Partnership for Sustainable Development - Nepal

Bishnu H. Bhatta - April, 2011

Guest Column

Bishnu H. Bhatta is a community development worker who has worked for many international organizations in various capacities for the last 20 years. He is currently Director of PSD – Nepal and is also part of a leadership team for the US based Nature Action Collaborative for Children, for which project he has presented several papers in a number of international conferences. 


  Partnership for Sustainable Development Nepal (PSD- Nepal) is a social development NGO based in Kathmandu that works with the most vulnerable rural communities within Nepal. We are a small team of highly dedicated professionals with a strong vision for the future of Nepal. This vision is that every member of Nepalese society will have equal access to basic human rights and standard living conditions. Consequently, all individuals will be able to participate and function in social, educational and economic development to grow to their maximum potential. PSD Nepal works in various sectors towards the development of rural communities including projects in the areas of education, youth development, health/sanitation, information technology and the environment.

    PSD began in 2002 with a team consisting of like-minded Nepali’s witha common desire for change. After gaining experience working for larger international organizations, we, the founders of PSD Nepal, became somewhat disheartened with the impersonal nature of these organizations. When working for an INGO (International Non Governmental Organization) it is very difficult to grasp the whole picture as one is but one cog in a machine which often moves forward at a slow pace. Results are not always clear and beneficiaries are remote. We decided that we wanted to create a charitable organization which placed the real needs of the most vulnerable at the heart of development, where results are tangible and the beneficiary community is a part of the whole process. Therefore, PSD Nepal doesn’t just work for the people, they work with the people to create a sustainable impact at a grassroots level.

   The focus of PSD has and always will be to support the most vulnerable people in rural Nepal.  In this sense, when described as a social development organization, this means that the focus is always human based and in particular, on marginalized groups or ethnic communities with no discrimination in our project selection. We support the development of social groups (for example youth and women) without any profit for PSD Nepal. This was also a founding principle of PSD, to maximize their impact by minimizing overhead costs so that more money could be spent on the charitable project.

   Sustainability and the means by which to achieve it is also a pivotal feature of social development. Sustainability in development, the desire to create a positive change which will continue without the need for extra funding, is both conceptually and practically important within this field. In order to achieve long-term results which will benefit generation after generation, PSD feels that every development initiative must come from the target group which must also retain ownership throughout the whole project. Therefore, it is the community that decides what is important to them and how to achieve it. This can vary depending on the projects such as a classroom (increasing both opportunity and the capacity for development) for underprivileged children to income generation (a sustained means for development and access to basic facilities) for a mothers group.  This working practice has proved to be extremely successful in creating a sustainable result because after all the money is spent and the project is finished, it will be the community that maintains and nurtures the outcome.  Specific cultural norms and practices can often be overlooked when the community is not involved. Consider a situation where a small village receives a toilet, indisputably important to improve health and sanitation standards, yet what use is this toilet if the beneficiaries have never used one before, never seen one before and don’t understand why it is needed? The answer is simple; it is no use as the community will not adopt it into their daily lives. In a situation like this, PSD would attempt to raise awareness so that people can make informed decisions about what they needand then follow the lead of the community. This practice is by no means easy as each community has a very different understanding of the need for change and sometimes cultural practices contradict basic human wellbeing. However, we accept this challenge and strive to raise awareness, improve knowledge and support the outcome.

   It can be extremely difficult to start an NGO, particularly in a developing country which faces a continual problem of limited resources and political instability. Furthermore, the terrain of Nepal is mostly mountainous which can make transporting materials very difficult and expensive. However, it is this very environment that requiresan organization which will support development. PSD has found that most major obstacles can be overcome when you combine the energy and motivation of thepeople. We capitalize on the strength and drive of local communities to create lasting partnerships with overseas volunteer organizations and to achieve strong results in challenging situations. Sadly the demand always outweighs and far exceeds the funding capacity of PSD. However even one drop in the ocean creates ripples and the effects of our projects are often extremely far reaching. Nonetheless, it has been a long road to get to a position in which we could build sustained links across both the country and world. Since beginning in 2002, we have hosted approximately 500 volunteers and spent nearly 650,000 US dollars on around 300 different projects across the whole of Nepal. We currently rely on international volunteers and a UK web-based charity for funding; however, as always, we are looking for new ways to increase funding and the scope of PSD projects.

   We have found that the smallest projects can have a wealth of benefits and by working at the grassroots level we are able to work sustainably, evaluate projects and build upon previous experiences. In comparison to larger organizations, our expenses and overheads are miniscule while our projects have a lasting and valid impact. We at PSD are committed to working transparently to make a difference to the people that are too often forgotten in this country. Not only do we have a commitment to development, we are also committed to achieving this in a manner that enhances further opportunity even after the funding stops. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, give a man a fishing rod and the necessary skills and he and his family will eat for generations.

   If you are interested in our work or volunteering with us we are always happy to hear from you, please visit our website: www.psdnepal.orgfor more information.