Juho Haapala did his PhD research in the RVWRMP project and was the Field Specialist from 2017-2019. At the end of his tenure he looks back at how it began and what happened afterwards.
Q: What do you remember of your first impressions of the country, organization, the work area, the culture: How was the culture shock? How did you start up the research?
I went Nepal for the first time for trekking in 2010. I remember the culture shock at the time as it was my first journey in a developing country: the traffic in KTM, all the pollution, misery and poverty splashed on my face, not to mention the culture and customs that were alien to me: even getting what I understood as 'proper' food was difficult, not mentioning travelling around... nothing really met my presumptions and that made me very anxious in the beginning. At the same time, I fell in love with the still relatively pristine nature, the smiling and welcoming people, and the diverse, lively culture of the country.
I came back in early 2014 as a bit bohemian long-haired doctoral student. I ended up selecting implementation of water based development as my research topic. I selected Nepal as my case study destination as I wanted to get a real local-level experience, and the Finnish network in the water sector was particularly strong in Nepal. My positive impression of the country from my first visit had a great influence on the selection of the locality, as well.
Q: What are the most important learnings from your research?. How do you see the role of formal and informal relations within the Project?
“I came back in early 2014 as a bit bohemian long-haired doctoral student. I ended up selecting implementation of water based development as my research topic.”
In my research I looked at the strong informal arrangements and customs of water management and use, rooted in the local culture, which factually drove the Operation & Maintenance (O&M) of the schemes - in good and bad. This happened despite the implementing partners' great efforts to establish formal implementation and O&M modalities, and to change so called harmful (inadequate informal) practices locally.
During my tenure as Field Specialist, I realised that the overall Project similarly holds an informal culture that does not always follow the formal modalities. This culture has evolved over the years since 2006, and its stakeholders are often referred to as RVians. It cross-cuts the whole project working area, and is penetrating to Municipalities. On the positive side, it spreads the good practices and working implementation modalities locally, but it also holds aspects that are not written in the project documents.
I looked at strong informal arrangements and customs of water management and use, rooted in the local culture, which factually drove the Operation & Maintenance (O&M) of the schemes - in good and bad.
Q: What are you proud of to have contributed to the project?
I am proud of my contribution to strategic, multiannual project planning in the crucial moments. I am also proud of the successful ways we found to solve the numerous problems we faced in the difficult operational environment, the great structural government reform, and the following project reform and restructuring. Now the main problems have been solved and the project is stably running towards its successful end.
Q: What is your key recommendation to the Project or for the next Field Specialist?
For FS: It will be tough but it will be rewarding. Enjoy it!
For Project: Continue cultivating the RV culture, and remember that we are here to serve.
Q: What do you take with you from Sudurpashchim/RV project/ Nepal?
I take with me the numerous learnings from project implementation and the ever deeper understanding of the processes of development and development cooperation. I also take with me the once-in-life-time experiences and friendships that I will never forget. These will boost me towards the next experiences and challenges to come.