Chandra Thagunna is interviewed as he is leaving RVWRMP. Chandra joined RVWRMP during phase II as a Water Resources Advisor for Bajura district on 1st January 2013. He worked in Bajura for five and half years, then eight months in Baitadi District and now he is working in Dadeldhura district. As a Water Resources Advisor he looked after the overall management of the project activities including planning, coordination of the implementation, monitoring & reporting.
While, I worked for Bajura district, I used to make long trips to the remote and poor communities under the Village Development Committees (VDCs). I remember we made a trip of more than five weeks to the VDCs of Bichchhaya, Rugin, Sapatta & Gotri along with Team Leader & Sanitation & Health Specialist. During that visit in, I realized how much trust the community people had in the project. RVWRMP was the only agencies working and it introduced a whole new way of working together. The people expressed their happiness of working with the project in Bichhaya village with an unforgettable celebration when we visited it with the team leader from Finland Ms. Sanna Leena Rautanen.
Increasing peoples choices
At that time RVWRMP was the only project working with the people living in the remotest areas of Sudurpaschchim & Karnali province. RVWRMP is characterized by being community demand driven that is successful in staying clean of corruption and political influences. I'm very proud to work with RVWRMP because we provided basic WASH facilities to communities which were really voiceless & choiceless. Through multiple WASH and livelihood interventions
and activities, the project has given the people a voice and has increased their choices. We build the confidence of the people through participatory planning, implementation. We teach them capacities for self-management. With our support they opened their eyes to different development options. Through the joint monitoring practices the people learned a lot about how to implement activities. The communities changed drastically when they got access to drinking water, home gardens and irrigation at community level. The local institutions and local government learned from the project modalities and approaches and together we designed doable actions.
“Through multiple WASH and livelihood interventions and activities, the project has given the people a voice and has increased their choices.”
I contributed to the RVWRMP as a Water Resources Advisor to different sectors. I have completed a numbers of drinking water supply schemes. In some communities people (especially women) had never seen pipes before. This was also the case in the Gumba drinking water supply scheme in Bichhaya which was at 14 hours walking distance from Village headquarter. Similarly, after long intensive campaigning led by RVWRMP we declared the Bajura district Open Defecation Free. The RVWRMP team also achieved great impact in the district by introducing home gardens and creating new livelihood opportunities. We invested a lot of efforts in the livelihood promotion during the second phase as commercial vegetable farming, and we supported the set-up of a nettle processing micro-enterprise to make high quality fabric and clothes. I feel that we can say that:
"the communities put their trust in RVWRMP and we fulfilled their expectations by responding to the interests of the people to move forward"
Impact in the lives of rural people
Most significant impacts I’ve seen at the community level through project support; 1.) Access to safe drinking water, green vegetables. I really saw how the diet and nutrition status of children and women improved. The annual reports of district health offices shows a clear reduction of water borne diseases after the completion of the drinking water schemes.
For me, one of the great contributions of our work is the decreased workload of women which reduced the uterus prolapses cases among women. Uterus prolapse was a common health problem in the past caused by carrying heavy pots of drinking water.
“For me, one of the great contributions of our work is the decreased workload
of women which reduced the uterus prolapses cases among women”
The district health offices observed this improvement in various districts 2.) It is great achievement that we worked with zero corruption, quality construction works including frequent monitoring and technical support at scheme level. 3.) We created awareness and educated the community people about safe drinking water and how to protect the water source and recharge techniques. 4.) I started to work faster and planned to complete the schemes within the same year: "No carry over schemes". Without that measure we would not have achieved the project targets. 5.) We worked a lot with the staff of VDCs and now Rural Municipalities and support organizations to create capacity for planning, monitoring and implementation of the WASH activities. I my eyes the trust building with the local government levels has been one of the cornerstones of the projects success.
Skills for working together are essential
Two major things - transparency and quality construction works are the heart of the project. Similarly, coordination, linkages and harmonization with local level are the lungs of the project. Inclusiveness, participatory planning, implementation and monitoring systems are other valuable organs of Projects. Integration of WASH an livelihoods with nutrition have added value to build strong relationship with the local population in the working areas.
Working in RVWRMP is very easy if you systematically follow the systems and project Step by Step guidelines. First we start by orienting beneficiaries/users' groups on project norms, and values. This are the roots for a strong relationship and trust at field level among the community people and between the water users and the project staff. From there we go up the development ladder. I also developed good relations with the Support organization staff. My leadership style is that of encouraging & motivating through an appreciative approach. I don’t believe in an authoritative style in the project and instruct them what to do. I believe in appreciating the good things and giving suggestions for improvement. These are my main management tools to mobilize and steer the project team in the field. Another thing is, that when I set the example of working hard, others also follow and everybody feels happy when things move forward.
Keeping RVWRMP alive when the project ends
When the project started, we didn't have elected representatives at local and district level. Project areas were selected by a multi-party mechanism. After adopting the new constitution and federal government system in Nepal, obviously we faced the challenge that there were no physical facilities. There was not even staff in the RMs to execute day-to day administrative and financial works.
The elected representatives were very happy with our project activities and continuous support to the emerging RMs. Coordination among the local level authorities and project staff was very valued in the setting up of the RM.
I remember my first RMPMC meeting in Goumul RM. After presenting the annual workplan & expected contribution from RM, the RMPMC members were very quick to decide and allocate RM funds. The RM contributions was even higher than we expected. This because our projects were a good and safe way to spend the RM funds. The RMs learned a lot from working together in our project. The successful relations between the local level and RVWRMP depended a lot on my key skills of coordination and process facilitation.
"I am a proud RVian, graduated from the multi sectoral field University of the RV projects where I learned to invent new activities and approaches for the benefit of the community people, my personal career."
RVians are always dedicated towards wellbeing of the people who are in difficult circumstances in terms of provide WASH facilities, livelihoods. Rural people of Sudurpaschchim & Karnali province are the key inspiration to do this work.
I learned much from their indigenous skills, knowledge and experiences. I learned valuable lessons for my career too. RVWRMP is a very mature project, but the challenge of sustainability can never be neglected. This part of the country is still behind in terms of local economic development. Services are lagging behind and even WASH coverage needs to increase. RVWRMP should continue improving the Post Construction approaches for sustainable WASH and livelihood services. Equally we have now to focus on institutionalization of the Project modalities and approaches in the RMs. If RVWRMP can achieve to institutionalize its work experience the project spirit will remain alive even after the project stops.
Chandra Singh Thagunna E-mail: email@example.com