Posted by: Mitch Silver | December 5, 2010

Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings

I had an interesting conversation with a Swiss engineer that I knew from many years ago that has vast experience in alternative energy in rural Nepal. One thing he said really stuck in my mind: The need for follow-up is key. Too many aid projects happen and without follow-up and the donor really doesn’t ever find out about issues and problems like maintenance, social discord, secondary impacts and implications, and the ultimate success or failure of the project.

Handing out lanterns

Olse Danda - new Black Diamond lanterns being distributed

In Samghaderi in our discussions with the village I was insistent that households that were to receive a lantern should pay 1000 rupees (US$15) to the Mothers’ Group. There was some reluctance to paying that amount even though I had explained that over time money would be saved from not using kerosene and additionally the money would stay in the village for the benefit of the village. After some discussion I explained that in Namarkhu we had arranged a 200 rupees (US$3) per month payment for 5 months. They still thought this was too much to pay. When I suggested a payment of 100 rupees (US$1.50) per month for 10 months they readily agreed that this was reasonable. I don’t really think that they were considering the entire payment and number of months of payment – instead I think they could only seriously visualize paying 100 rupees versus 200 rupees versus one total payment of 1000 rupees. The concept that the total amounts were the same might have escaped them.

There were many instances of the villagers expressing their appreciation for lantern’s portability. Some said that even if electricity via the grid came to their village, they would still want their Black Diamond Apollo lanterns as the flexibility to use them outside, at festivals, on the trails, getting fodder etc. was fantastic.

The Namarkhu villagers really appreciated the fact that all the money they paid for lanterns stayed in the village as contrasted with kerosene payments which ultimately left the country.

I leveraged the project going forward by helping with the design of a new village water system. We surveyed the flow, elevation and distance of a pristine water source that is sufficient for all of Namarkhu water needs. Some and perhaps most of the money raised with the sale of lanterns to the Mother’s Group will go towards this end. I told the villagers there was interest to help with other development projects like the potential relocation and rebuilding of the elementary school but it was predicated on the success of the water system. “One project at a time”, I said. I wanted to motivate them to get the job done and done right. As I was leaving Namarkhu, one of the village leaders was off to the district center to get a water engineer to come to the village and h design and price the new water system. I await the results …

Namarkhu kids picking up litter

Namarkhu kids picking up litter

I mentioned to Prem that on our previous visits we had seen too much litter in and around the village on the trails. We organized a village cleanup with the school kids with Prem taking the lead. He got the primary school kids to get baskets and pick up litter throughout the village. They did a good cleanup job and the fact that they were working hard picking up the trash might make them think a second time before littering. I think it will ultimately take an ongoing organized effort, but this was a good start.

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