Although in the past some endeavours were made to launch a variety of rural development programmes in Nepal, they could not meet rural people's needs mainly because of mismanagement and also due to corruption. Still now, the majority of the Nepalis reside in rural areas, encountering difficulties in maintaining their livelihood. Therefore, it is quite natural for them to look for help from the government; however, it has not been able to fulfill even their basic needs as yet.
In fact, after the restoration of democracy here, special emphasis was placed on rural development. In this context, the erstwhile governments launched special programmes, giving top priority to rural development, but such programmes could not satisfy the daily needs of the rural people. As a least developed country, Nepal has unlimited needs but limited resources. Therefore, for its rural development, mobilisation of local resources is of paramount importance. However, the concerned authorities have not paid heed to this fact as yet.
Actually, rural development should be looked at not only as a problem of augmenting agricultural production but also a process of building organisations and institutions, which help the rural people utilise, the available resources and enable them to enjoy the fruits of development among themselves equitably. In reality, the government’s efforts alone cannot be successful in bringing about rural development in Nepal with its limited resources. In such a situation, the mobilisation of local resources, both human and capital is essential. By doing so, it will be possible to speed up the pace of development in rural areas.
Local resources not only mean the natural resources such as sun, earth, stone, wood, water and minerals but also human resources, whose culture and skills can be utilised for local development. It is the intelligence, skills, efforts and leadership quality of the people which can transform shapeless raw materials into useful commodities. Actually, in any development programme, the most important local resources are the people themselves and their local organisations.
The present government has undoubtedly made some efforts for the mobilisation of local resources because at present the local bodies can raise funds, levy taxes and collect fines. Apart from this, they can tap and use available resources within their jurisdiction. However, local resources mobilisation is easier said than done because unless the real sources of power such as decision-making authority and resource mobilisation are appropriately transformed, there can be no effective decentralisation. Apart from the transfer of such authority, there must also be a transfer of accountability to the people's institutions and their respective areas.
Rural development is virtually impossible if the local people are unable to manage their local resources by themselves. Therefore, they should be motivated to manage these resources by enlisting their participation from planning to implementation. Rural youths, who are migrating to other countries in search of employment, can be utilised in local resources mobilisation by educating, training and entrusting them the responsibility of building tomorrow's society. Actually, decision-making and evaluation can help achieve better results only when the rural youths are provided with the leadership of the development process.
Most rural people have had to spend most of their time in their hard struggle for earning their livelihood. While, on the one hand, development efforts need to be geared towards raising the economic growth rate, on the other, programmes need to be formulated and launched in order to mobilise local resources. Today, the identification and development of lead activities with high multiplier effects are very important: only by mobilising local resources, the hopes and dreams of rural people can be secured. In order to make rural development self-sustaining and self-propelling, the skill of manpower involved in local resources mobilisation has to be continuously improved in accordance with the changed context.
In Nepal, millions of huts scattered in the Himalayan foothills and flat plains are home to the majority of people engaged in agriculture and allied activities. As a rural labour force, they are key potential resources for local resources mobilisation; so they should be well trained in this regards. Since half of the total population of this country constitutes women, it is very difficult to mobilise local resources without their participation. However since most rural woman are untrained, concrete steps should be taken to provide them with both short- and long-term training.
A research of the International Fund for Agricultural Development has shown that about 40 per cent of the total remittance flows are directed to rural areas. If invested in local resources mobilisation, this amount can help speed up rural development to a great extent. Remittance, one of the largest and reliable sources of external funds for least developed countries like ours, has been increasing rapidly in recent times. It amounts to more than three times the value of official development and eight times private capital. In Nepal also, remittance has been playing a significant role in contributing about 29 per cent to its gross domestic product (GDP).
If the remittance can be utilised for local resources mobilisation, rural development can be accelerated here. For this purpose, remittance can be leveraged through incentives that protect migrants' rights by allowing them to utilise their earnings in various development activities. In this regard, development projects need to be based on the requirements and priorities of the local people. Not only this, financial services should be customised. While financial services can incentivise saving and investment trend, they should consider the needs of remittance recipients.
After the completion of the election of the local bodies, the rural development scenario of Nepal has faced new challenges and strategies. Actually, such bodies are the key actors of rural development because the new constitution of Nepal has offered them an important opportunity to exercise their authorities and responsibilities in a befitting manner.
In order to expedite rural development in Nepal, local bodies should emphasise on the mobilisation of local resources for which it is essential to build partnership with all the stakeholders for planning and action. Moreover, regular review of the progress and difficulties in the joint efforts of the concerned authorities will help formulate better plans. Any isolated programme planned to solve a problem does not necessarily solve other problems; so the planning of local resources mobilisation should be multipurpose, and their implementation coordinated. Institutions are of paramount importance for mobilising local resources. For this, public institutions', visions, missions, goals, strategies, policies, programmes, legal and administrative procedures should be clear and transparent.
(Basnyet is a freelance writer.)