Partnerships to transform NepalThe world today is a global village. Unimaginable amounts of information are accessible at the click of a mouse. This means no country is isolated—we are all interconnected and inter-dependent.
The world today is a global village. Unimaginable amounts of information are accessible at the click of a mouse. This means no country is isolated—we are all interconnected and inter-dependent. For Nepal, this is even more so given that we are landlocked. The key to sustainable success, therefore, is based on strong and healthy partnerships between countries, communities and between public and private sectors. SDG 17 is instrumental for the sustained development of communities and countries. It is particularly relevant and important for Nepal.
The Government and development partners must work together closely to help ensure that people are empowered and engaged in the nation’s development. I also believe that the key to sustainable development lies in the establishment of effective partnerships between public and private sectors. The private sector can bring a lot more than finances to the table; the innovation and entrepreneurship that exists in the private sector can help the public sector to be more imaginative and dynamic. I think this is of great importance as we move into a new era, with challenges we have never faced before.
Thriving on trust
The first step in creating such partnerships is to build trust. We need to be effective in demonstrating to the private sector that partnerships with development actors can be a win-win situation. This might not always be obvious at first glance, however, there are numerous ways in which private sector companies can benefit from a commitment to Nepal’s development. That many companies have corporate social responsibility programmes is a testament to this understanding.
Let me give an example from my experience with public-private model projects in tourism. Today these are not only sustainable, they are thriving.
At Mahabir Pun’s village in Myagdi, with the support of the community, Nature-Treks.com pioneered the Annapurna-Dhaulagiri Community Eco-lodge treks. The lodges are built, owned and managed by the community, and all profits are used to support the education of children from the local villages.
As the private sector participant, we assumed the role of promoting the brand, creating linkages with national and international markets, and training human resources in service provision such as catering and hospitality management, all to ensure that visitors were properly welcomed and taken care of.
The underlying philosophy of the project is that, since the communities are the main actors and make the biggest contribution by allowing use of their forest, their mountains, and their rivers and streams, they must also receive the lion’s share of the profits. The private sector may earn 35 to 40 percent; this is certainly enough for us to take the idea to the international market. Our effort in linking communities with markets was successful. The business is now thriving.
Before our intervention, the average income of a local person was around Rs600 per night per tourist. With the added value that the project brings, earnings have now risen to Rs4,200 per night per tourist. All the personnel that serve the tourists, from the porters to the guides, are trained people from the local community. There is every reason to expect that this model can be successfully replicated elsewhere.
In Sukute, on the bank of the Sunkoshi River, we asked the local community school to lease their property to us; we built up the infrastructure and the school became our business partner. Using this leased land as the centre, we drew a 500 metre radius and declared it to be conserved land; no sand and gravel can be mined from that area and that will lead to conservation of the river. Local employment is increasing and local entrepreneurs are encouraged as the business thrives.
Another example of a public-private partnership is the clean-up campaign for the Bagmati River. The Nepal River Conservation Trust took on this initiative in 2001 as an awareness campaign. The Bagmati River Festival was a result of this initiative; it focuses on clean-up activities, the planting of vegetation, workshops, and the promotion of art, literature and music. After continuous efforts spanning over a period of 12 years, the Government, in partnership with the private sector, has taken the initiative to the next level. The Bagmati River Festival is now a movement, with regular weekend clean up initiatives that have been running continuously for more than 200 weeks now.
Similarly, many young people are involved with Heritage Ride, a cycling tour of all seven world heritage sites in Kathmandu, to conserve, promote and restore our cultural heritage. This is also a campaign to promote the linkage of all heritage sites with bicycle lanes. The private sector is providing support to the campaign; many companies see the potential value that such an initiative could hold for the tourism industry; the revenue that could be generated would be considerable. “Tour de Lumbini—Pedal for Peace”, an international cycling event, is an interesting model for what can be achieved. I find it inspiring to think of this as a model for Sustainable Eco-adventure tourism—this is the true meaning of peace and prosperity through tourism. If public and private sectors work together to achieve such goals, the sky is
the limit: we can all take ownership, and we will all benefit from the achievements. In conclusion, SDG 17 is very important. I believe that if we use our imagination, public-private partnerships can open the doors to incredibly interesting initiatives for the benefit of all Nepalis.
Ale is a water advocate and founder president of the Nepal River Conservation Trust/ Borderlands Group; this article is part of the weekly series on SDGs