Keeping the authorities responsible

Our target groups in Nepal are poor people in the countryside, with particular focus on women and marginalized groups, such as Dalits, erstwhile agricultural slaves (Kamayas) and indigenous groups such as Tharu and Chepang. Two major challenges for our target groups are that they live in inaccessible areas and that they are not seen or heard. For these reasons they do not gain access to the authorities’ support schemes, nor do they have their rights fulfilled. An inclusive civil society with the ability to keep the authorities responsible is important for building democracy and promoting social development. The Development Fund puts emphasis on building up local organizations and democratic structures on a grassroots level. Cooperatives, youth clubs, climate adaptation committees, and local seed banks contribute to building active local communities and constitute a platform for contact with the authorities. The Development Fund also arranges local participation in international political processes involving seed and climate, where we cooperate closely with our partners in developing proposals, maintaining contact with various decision makers and delegates, and conducting follow-up of political processes.

Equality and inclusiveness

It is of great importance for the Development Fund to strengthen knowledge and capacity – e.g. on equality and inclusion of marginalized groups – among grassroots organizations and our local cooperation partners. This is achieved through education, counseling, exchange of experience, and cooperation, to ensure that our work reflects the needs and opportunities for participation that women and marginalized groups have.

We seek to strengthen the rights and opportunities, of women, young people and marginalized groups, for participating in decision-making processes. The freshly minted Constitution’s article 38 gives women the right to proportional representation at all levels of government. In the new, five-member village committees, at least two members must be women, and one of these a Dalit woman. In addition, a provision is included that either the chair or the deputy chair must be a woman. In consequence, more than 6,567 Dalit women have been elected. As a result, they acquire greater decision-making authority, and the election has placed many more women and representatives of marginalized groups in powerful positions. In spite of the quotas, however, women are blocked from the more important positions. Only two percent of the highest positions went to women, and many elected women report that they are met with prejudice and are not heard. The Development Fund will support these pioneering women and has supplied training for women who wished to stand for election. In order to increase the competence and strengthen the self-confidence of newly elected representatives faced by new political structures, we also offer training in various political processes, municipal planning and leadership.

Municipal planning and good governance

For the first time in more than twenty years, the local population can hold their own elected representatives responsible. However, laws and regulations must also be put in place and the newly elected must be trained. The Development Fund has, over a number of years, supported the establishment of municipal plans, which have expanded the opportunities of local authorities to plan and to meet local needs. The planning process ensures broad participation in development processes, in which various sectors and population groups are represented. Having a municipal plan has also increased the flow of funds from national to municipal budgets. Local politicians report reduced corruption and better management capabilities. Their knowledge of local conditions has increased, since the planning process is open and negotiations about plan and budget items include leaders from all sectors, including health, education and agriculture. Through this broad participation, the local population has acquired better understanding of local processes, stronger negotiation capabilities, and increased impact. As a result, governmental and private funding is now to a greater extent than previously granted in line with purposes identified by the local population itself. The method has been standardized and is recommended by the Nepalese ministry of municipalities. It has also turned out to be an important tool for collective and inclusive planning in the rebuilding work after the earthquake. Municipal planning has benefitted a total of 56,030 families. The mountain municipality Syada, in Humla, is an example of how the population, through the municipal plan, has planned and received funding for two suspension bridges that ensure better accessibility and access to markets, built three elementary schools so children can live at home while studying, built toilets for all households and hired more personnel at the local health station, thus contributing to better health and sanitary conditions. The villages in the municipality were, on completion of the program, declared “Open Defecation Free,” thus supporting the national goal that all of the country’s inhabitants should have toilets. The program has also contributed to improved food security and increased incomes. Click on this link to read more. (The final version of the Annual Report can be published here.)

Most important results (2012-2016):

  • 29 new municipal plans were implemented during this period. The municipal plans have been further developed and incorporate climate adaptation methodology and a rebuilding plan after the earthquake. E-tools have been developed and are used by the municipalities, and a social audit has been commenced.
  • The target group’s average income has increased by 50 percent in Humla, 117 percent in Ilam, and 29 percent in Terai.
  • 201 small businesses have been established, which benefit 3,657 families. More than 8,819 families have become members of savings and loan groups. A number of these are organized in 67 cooperatives. This has contributed to increasing incomes.
  • Increased and more varied food production has led to better food security. The production of basic goods has increased by approximately 60 percent in the mountain district Humla, while vegetable production in lowland Terai has increased by 169 percent.
  • Increased participation of women in decision-making processes. In Humla, the proportion of women in decision-making processes has increased from 11 percent to 42 percent.
  • The stock of domestic animals has increased from 2.9 to 8.82 units per household in Humla, and from 2.73 to 5.15 in Terai. Animals are an important source of food and income for the families.