The biggest challenge facing an organisation involved in development work, as far as I can see, is sustainability.
Sustainability of both the development project and that of the organisation–usually an NGO or an INGO. (Many people and/or organisations involved in the development business in Nepal, I have been told, sacrifice sustainability of development projects over sustainability of the organisation. That however, must stay a story for another post.)
Towards the end of May, I ran a fundraising campaign–Education is Freedom-Nepal–to help Raithane School in the village of Thangpalkot in Sindupalchok district. In thirty-five days, the campaign raised $37500! Most of the funds is for School Improvement Program (SIP): upgrading infrastructure, resources, and teaching methods. We are establishing a Social Business for Education–a fishery–using the remaining funds, to make sure that our education development projects are sustainable.
With the $8500 from the campaign, another $5000 from Western Union in Kathmandu, and still another $8000 from a different fundraising drive conducted recently in Washington, DC, USA, we have enough to start the program. As per the suggestions of our fishery expert Madhav, we have decided to begin the project with caged nursery on the pond next to the school.
Setting up the nursery would take advantage of the monsoon season. The plan is to expand it into a purpose-built artificial pond. The total projected cost is around US$65000 over the course of three years.
What is a Social Business for Education?
Social Business for Education is an income-generating program, profits from which will be used mainly to run and support free, mandatory, and quality education at the local government or community school. Village development projects will use the rest of the profits. Both the community and the school will participate directly in the planning, implementing and running of the business.
Social Business for Education in Thangpalkot
Cooperative based fishery as a Social Business for education will address the following issues in Thangpalkot:
1. Literacy and quality of education
To the school children, the fishery will serve as a science resource. Middle (6-8) and high school (9-10) children could benefit from the opportunities to do project-based Science (about the fishery). The science that the students could do is endless from simple data analysis (number, size, growth etc.) to pattern in growth, to nutrition, to ecology etc. As a science teacher, I would be heavily involved in implementing this aspect of the curriculum with the resident science teacher. Involving the students will not only help them learn science by doing science, but also impart vital transferable skills. The 11-12 graders studying business could again learn from it by looking at the business side of the venture.
In assisting households to take up integrated fishery as an income generating activity, the project will help reduce poverty. As a significant part of the profits generated from the proposed fishery will be used to cover the school’s operational costs, the community will be able to offer free education. The resulting cost savings at the household level could be used towards food security, health, and other critical household needs. The families themselves can take advantage of the nursery, should they choose to start their own small-scale private fishery, to supplement their income. To help with that, household integrated fish farming training will also be provided.
3. Community development needs such as access, transportation, health, and other social needs
Formulation of the CDP will improve civil society engagement during the process of identifying the community’s development needs, outlining its priorities, and participating in the implementation of the projects. Local stakeholders will formulate CDP in partnership with, and endorsed by, the local government as the VDC’s CDP. The remaining part of the income generated by the venture will be spent based on priorities identified in the VDC endorsed plan, such as improving access to the village and beyond, improving health care facilities etc.
4. Civil society engagement with the establishment of a Community Development Plan (CDP).
The community will be expected to take part actively in all the planning and implementation phases of not just the fishery project but also all the education-related projects, if not directly, then through different committee membership. Tools and strategies will be introduced throughout the course of the projects to not only make sure high level of participation from the community, but also to educate them about accountability and transparency in development work. In the process, the hope is to build their capacity and empower them to ask and raise questions about accountability and transparency in all such activities.