Journey with RVWRMP and Communities - Memories from Narbir Aidee
Narbir Aidee worked for RVWRMP as the Water Resources Advisor (WRA) of Bajura from 2018-2021. He has previous experience as a Senior Technical Facilitator (STF) in Achham and Bajura (2016-2018) as well as Technical Facilitator (TF) in Achham and Humla (2007-2016). His career in RVWRMP spanned 14 years, during which he participated in a wide variety of activities. His duties included planning, coordination, monitoring, reporting and overall management of project supported activities. Before RVWRMP, he worked in the Government of Finland funded “Lumbini” project (also implemented by Plancenter / Finnish Consulting Group).
Q1: What are you most proud of having achieved with RVWRMP over the years?
“Through multiple WASH and livelihood interventions, the project has given the people a louder voice and increased their choices.”
I'm very proud to have worked with RVWRMP because we provided WASH facilities to communities that were in great need. Through multiple WASH and livelihood interventions, the project has given the people a louder voice and increased their choices. We have built the confidence of people through participatory planning, implementation and monitoring system as well as capacity for self-management. With our support their eyes have opened to different development and technical options, and they have learned a lot about implementation. Communities have changed drastically after access to drinking water, sanitation facilities, energy, home gardens and irrigation. Local government and institutions have learned successful modalities and approaches that were often designed together.
After many years working in the project, I am especially proud of two things: transparency and quality construction work. I believe these are the heart of the project. Similarly, coordination and linkages with local level are the lungs. Inclusiveness, participatory planning and effective implementation and monitoring systems are the other valuable organs.
I'm very proud to have worked with RVWRMP because the project has a clear vision, mission, objective, strategy and action plan. RVWRMP is community demand driven and successful in staying clear of corruption and political influences. Water based interventions have directly benefited women, persons with disabilities and children. Through RVWRMP, I learned the slogan: "If you're looking for results, you need to take action and stick to the plan".
Q2: What are the biggest changes you have observed in your area of expertise and how it affected life of people in Sudurpaschim and Karnali Provinces?
RVWRMP was the only project working with communities in the remote areas of Sudurpaschchim & Karnali provinces. As I worked with RVWRMP for a long period, I have seen significant impact at the community level, such as access to safe and affordable drinking water, vegetable production and proper management of wastewater.
I contributed to RVWRMP achievements as TF, STF and WRA in different districts. I have completed several drinking water supply, irrigation and micro hydro schemes. In some communities, people (especially women) had never seen pipes or electric lights before. This was the case in Nepka MUS scheme (water supply + micro hydro + irrigation) in Shreemastha VDC. The community was located one day walking distance from the village headquarter and five days walking from district headquarter in Humla district. After intensive campaigning led by RVWRMP, Shreemasta was declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) as the first VDC of the district. The project achieved great impact in the district by introducing home gardens and creating new livelihood opportunities. We invested a lot of effort in livelihood promotion during the second phase through home garden support as well as wastewater management.
I grew up in a rural community and I know of the daily suffering of women collecting water from far away. For me, one of the great contributions of our work is the decreased workload of women which has reduced uterus prolapses cases. Uterus prolapse was a common health problem in the past caused by carrying heavy pots of drinking water.
When the project started there were no elected representatives at local or district level. Project areas were selected by a multi-party mechanism. As we adopted to the new constitution and federal government system, we obviously faced challenges, such as no staff in the new RMs to execute daily administrative and financial duties. Also, there were a lot of natural and man-made disasters at that time. However, due to the step-by-step and implementation guideline, we had clear responsibilities as well as competent staff who could adapt.
Coordination between newly elected local-level officials and project staff was invaluable in establishing the RM Support Units. RMs were quick to decide and allocate RM funds and their contribution proved to be much higher than expected. This proves that they trusted that RVWRMP can deliver its promises. RMs have learned a lot through working with the project. Successful relations at the local level depend on coordination and facilitation. RVWRMP has supported to Rural Municipalities for the sustainability of water supply schemes through the WASH Management Board. I believe it will improve local government capacity for the proper mobilization of own and outer resources in WASH interventions.
Q3: What are your biggest learning experiences from your work? What message do you want to give to the staff that remain?
“Learn from the past but focus on the future.”
My suggestion for RVWRMP staff is to systematically follow the Step-by-Step guidelines. First, we orientate beneficiaries and UCs on project norms and values. These are the roots for a strong relationship and trust in the field and from there interventions are easy to begin. As I gained experience, I began to work faster and planned to complete the schemes within the same year, targeting zero carryover schemes.
My aim was to always develop a good relationship with the SO staff. My style is to be encouraging and motivating through an appreciative approach. I don’t believe in authoritative style of leadership. Instead, I focus on appreciating the good things and giving suggestions for improvement. Another valuable method is to set an example by working hard. Others will follow and everyone will be happy in the end.
I have acquired a lot of skills, knowledge and experience. I have learned valuable lessons for my future career. RVWRMP is a mature project, but we can’t forget the sustainability challenges. Still, increasing WASH coverage is required. The project needs to continue supporting local economic development and services by improving processes, modalities and approaches for sustainable services. Equally, the project needs to focus on institutionalising project modalities in the RMs. If that is successful, the legacy of the project will be strong even after it is over.
The project gave rise to the voice of remote communities. It also improved my personal career. I learned project management and got to work with real beneficiaries, helping me graduate in Rural Development. My main learning from the project is “learn from the past but focus on the future”. Thus, we are always dedicated to dream big, set goals, and take actions to succeed.
Q4: What specific moments / events you particularly remember from your time in RVWRMP? Why were they so memorable?
"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
I made a lot of trips to very remote and poor communities during my time in RVWRMP. I will always remember the five-week visit in Humla, Achham and Bajura together with the Team Leader, Deputy Team Leader and other specialists. During that visit, I realised how much confidence the community had in the project. RVWRMP was the only agency in the area, and it introduced a whole new way of working together. Community members were so happy to receive water interventions and they were honoured to be visited by a Team Leader from Finland.
In some communities, people (especially women) had not participated in User’s Committee or had decision-making power. This was also the case in a MUS scheme in Gaumul RM, Bajura district. The scheme was two hours walking from RM headquarters and five hours from district headquarters. We followed the project implementation guideline by assuring 50% women representation in vital posts. Fortunately, Mrs Fagu Rokaya was chosen as chair of the scheme. She successfully completed the scheme (quality, quantity, reliability and accessibility), collected water tariff, mobilised the VMW regularly, formulated a Water Safety Plan and implemented everything properly. She exceeded all expectations and proved what women can do if given the opportunity. From Mrs. Rokaya we learned that "Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
Q5: What will you miss most from your time with RVWRMP?
I am proud of the RVWRMP family. I have now graduated from this multi-sectoral “university” where I learned to invest in new activities and approaches for the benefit of the community. Project colleagues are always dedicated towards the wellbeing of the people in difficult circumstances in terms of WASH facilities, livelihoods and energy. The rural people of Sudurpaschim & Karnali province are the key inspiration to do this work.
RVWRMP was like a university for me, and I consider my work there as one of the great achievements of my life.
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