Reaching the last mile in Nepal

March 6th, 2014

So it’s nearly the end of our financial year here in Practical Action. The great thing about this time of year is the chance to look at just how far we have come. At a recent video conference for our knowledge sharing service, Practical Answers, we did just that and we discovered fantastic progress and great innovation.

Taking our work in just one country as an example. In the last three months in Nepal alone our free of charge technical enquiries service  has handled more than 5000 enquiries per month. This is a huge step change – as only a few years ago the whole service handling only 3500 enquiries globally in a year

Knowledge broker in Nepal in action

knowledge broker in Nepal in action

The key to Nepal’s success has been taking the knowledge out to the people who really need it. “Reaching the very last mile”. We have a really constructive partnership with an organisation called READ Nepal . They have established 55 community library and resource centres across the Himalayan country – all are self-sustaining. Into about 20 of these libraries we have put a knowledge service, handling technical enquiries and running training and regular “focus group discussions” to tackle current issues with the local community. If an answer is not immediately available from the library, we seek help from local and district authorities. And if a question is particularly frequent we get a Kathmandu radio station to record a programme on the subject that can be played back to the community. I saw this once when there was great interest in mushroom cultivation as a possible additional source of income for people living on the margins.  One innovation this year has been for one centre to start to provide real time weather forecast information to the local community to warn against extremes,  and help the farmers plant and harvest at optimal times.

A further innovation in the last year has been the establishment of local knowledge management committees. These are made up of local government representatives , agriculture officers, sometimes the water authorities. Far from being bureaucratic they have helped give the service real sustainability. It’s great to bring these groups together and demonstrate how valuable simply sharing knowledge can be and what an impact it can have on people’s lives and livelihoods.

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