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Written by Pham Tung Lam 

Learning Route participants in interaction at community
The Learning Route on “Women empowerment, new businesses and sustainable natural resources management” could not look more encouraging and exciting on its final day. Route participants busily exchange views and work as individual or together in group to crack down final details of their innovation plan – a final stage of conceptualizing what they learn and take home after their nine-day journey which have taken them to Kavre, Chitwan and Kapilvastu. 

Getting to a point of completing her group presentation, Kumari Pabitra Nepali felt motivated and positive than ever. Being a manager of the Karmeshwor Agriculture Cooperative Ltd, in Kapilvastu, she is prepared to turn the newly- gained ideas into actions that will benefit herself and other cooperative members.

“We should not be afraid of failure. We have now new knowledge, skills, energies and commitment to do something different”, shared Kumari.

From the field visits, idea from the onion production run by the Pragatishil Agricultural Cooperative in Bijwa inspired Kumari to adapt a new commercial vegetable farming for her own Cooperative.

According to the idea of Kumari and her group members, they would like to start off a commercial vegetable farming on a leasehold land of 32 kattha (approximately 0,5 hectares) that will generate jobs and regular incomes for 100 local women and men.

Kumari and her group members presenting their Innovation Plan
“We did not think about this idea before the Learning Route. We have just grown vegetables based on season and based on our own needs. Seeing good experiences in the host communities have made us think of new ways to bring benefits our community and sustain income”, continued Kumari.

Local market in Bijwa
Meena KC, President of Mahendrakot Cooperative, could not agree more. “It is easy and can connect many people working for a common objective at the same time. Small opportunities, if we can analyze them well would bring big success”, she said.

Sanjay Kumar wrap up learning points at Pragatishil Cooperative
Having the agreement of working together and complementing each other’s efforts, Meena notes that the two groups will be even stronger and more united for a common goal of social inclusion and empowerment as drivers of economic activities.  “We’d like to work by putting our heads and hands together to implement this project, both women, men and everyone else should be equally included”, added Meena. “Various international organizations or NGO often come to our area with their own idea and funding. Now we will go to them with our proposal for funding, we know where to knock on doors”, she noted.

“In these nine days of journeying and learning together, we have seen very good cases in women empowerment, natural resource management and income generation activities. We take back very positive lesson learned and experiences”, summarized Kumari.

The innovative idea of Kumari and Meena was not just alone. Many other initiatives and new proposals were presented by 27 other participants. They provide innovative ways of addressing rural poverty by social inclusion, capacity building and scale up best practices.

Being a key local facilitator, Sanjay Kumar Jha, Porfolio Programme Manager of Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) has been instrumental for the entire process of Learning Route preparation, systematization and implementation. He is content with the process, outcomes and increased awareness on tools available for rural development by all stakeholders involved such as participants, facilitators as well as the visited communities. “The Learning Route has promoted knowledge sharing and understanding of economic conditions and social inclusion as keys to improve livelihoods of rural people”, said Sanjay Kumar.

“We decide to have a Learning Route in Bijuwa VDC, Kapivastu because good practices of social inclusion are here. They include the fact that Dalit [Dalit are those groups considered as traditionally low cast and excluded from most social and economic development]and female representatives are provided with equal opportunities. Local women can now openly discuss and confidently describe their issues and take leadership positions”, continued Sanjay Kumar while stressing that the case study has helped influence the thinking of participants.

He also noted that it is not yet the end of the process and future efforts will be made to monitor of project implementation while sustaining and expanding good models which have been proven effective. He wrapped up by emphasizing that “Participants as well as facilitators are indeed very happy. Everyone has some great learning points to bring back home for implementation”.