A collaborative model developed by UNDP as part of its post-flood recovery efforts in the Tarai proves an example of how development partners and government agencies should work in close coordination to address the needs of affected communities on the ground

The issue of aid effectiveness features prominently in the development discourse in many countries around the world today, with growing calls for ensuring strengthened national ownership and alignment, improved accountability, as well as efficiency in the use of administrative capacities for aid coordination. And Nepal is no exception: development partners here have frequently been at the receiving end of criticism for their failure to coordinate their work with that of concerned government agencies.

In this context, a collaborative model that has been developed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of implementing its Community Infrastructure and Livelihood Recovery Project (CILRP) could comprise a possible corrective. The model has set forth an example of how development partners and government agencies can effectively work together to address the priorities and concerns raised by host governments, and demonstrated how the humanitarian and development nexus can run more smoothly in aid programmes.

In August of 2017, several villages in the eastern and central districts of the Tarai had been lashed by heavy monsoon rains leading to massive flooding in many areas. Many families lost almost everything they had—including their homes, their animals and other property—and various critical community infrastructure were also damaged or washed away.

To aid the recovery of flood-affected communities, UNDP Nepal swiftly launched the Flood Recovery Project under CILRP in six districts: Sunsari, Saptari, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Rautahat and Parsa. Interventions included development of community infrastructure, animal health camps and a variety of income-generating activities. What was different about the project, however, was the modality of its implementation.

CILRP started by working in close coordination with local government authorities before the project interventions began in earnest. Local NGOs were brought on as implementing partners for each of the targeted districts, so as to better connect with the affected communities and learn about the actual needs on the ground. Side by side, local government officials, including the Chief District Officer, the District Police Chief and elected representatives of local bodies were also consulted so as to gain a sense of their priorities for external support. “Based on the list of flood-affected families that we then received from the CDO and local police, we followed a cluster approach in taking our activities forward,” explains Suman Manandhar, Livelihood Promotion Officer at CILRP.

Being consulted so thoroughly prior to the handing out of support by the project, and having their concerns prioritized thus, was greatly appreciated by local government officials, who felt this helped them meet the competing demands of the communities, particularly given the limited resources they had at their disposal. “The locals in the village of Sakari, for example, had been calling upon us to construct a culvert, but since we did not have the funds to do so, we directed UNDP to the area, and the rest is history,” says Sanjeev Sah, mayor of Bhangaha Municipality.

Sakari locals too—majority of whom belong to the Dalit community—expressed satisfaction at how the recovery support was rolled out in their case. “Every year during the rainy season, we are virtually cut off from the other villages in the area when the stream overflows,” said Sugarath Mandal, one of the villagers. “This time around too, we were approached by several NGOs with daily essentials like food items, but as useful as these are for immediate consumption, the culvert built by UNDP has solved a much bigger problem for us, one we have struggled with for many years.”

While a few of the 125 households in Sakari have bicycles, not a single family owns bullock-carts, primarily because of lack of road connectivity in the absence of a culvert. With the infrastructure now in place, however, children are able to go to school even during the monsoon, and farmers are unimpeded in taking surplus agricultural produce to sell in nearby markets. And importantly, the culvert also enables the passage of ambulances to people’s doorstep, a service locals could not make proper use of in the past.

“So much has changed for the better now,” says an elated Surya Narayan Batar. “Not only has the project altered our physical circumstances, but it’s also made an emotional impact on all of us—this is the kind of development assistance we welcome.”

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