Innovative Cooperative Project Multiplies USAID Water Security Impact in Nepal

Villagers reflect on their experience and lessons learned during their integrated activity in Hamtad village, in the Rangun Khola watershed. Photo: Liz Kendall/Winrock International

This story originally appeared on the SWP website.

This year marked the completion of an innovative USAID project aimed at improving cooperation between USAID projects in Nepal around the shared goal of water security. Facilitated by the Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP), which is implemented by Winrock International, the two-year Integrated Water Management Activity (IWMA) worked with 10 USAID projects to improve water security in two target watersheds in western Nepal.   

Though Nepal has more than 6,000 streams and rivers, a combination of factors including deforestation, climate change,  insufficient  water infrastructure and  ineffective water management cause the country to suffer from water  insecurity.  

USAID Nepal has a broad portfolio of activities in which water plays a role, including work on multiple use water systems, disaster risk management, biodiversity, and maternal and child health.  Until IWMA, these projects, which are implemented by a diverse group of USAID implementing partners (IPs), had  limited collaboration.  To change this, IWMA created a five-step water security integration process based on SWP’s  Water Security Improvement (WSI) process  and the  Integrated Watershed Management Framework developed  by USAID Nepal’s Social, Environmental and Economic Development (SEED) office.  Reorienting collaboration through the lens of water security  helped break down silos, enabling IPs to see themselves as complementary parts of USAID Nepal’s broader goals for beneficiaries in the two target watersheds.  

IWMA facilitated five workshops with USAID IPs to  develop  a water security  integration  plan  for  each  watershed. During the workshops, IPs  identified  water security risks  that they could work together to address. The IPs then designed six  specific  field-level water security activities, each involving two or more IPs. The activities allowed the IPs to pool resources and knowledge to improve local water security.  

For example, the  Suaahara  II (suaahara  means “good nutrition” in Nepali) program recognized that nutrition challenges in a village called  Hamtad  were linked to  poor agricultural practices. The project requested financial and technical assistance from the  Promoting Agriculture, Health, and Alternative Livelihoods (PAHAL) project. PAHAL then  matched funds from the local ward and community to construct a soil cement water tank as part of a micro-irrigation system. 

To compliment the new infrastructure, local beneficiaries received training on water-saving technologies and  permagardening. As a result, Suaahara II and its beneficiaries  had the resources and tools needed to start improving their nutrition through increased access to irrigation for vegetables and training in climate-smart agricultural techniques.   

In another collaboration, the KISAN II project  needed a local partner to help extend agricultural input and supply networks to more remote areas. PAHAL and  Suaahara  II recommended a local farm supply store, called an agrovet,  with  which both projects had independently  collaborated. KISAN II provided a grant which enabled the agrovet  to grow its business by including  Suaahara  II and PAHAL beneficiaries in farmer groups to receive extension services. As a result, local farmers built and diversified their capacity, and the farmer groups increased fresh vegetable yields.

Now, USAID Nepal is taking steps to build on IWMA’s accomplishments. The SEED Office is applying lessons learned and best practices identified by IWMA to improve water security integration within USAID Nepal with practices such as:   

  • Establishing integration working groups led by the  mission;
  • Using watersheds as the unit of geographic focus for future water-related projects;
  • Prioritizing collaboration with local governments to build their capacity;
  • Developing and incorporating water security integration language to be included in future awards; and
  • Sharing a record of collaboration activities among IPs to facilitate the design of future integration activities.   

To read the final IWMA report, click here.   

By Knowles Adkisson, Winrock International