans Farmer’s group in Melamchi municipality, Manju Giri has challenged the traditional women role and broken the stereotype of women’s contribution in agriculture.
PIWAAI: A Ray of Hope
Bishnu Narayan Khadka, 32, a resident of Garigaun, Melamchi-09, is a progressive farmer and one of the members of "Radha Krishna Krishak Samuha". There are 5 members in his family: his mother, wife, a daughter, and a son. His main occupation is agriculture. He has 6 ropani of land in which he mainly grew cereal crops and some vegetables only for household consumption. He had migrated to Qatar for employment as the income from agriculture was not enough for the family of five. He had spent a few years abroad and later returned to start something of his own. Fortunately, PIWAAI project was executed by ISAP around the same time. His interest aligned with the project’s objectives, and he joined in as the Chairperson of the Farmers’ Group.
Bishnu received a series of theoretical and practical technical trainings which exposed him to various improved agriculture technologies, new Agri-inputs and many more. The technical backstopping from the project team encouraged him to cultivate vegetables on majority of his land. As a result, he has allotted 5 out of 6 ropani of land to commercial vegetable production. Before, the project there were no agency or government sector supporting farmer technically or providing inputs to reinforce their motivation to continue agriculture. People used to cultivate vegetables only to relinquish their demands. However, after PIWAAI intervention, farmers saw potential in commercial vegetable farming. He, along with many farmers started to produce vegetable commercially and made farming their main occupation. He felt strongly satisfied with the support received from the project. The regular training on off-season and seasonal vegetable production, proper use of fertilizer, proper management skills, integrated pest management, biological pest and disease control methods, incentives on inputs and equipment support from the project, served as motivating factors for him and other beneficiary farmers.
"The support from PIWAAI is one the most influencing factors for my decision to initiate commercial vegetable farming", says Bishnu. He started growing vegetables like cucumber, bitter gourd, sponge gourd, capsicum, tomato, cauliflower, coriander, cabbage, onion, Pumpkin, beans, cowpea, etc. He has adopted improved technology and technical knowledge that he learnt from the project. His recent earning from vegetable sales reflects the impact of project support on his farming practice. He has sold harvest earning NRs. 14,000.00 from tomato, NRs. 50,000.00 from cucumber, NRs. 8,000.00 from bitter gourd, NRs. 2000.00 from sponge gourd, NRs. 3000.00 from beans, NRS. 3500.00 from cowpea, and NRs. 4000.00 from cauliflower. He felt extremely happy from the earning he has made. He feels motivated and desired to extend this commercial farming to next step and expects continuous support from the project team in that regard. Radha Krishna Farmer's Group regular monthly meetings discuss updates from member farmers and collect savings which could be used for member support and to make the group self-sustaining.
Bishnu, says if he continues to receive such support from the organization and the project, he intends to extend his land for vegetable production through lease/contract method and would increase the number of plastic houses. He also expects the project to facilitate in marketing and distribution of agriculture product and has requested the project team to support the farmers in every way possible. He is grateful towards the organization for the support he has received. He further added that one need not go abroad for income if they can put equal amount of hard work in the land that they often leave barren. He also wants to encourage his friends to return and follow his footsteps.
Isn't age just a number?
Jahan Singh B.K., a resident of Sunkoshi rural municipality-06, Ratamate has changed the stereotype about retiring age. At the age of 66, when many people retire, Jahan, is setting example for young and his peers by becoming a successful producer of vegetables and seedlings. He had been involved in agriculture since childhood following traditional approach for producing agricultural commodities. Having chosen farming as his main occupation, he has invested all of his resources in it, but he could barely provide for his family. The yield would bring small income which could cover the basic needs of himself and his family members. Jahan lived with the guilt of not having done enough for the family and was looking for ways to change that. That is when our paths crossed. Jahan Singh immediately agreed to become a part of the project when approached by the project team members and assisted the project team in his capacity. He later became the chairperson of Sundardanda Ratamate Farmers’ Group.
Jahan Singh received various theoretical and practical training regarding commercial production of vegetables and seedlings in continual basis from PIWAAI, which reinforced his motivation to engage in agriculture commercially. The project has been providing trainings on commercial vegetables production, commercial production in polyhouse (tomato and other crops), seasonal and off-season vegetables farming, biological method of pests and disease management, fertilizer management, etc. This opportunity has paved his path in the commercial vegetables and seedlings production.
Unlike now, conditions of farmer were different before the implementation of PIWAAI. No government or external agencies had actively helped the farmers of Ratamate. Few were noticed to help farmer in their subsistence way of farming. Breakthrough came only after the implementation of PIWAAI in Sunkoshi. Jahan Singh allotted 1 ropani out of 10 ropani of his land for vegetable and seedlings production. Like many, he has been actively involved in seedlings production of Broccoli. Recently, he has cultivated Cucumber, Bitter gourd, Sponge gourd, Capsicum, Tomato, Broad leaf mustard, Coriander and Eggplant. Previously, he used to cultivate Bean, Cowpea and Broccoli. He has earned NRs. 6500 from tomato, NRs. 3500 from cucumber, NRs. 2500 from bitter gourd, NRs. 5000 from broccoli.
Jahan Singh has been actively participating in all the regular meetings and trainings organized by the project. The project has initiated monthly saving activity from each member of the Sundardanda Ratamate Farmer's Group, that can be withdrawn when needed. In near future, he intends to add 3-4 polyhouse for the commercial vegetables production if everything works well. He doesn’t want to limit himself in the production and wants to produce seedlings in the large scale if similar help and support continue from the project. He thanks the project for all help and guidance he received. He expects similar assistance and guidance in future too. He suggests project to regularly monitor the field so that it would be beneficial to guide the farmer at time of need. Finally, the project has been a boon to the farmers and himself who could not see the future from agriculture. He adds on to say, all credits go to PIWAAI for this drastic change that has come to the life of locals here in Ratamate.
PIWAAI irrigates new hope in Subedi's family
They say time fixes everything. But, when you are 83 and have waited as many years for something as basic as potable water, one kind of loses faith in the concept. This is the story of Bam Bahadur Subedi. Reflecting on the life before PIWAAI intervention, Subedi shared about how he and his family members used to wake up at 3 every morning so that they could avoid the queue for water and how there would always be others who’d have travelled the distance before them. He also shared about the instances when wild animals like boar, deer and porcupine would munch on the harvest while adults in the settlement were away fetching water. Despite his desire to own livestock and cattle, he had to put his desires at indefinite halt as the fetched water barely covered for his family’s needs. The sanitation practice at the settlement was poor, the residents were aware of the potential health risks but with water so scarce they had to compromise. The practice of washing hands using soap water was low and the residents were more concerned on saving water that they had fetched after walking for so long. It has only been a few months since the project team completed the installation of individual tap-stands at the settlement but for Subedi, he is so caught up with the new ease in life that he seemed to have left the past far behind. Having said that, he had assured the team members that he will see to it that the Water Supply Scheme is well taken care of for the generation after him so that they will not have to walk the distance that he was bound to.
Subedi has started kitchen gardening using the knowledge that he gained from workshops and training provided by the agriculture team of PIWAAI Project. At present he has planted onion, garlic and spinach provided by the project team. His family members also help him in vegetable farming. With the vegetables produced, he is confident that he will be able to save a lot on household expenses and possibly use the savings into something more productive. He sees potential in commercial vegetable farming and wants to venture into the sector. He plans to continue vegetable production and pass on his knowledge to his family members so that they can continue vegetable production after him.
(Note: PIWAAI is a three-year project funded by Ministry of Foreign Affair, Japan and is being jointly implemented by Peace Winds Japan and Institution for Suitable Actions for Prosperity. Project completed its first year of operation in August 31, 2021. Under WASH component, 3 WSS were constructed with 69 individual tap stands in Balefi Rural Municipality, Sindhupalchowk. Currently it is being implemented in Balefi RM, Sunkoshi RM and Melamchi Municipality.)
For Seti Tamang, ISAP is an organization of action rather than words
“I didn’t want to get my hopes up when ISAP first came to us. Organizations had come before for the survey; they would assure us that we will not have to live this way for long and we would never hear from them again. I thought, ISAP would be the same. I wanted to get proven wrong, and I was happy to have been proven wrong. This organization holds a special place for us, and we will always be grateful to the project team for making life so easy for us.”- Seti Tamang,62, Dadakateri-06, Balefi Rural Municipality
Tamang is among many beneficiaries who had stopped hoping for any improvement in their living situation as they were frequently let down by numerous organization and the parties in power. The beneficiaries had to walk for more than 50 minutes to fetch drinking water. They would have to walk farther during dry seasons. The sanitation practive was also poor. Despite having constructed toilets at their households, the residents had to go to jungle. Majority of the residents depended on agriculture to meet their daily expenses. The settlement relied on rainwater cultivation. Due to the lack of drinking water, they could not afford to keep livestock as well. However, the situation has changed now. The improved access to potable drinking water through Solar Powered Water Lifting System installed by the project has not just improved sanitation practices of the beneficiaries but also motivated them to take up vegetable production to improve their household income. The beneficiaries of Water Users' Committees also function as Farmers' Group under agriculture component of PIWAAI.
Tamang, has planted garlic, onion, cucmber, and spinach in her kitchen garden. Like Tamang, other beneficiary households have also started vegetable plantation at household level. The beneficiaries are also willing to expand their current venture and become commerical vegetable farmers.
Reconstruction and Rebuilding
Distribution of Medical and Health Supplies to Isolation Centers in Sindhupalchok District, Nepal
During the second wave of COVID-19 in Nepal, to tackle spread of COVID-19, ISAP in partnership with Peace Winds Japan and Japan Platform were able to establish and capacitate the local government of Sunkoshi, Balefi, Tripura Sundari and Panchpokhari Thangpal Rural Municipality with fully equipped isolation centres at the respective ward levels.
COVID isolation centers are life-saving necessity as the pandemic surges. With the Omicron variant now spreading like wildfire across the country, the isolation centers at the Thokarpa Primary Hospital Ward No.1 of Sunkoshi Rural Municipality, Dhuskun Isolation Center, Ward No.3, of Tripura Sundari Rural Municipality, Tipeni Primary Hospital, Ward No. 7 of Panchpokhari Thangpal Rural Municipality, and Jaalbari Health Post, Ward No. 6, Balefi Rural Municipality are properly accommodating and caring for the infected patients.
As of today, there are 4 patients with mild symptoms at the isolation center in the Tipeni Primary Hospital, Ward no.7, Panchpokhari Thangpal Rural Municipality. The hospital hasn’t witnessed any deaths yet. However, they claim to have people coming in to buy medicines for fever and cough, indicating that the virus may have already spread across the community. This time around, with a fully equipped isolation center for the people of Panchpokhari Thangpal Rural Municipality, it can help towards breaking the chain of the virus.
Distribution of Medical and Health Supplies to Isolation Centers in Sindhupalchok District, Nepal is a project focusing on preparedness against COVID-19 upsurge and has covered elements such as availing resources to tackle future spread of COVID-19 virus and disseminated knowledge on prevention against the pandemic to ensure the community members avoid situations that could lead to infection.
"On-the-Job" Mason Training Changing Perception of House Owners in Rural Sindhupalchok
The earth started trembling, the mud rammed walls started tearing apart, the walls started splitting and in the mere blink of an eye, nothing but ruins remained of our house” Bal Bahadur Damai, aged 58 bleakly remembers the earthquake of April 2015, the day he was peacefully having lunch with his wife inside his house – the day he lost his house that his grandfather had built. Since that day he and his family, like hundreds of other who lost their homes to the earthquake, have been living in a temporary tin shelter, yet if could have seen him recently, he is all smile and content.
He is happy because after living 2 years in a temporary shelter that floods when it rains heavily and invites snakes during a warm weather, he will be able to celebrate this Dashain in his new permanent house. For a person who belongs to the lower sub-economic caste group, has no inherited wealth and low income that barely sustains his family, reconstruction of the house with the government provided compensation of NRs 3 lakhs seemed impossible.
Bal Bahadur and his wife had given up the thought of living in a house with proper walls and a roof ever again. It was only a few months ago, Bal Bahadur recalls, when his wife was deeply troubled by the thought that may be their death will come earlier before they see a roof above them.
Once an impossible dream for Bal Bahadur and his family is turning into a reality after attending the 50 days “On-the-job” mason training and 7 days additional course as stated by DUDBC curriculum. Having had worked as a semi-skilled part-time mason for past 12 years, it was only during the training he realized and understood why his two story house, that had stood tall from his grandfather’s time, fell the way it did. Since he had witnessed the fall of his house from in and outside, the haunting memories could flash back as the engineers demonstrated the drawbacks in their traditional construction methods. He has come to an understanding the use of through stones so that walls do not dilapidate, right thickness of mud mortar, and so on that contributes to making of a disaster resistant house.
The training has proven useful not only because it provided the knowledge related to construction, but it also allowed the participants to understand that reconstruction of earthquake resilient houses can be done cost efficiently by utilizing locally available resources. Bal Bahadur shares, “I was amongst the many that believed the NRs 3 lakhs provided by the government was not enough to build a house while building safer houses was impossible.” But now, he has started rebuilding his own house using the stones, woods, and tin from his old house and buying other necessary materials, and this could cost him 4 lakhs rupees in total. He shares, “I want to build an exemplary house so that people, especially marginalized community like me, gain confidence to rebuild by understanding that constructing disaster resistant houses are possible with locally available resources at a minimum cost.” Once the construction of his house is concluded, he plans on forming a team of 5 and oversee the rebuilding of other houses.
Bal Bahadur and his wife proudly stand in front of their house under construction.
Suresh Kumar Tamang, aged 32, is another participant of the mason training. He was involved in a few construction works but lacked the technical knowledge regarding construction. The training has opened many doors for unemployed youth like Suresh. Though the work is slow during the monsoon, Suresh is hopeful that he along with other youths can work in the construction sector as the monsoon end and earn their living.
ISAP, with the support of Peace Winds Japan and Akaihane Kyodo Bokin, has completed Mason Training Program for Earthquake Resilient Building Construction in Thulopakhar VDC and Jethal VDC of Sindhupalchowk, training 30 semi-professional construction workers and 5 practicing experienced masons.
What are the Masons we Trained Doing Now?
Eka Prasad Dulal, 63, has recently finished building one house and is busy constructing two of his neighbors' house at Pauwa-Ward 9, Sano Sirubari VDC in SIndhupalchowk these days. He has been earning his living as a mason for the last 40 years, but little did he know how to build earthquake-resilient houses until recently.
After the devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015, 9 masons in Pauwa were trained by Institution for Suitable Actions for Prosperity (ISAP) and Peace Winds Japan (PWJ) to build earthquake-resistant houses.
“For the last 40 years, we never thought about how much destruction our construction technique would uphold; we blindly followed traditional masonry that our forebears taught us” shares Dulal. Other masons, laborers, and house owners in the community share the same remorse, but the story does not end here.
The training made masons’ aware of the shortcomings in their construction methods. “After the training, we have adopted certain changes in our construction habits. Now, we know proper techniques such as a need for tie-stones and methodologically tying walls with bands and so on. So, the houses we build now will not collapse easily”, said another mason, Homnath Dulal.
Masons recall that on-the-job training by building demonstration/model house, now used for early childhood development (ECD), apart from the 7-day Mason Training following the DUDBC curriculum, was the most effective method for changing their habits and practices. “Such on-the-job training under the constant supervision of the engineers was the first opportunity to realize our construction blunders and change our traditional masonry habits,” Dulal elaborates while expressing gratitude toward the training.
Rewati Dulal supervising and helping with the reconstruction of her house.
Enthusiastically passing mud mortar to the laborers, Rewati Raman Dulal is very satisfied with her on-going house reconstruction. The house is being built under the supervision of masons trained by ISAP and PWJ. She says, “I thought stone in mud mortar houses cannot resist earthquake when I saw my house collapse in front of my eyes. We had sleepless nights wondering how we would rebuild with our low income. However, once we attended the orientation on rebuilding safer houses by utilizing local resources with minimum additional materials, we now have dared to rebuild with the subsidy from the government. I am confident that this house will resist small earthquake, and will at least buy time to run outside if the bigger earthquake hits.”
Nearly 160 houses in Pauwa were destroyed by the earthquake. One of the trained masons, Kancha Man Thapa Magar, 59, shares that 9 trained masons will not only be rebuilding houses in Pauwa but will also assist semi-skilled masons and laborer of neighboring VDC to rebuild upon requirement. Training has not only helped in safer rebuilding but also has become a source of living for many. Magar now earns NRs 800 per day, while he used to earn NRs 1200 per contract for laying the groundwork for biogas plants at a household level which involved days of work. Other masons now earn NRs 400 to 600 per day by building through improved techniques, while their previous income was no more than NRs 350 per day.
Semi-skilled construction workers of Irkhu VDC and Sanosirubari VDC in Sindhupalchowk were also provided similar training, and these 121 trained masons are helping to fill the demand of more than 60,000 masons for completion of reconstruction within 5 years.
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 a GO or NGO-led initiative that has shared decision making with local community people. However, a truly community empowering initiative has to community initiated, directed and shared with development agencies. It should offer more than helping hands and donation; it should offer 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 communities to understand each other’s needs, prioritize reconstruction efforts, mobilize resources and request assistance, overall leading the reconstruction process.
The participatory approach 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. This PARCI group represents the community and all reconstruction activities are 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 opinions and raise concerns and queries.
Community members mapping their community during the second day of the PARCI activities.
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,” says Dilip Poudel, ISAP’s WASH Engineer, “but also plays a vital role in developing a sense of empathy toward other community members.” He adds, “Usually PARCI groups are initially 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 households it benefits and the severity of their necessities. On the third, fourth and fifth workshops, materials and labor required to rebuild the community infrastructures are calculated with support from ISAP’s technical team. Mr. Praveen Shrestha, ISAP’s District Technical Coordinator remarks, “Before the cost-analysis, communities usually pressurize on rehabilitating infrastructures without considering its feasibility. 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 starts developing.”
The sixth workshop is on resource identification, taking advantage of complimentary capacities and resources of other agencies. The community identifies government agencies, organizations and community resources that could further assist in rebuilding their infrastructure. The community in Pouwa, Sanosirubari-9, is one of the examples where the cost of their priority infrastructure; i.e. reconstruction of water lifting system, exceeded the given budget. But, the budget constraint did not lower their spirit of reconstructing the desired and need water lifting system. They visited district office and requested budget for construction of two water tank in which ISAP would provide materials for electrical work. There are many other instances where the locals on their own have pulled resources for the reconstruction work by 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 holds the responsibility 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 a 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.
One of the PARCI group members presenting the designed community map and the overall water supply layout to the group.
Utilizing the PARCI method, ISAP together with its implementation partner Peace Winds Japan assisted the locals of Sindhupalchowk to 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)
A Second Chance to Quailty Education
Imagine you are 10 years old and study in the fifth grade but you can read Nepali and do Math only as a first grader. Simple subtraction and division, which your classmates do with such ease, are your biggest challenge. Imagine what must be going through a 10-year-old’s mind when he or she is often accused of being lazy, irresponsible and incompetent by their teachers and parents. This is what Nibesh, 10 years old in grade 5 at Jana Jagriti School, goes through almost every day. While having reached grade 5, Nibesh was only reading Nepali and doing Math as a 1st grade-level when we met him during our LITNUM, a literacy and numeracy assessment tool, in Heatuda, Nepal. As we often found, Nibesh lacked behind in other subjects as well due to low foundational understanding.
At this rate, chances are this child will fall among more than 40 percent of those who do not make it to grade 10 as per Nepal Education data published by the Ministry of Education. Dropping out of school unprepared at such an early age can lead him or her to become a child labor or get married like many other children. Moreover, without foundational literacy and numeracy skills, they stand little chance of breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty they were born into.
Sharing the common value that every child deserves a second chanc
We started a REC as a pilot project in Hetauda, where we trained 5 local youths and provided them with the necessary teaching materials to provide the remedial classes to 75 students of 5 public schools. We chose to work with local youths to help these youth realize that they are the future of their community and hold the power to bring changes in their own lives and that of others. With the continued effort of local youths, the enrolled students managed to progress at an average of 2 grade-levels per student in Nepali and 1.28 grade-levels per student in Mathematics. At Baseline, only 3% of students were reading Nepali at a grade-2 level or above while at the end of the courses, that number was 69%. Similarly, for solving a grade-2 level subtraction problem those numbers were 3% and 71%, respectively. Our REC-model was able to do what public schools have often failed to do: drastically improve learning outcomes for low-performing students due to local of resources.
Even though we were able to achieve so much in less time, the process was not without challenges. The month-long monsoon holiday had a negative impact on the attendance of some students despite the fact that parents and the students themselves had initially agreed to attend class during the holiday. Strong monsoon and the flooding also affected the attendance of the students, as well as the possibility of field visits from CS staff from Kathmandu. The lack of a local office and staff greatly hindered our ability to support our fellows. The establishment of a local office is one of the major changes that will be made to subsequent scale-ups that we expect will have a positive influence on fellows’ moral and their effectiveness inside the classroom. We are now planning a scale-up of the remedial education courses to 8 schools by winter 2017.