Rural/Indigenous Women’s Leadership for Ecosystem Management

Context:

The recent earthquakes in Nepal exposed a lot weaknesses in our system. The government was not ready for supporting and relieving people. Policies and regulations were not good enough to deal with such calamities. Donors and NGOs also did not have strategies to deal with such situations. Support started pouring in which created chaos, some people got more than needed and some have not received any. Those who were not affected but powerful got more benefit than others. As local governments’ election has not taken place for long just by government employees could not respond responsibly. The all parties’ mechanism was not effective and very partisan. Government also went on changing policies and rules creating more chaos which has not still stopped.

Natural disasters are becoming a day-to-day events because of unplanned and unregulated growth of urban areas, road constructions without considering geological condition, stone and sand collections from streams and forests, use of mechanical instruments to make earth vulnerable, extreme climatic conditions, and so on. Unless people understand all these factors do something to prevent and adapt Nepalese people will go through the calamities very frequently. Just this year after January diseases spread in Jajarkot and Kathmandu, then earthquake which dominated everything, then landslides in Taplejung, etc. All these destroying human and natural resources. The relief system used is making people dependent and beggars. It may be quite difficult overcome this mentality and make people responsible to their own work, livelihood and safety.

About four million people are abroad and they are mostly young and energetic people. So Nepal’s villages are mostly inhabitated by old people, children and women. Most of land is barren. Traditional skills and livelihood are dying out. Extreme weather and climatic conditions are creating havoc which people are not ready to cope with. For this reason, those who are available need awareness of situation, come together to cope with this situation at the family and community level. As women are available and main decision makers at the household level they need to be involved in decision making level. Also to engender ownership of program they need to be the informed decision maker. Community forestry process itself is a guidance to this process. Until government blamed people for destruction and kept them away from decision making all efforts of nursery, plantation, protection went in vain forest destruction at the 3.9% per year continued. But as soon as users are involved in decision making, planning and management community forestry became one of the most successful program and forests were protected and managed. Similar process has to be initiated in the ecosystem management including disasters preparedness. WATCH/PAM and joint initiative with support from local women’s organizations and groups like to initiate a pilot in two to three areas of Nepal. Two sites are already identified: one in Lalitpur and another in Harkapur, Okhaldhunga. Based on the experiences and lesson learning the third site will be selected.

Goal and Objectives:

The goal of the project is to prepare people to cope with frequent disasters through ecosystem management and disaster mitigation and preparedness.

Objectives
1. To raise awareness of indigenous/rural women about possible disasters and prepare them to cope and adapt though ecosystem management
2. To develop women’s leadership for management of local human, economic and natural resources.
3. To develop family level “Poverty to Prosperity” exercises to manage family level resources.
4. To develop ecosystem management plans of the area to cope with possible disasters and coordinate with government, donors, and local organizations to implement them.

Activities:

1. Capacity building of WATCH/PAM staff, women’s groups and partner women’s organizations:
– Conceptual reorientation: move away from dependency and move ahead with own efforts
– Poverty to Prosperity Exercise training
– Ecosystem Management Plan preparation training
– Women’s leadership training on management
2. Development and implementation of plans
– Develop 500 household level Poverty to Prosperity plans and implement them
– Develop micro and area level Ecosystem Management plans and implement them
– Develop visioning and planning of women’s groups and organizations and implement them.
3. Orientation on possible disasters and open dialogue
– Awareness raising about probable disasters
– Public hearing and street drama for awareness
– One day orientation; Transect walk-discussions on possible disasters/risks and probable mitigation and prevention measures.
– Orientation of district and local level activists
4. Lesson Learning and wider experience sharing and coordination
– Lesson learning workshop with staff and partners
– Dissemination of project and lesson learning at the district level.

Partnership:

WATCH will conduct activities with women’s groups’ federation in Lalitpur and HIMAWANTI Okhaldhunga. Women’s groups and mothers’ groups will also be critical because they are the ones who will participate in training, planning and implementation. Besides local level government agencies and district level agencies also need to cooperate specially in planning and implementation.

Monitoring and Evaluation:

A family level database regarding their present situation and mind set will be collected and folder for each family is developed. Every year the same database will be updated to see what changes and actions have been taken place. Each family also prepares the “Poverty to Prosperity” action plan and every three the action plan is followed up updated. At the community level and area level action plans are prepared and every year they are followed up and updated. Capacity building efforts are monitored through session plans, attendance and training evaluations. In the quarterly and annual meetings process, products, and impacts are discussed and assessed. Based on that future course is decided. The project will follow the learning process approach rather than a blueprint. It will focus more on process-change-process approach. At the end of the project a lesson learning workshop is conducted with staff, partners, and selected women’s representatives and disseminated to the local level and district level. All these are properly documented. Every six months financial and progress reports are submitted to the donors, local and district government, and partner agencies.