I Am Very Proud of Our Transparency, Skill Transformation and Quality of Construction - Karna KC
Karna Bahadur KC worked for the Rural Village Water Resources Management Project (RVWRMP) as a Water Resources Engineer (WRE) in Achham from 2009 – 2010, Water Resources Officer (WRO) in Achham from 2011 - 2014, Water Resources Advisor (WRA) in Dailekh from 2014 – 2016, WRA in Achham (and later also Doti) from 2016 to 2022.
During thirteen years with RVWRMP, I played a key role in declaring Achham and Dailekh Open Defecation Free (ODF), supporting Rural Municipalities (RM) and Village Development Committees (VDCs) in planning, coordinating, monitoring and reporting of project supported activities. I designed and organised capacity development interventions and supported the preparation of RM level Total Sanitation plans, Livelihood Implementation Plans (LIP) and Water Safety Plans (WSP). I supported the establishment and institutionalisation of cooperatives, as well as mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management (CCA/DRM) into RM-level planning in all project supported water schemes.
Throughout my years, I ensured adherence and implementation of project guidelines, Step by Step procedure and GESI Strategy at all levels.
Q1: What are you proud of having achieved with RVWRMP over the years?
RVWRMP has been operating successfully in Sudurpaschim and Karnali Provinces under an agreement with the Government of Nepal for many years. RVWRMP is currently implementing programmes and projects with several Rural Municipalities. It supports activities leading to sustainable development in the WASH sector and poverty reduction through livelihoods activities. It promotes the principles of decentralization in decision-making, implementation and accountability.
Therefore, I am proud to be the part of this programme. During my time in RVWRMP, we covered almost all result indicators of the project. Now communities have access to safe drinking water and toilets as well as improved nutrition and support for commercial agriculture and small agri-businesses. The project has improved living conditions of beneficiaries in a sustainable manner, promoting climate change mitigation and adaption. I am very proud of our transparency, skill transformation and quality of construction.
Q2: What are the biggest changes you have observed in your area of expertise and how they affected the lives of people in Sudurpaschim and Karnali Provinces?
Since the beginning, the project has supported remote areas and people living in hardship. Focus has been on the four result areas: WASH, livelihood, renewable energy and governance. Implementation has been smooth thanks to clear guidelines and documentation across all sectors and levels.
Access to drinking water, sanitation facilities and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of human beings. Without these, children are especially at risk. For children under the age of five, water- and sanitation-related diseases are one of the main causes of death. According to district health office reports, every year children in Sudurpaschim and Karnali die of cholera due to poor water quality and lack of sanitation and hygiene. Also, malnutrition is a major problem in the districts. It is caused by a lack of nutrients, either through poor diet or problems absorbing nutrients from food.
Before I joined the project less than 20% of community households in Achham and Dailekh had toilets and good water facilities. After crucial support from RVWRMP and coordination with district partners, these districts were declared Open Defecation Free. Water supply schemes have been built in communities. The districts and RVWRMP have made significant progress in expanding access to drinking water and sanitation. To reduce malnutrition, agribusinesses were supported in the communities.
The impact of the project is huge. We have provided improved and equitable access to and use of safe and sustainable drinking water and sanitation services to communities. We have improved sanitation at community level by supporting infrastructure for institutional sanitation and improved the situation of women and girls in hygiene and sanitation. We have supported improved nutrition, food security and sustainable income at community level through water resources-based livelihoods development. Through our work with local governments, we have developed the institutional capacity of local level staff and political leaders.
We have improved the living standards in communities, increased girls’ enrolment in school, reduced water borne diseases and increased income in households. In the renewable energy sector, we have supported four micro-hydro systems and several Improved Cooking Stoves and Improved Water Mills in Achham. The access to energy has improved living standards and provided support to local community groups. In the health sector, access to electricity and lighting and less time spent grinding have eased the workload of women and children. The Improved Cooking Stoves have reduced time for firewood collection and cooking and have the benefit of improving the indoor environment by reducing smoke in the kitchen (with some reduction in respiratory and eye-related diseases).
Q3: What are your biggest learning experiences from your work? What message do you want to give to the staff that remain?
First, we should improve the capacity to continuously learn and adapt as it is critical towards dealing with complex challenges and future uncertainties. There are so many familiar challenges in Nepal that the project also had to face, such as weak central level leadership, lack of political commitment, inactivity of communities, lack of clear planning and vision at local level, insufficient entrepreneurial and managerial skills, a shortage of skilled and knowledgeable staff, weak infrastructure and institutions.
To address the above issues, RVWRMP set up clear modalities in the project document and guidelines (such as Step-by-Step, Project Implementation Guidelines, etc.). The project capacitated and oriented all beneficiaries, staff members and the local government accordingly. Once the nature of the project and its working modalities was clear, it was easy to develop good relations with stakeholders. This is how we have completed all the planned activities in time and with good quality. It has been easy to implement project activities thanks to close coordination with Rural Municipalities.
One important thing is honesty and zero tolerance to corruption. With these, all stakeholders (users, local organisations, Rural Municipalities) trusted us, and we were able to achieve so many results in time. My suggestion for remaining staff is to systematically follow all project guidelines. Follow annual plans and do not compromise in the quality by fully following individual Terms of Reference.
Q4: What specific moments / events you particularly remember from your time in RVWRMP? Why were they so memorable?
During my time with RVWRMP, I directly supported three districts: Achham, Doti and Dailekh. In addition to regular activities in WASH, livelihoods and capacity building, I supported the ODF declarations of Achham and Dailekh, settled major district issues related to Support Organisations/Persons and payments with support from my supervisors. I visited many district areas alone and with project teams for monitoring and evaluation. I participated in several trainings, project activities, inaugurations and workshops in community, RM (VDC) and district level. All the field visits were memorable and enhanced my knowledge and experience. The sincere happiness, honesty and love for the project of community members was also memorable.
Q5: What will you miss most from your time with RVWRMP?
RVWRMP is like a university for learning and developing the career. For me it is the most beautiful and successful project in Nepal. It covers most of the sectors necessary for communities in rural areas. In my opinion, the project is designed to honestly provide skill transfer to the poorest people in most rural areas. I appreciate the opportunity for growth and development provided by the project during my tenure to serve rural communities in remote hilly areas of Nepal. I will always proudly remember my time in RVWRMP, and I believe that all the learning and work experience I have attained from the project will be the foundation of my career.
After 17 years, RVWRMP is coming to an end in 2022. This interview is a part of documenting the RVWRMP legacy from long-term staff members.