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Usefulness of Comprehensive Rural Development Policies in the Present Context of Rural Development in Nepal

Nepal is essentially a rural country. More than 80 per cent of population live in rural areas with agriculture and allied activities as the major source of income and employment. The United Nations (UN) classifies Nepal as one of the least developed countries in the world. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $5.6 billion in 2001, with an estimated per capita GDP of $240. Several factors have contributed to Nepal’s underdevelopment, including its landlocked geography, rugged terrain, …

lack of natural resources, and poor infrastructure. China, India, Japan, the United States, and several European nations have made large investments in Nepal’s economy through foreign aid since 1952. Still, the country’s economic growth has been slow. Nepal’s economy is characterized by heavy dependence on foreign aid, a narrow range of exports, increasing economic disparity between the mountain areas and the more developed Tarāi region, excessive governmental control and regulation, and inefficient public enterprises and administration. In addition, the economy has not kept pace with the country’s high population growth. In particular, the slow growth of agriculture has resulted in food shortages and malnutrition for some of Nepal’s people.

Agriculture dominates Nepal’s economy. It provides a livelihood for 79 percent of the population and contributes 39 percent of GDP. The Tarāi is the main farming region of the country. Rice and corn are major food crops; potato, oilseed, sugarcane, jute, and tobacco are major cash crops. Nepal’s industrial base is limited. Most industries are based on agricultural raw materials or dependent on various imported materials, mostly from India. Large manufacturing plants are owned and operated by the government. Major manufactured products include jute, sugar, cigarettes, beer, matches, shoes, cement, and bricks. Traditional cottage industries such as basket and carpet weaving are also important to Nepal’s economy.

Over the past decades successive governments in Nepal introduced various rural development plans like,

a. Village development program focused on community development.
b. The First Five Year Plan (1956-60) focused on comprehensive national development.
c. The Second Plan (1962-65) focused on agricultural development.
d. The Third Plan (1965-70) focused on agricultural sector and increment on agricultural productivity through the diffusion of improved technology.
e. The Fourth Plan (1970-75) focused on balancing between natural and regional development by the proper utilization of resources and extension of benefits of development work.
f. The Fifth Plan (1975-80) focused on people oriented production and maximum utilization manpower. (IRD approach adopted in 1978)
g. The Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85) focused on local development by promoting people’s participation.
h. The Seventh Plan (1985-90) focused on local development on the basis of local felt needs and priority included training, remote area development, integrated rural development and other local welfare programs.
i. The Eighth Plan (1990-95) focused on improving the socio-economic conditions of the rural people.
J. The Ninth Plan (1995-2000) focused on mobilizing resources and technology available at the local level through local development approach.
K.The Tenth Plan (2000-05) focused on local development through people’s participation.

Nepal has so far passed the tenth plan and through different plans different local as well as rural development programs are implemented. Most of the policies’ plans have talked about rural development, local development, agricultural development, development through people’s participation but substantial development has not been achieved.

Usefulness of Policies:
The policies, plans and programs of Nepal always seem very good in written term as it talks about rural development through active participation of local bodies, rural irrigation, transportation, rural infrastructure, water supply, school buildings, health post, small hydroelectricity, employment opportunity, resources mobilization, socio- economic development programs for ethnic tribes, women and marginalized groups consideration, environmental consciousness, job security, career development trainings, local level development activities etc., but we always become failure when it comes to its effective implementation.

We can see somewhat usefulness of policies but the propounded policies and plans should be implemented effectively. We have the experiences form the past that substantial development cannot take place without effective implementation of policies and programs right from the initial stage. What we lack is that we always talk about people’s participation but we always ignore the participation of people when implementing the plans and policies in local level so our overall implementation in real sense lags us behind. Thus, the participation of local people would be encouraged in project planning and implementation and sharing of benefits.

Despites the planned efforts made during the past decades to speed up the process of development and reduce the extent of poverty in the country, the actual outcome has been very disappointing.

The rural development policies were prepared with the objective of achieving target growth in overall production. As the rural development policies were implemented without the participation of local people, the benefits did not percolate down to the intended section of the people. We have the policy of decentralization but the control of almost all the local development programs by the central made the local bodies virtually powerless. This centralized nature of administrative system together with its highly bureaucratic practice has alienated the general public to a status of rural- ruled relationship instead of civil servants-citizens relationship. So, there the usefulness of policy seems failure in its practicality. Besides, the lack of clear-cut policy guidelines, contradictory policies and the absence of public participation in financial management and program implementation not only raised the cost of implementation but also reduced the quality of its services. The lack of integration of local bodies, the integrated Rural Development programs and other projects with the local training centers resulted in the uncoordinated training activities. So, there is failure term of policy usefulness. Besides, one of the main factors for the failure of the previous rural development efforts was faulty programming. When preparing a policy, it seems that little attention was given to balanced investment on a regional basis. Further there were no attempts to mobilize local resources and manpower and that the program entirely depended on external aid. As, a consequence, the policy failed to create the required base for self- reliant and sustainable development.

Under these circumstances it is thus necessary to formulate the policies considering the principle of decentralization not centralized – decentralization. Besides, other rural development policies need to be focused on increasing production and employment. Special efforts in policy will have to be made to develop the socio-economic conditions of people living in rural areas and even basically the backward communities so that they can participate more fully in the process of national development. Besides here are some recommendations for effective implementation of the policies:

1. The authority and responsibility for planning and implementation of rural development should be entrusted to the local institutions. With the decentralization of authority and functions to local institutions, people’s participation in planning, implementation, and evaluation will be quite effective.
2. Such policy should be adopted so that the investment in rural development will be directed towards productive activities. Extravagance in staff facility should be curtailed. There is an urgent need for administrative reform. Staff turnover and decentralization of authority should be given proper attention.
3. As rural development is indispensable to alleviate poverty, it is important that it should be part of the overall development strategy and policy, and it should constitute the main thrust of such efforts. In the mean time, evaluation of development projects must not concentrate on assessing the targets and listing the aggregate data, nor should it be done just to fulfill the formal requirements of the donor- agencies. Rather any meaningful evaluation will have to provide an answer to such basic questions as what impact the programs have had on the living conditions of the intended beneficiaries and whether that impact is sustainable.
4. The government should be more explicit in defining its rural development policy including operational goals. For this, the integrated approach to rural development should get priority in development plans, programs and actions.
5. The government should be committed to IRD strategy and then prepare appropriate conditions for ensuring coordination among the participating agencies.
6. The rural development projects, instead or being overly biased towards infrastructure development, must incorporate directly productive and employment generating programs. Poverty focused projects identified by the rural poor themselves should be formulated and executed.
7. People’s participation must not be taken solely to mean contribution of voluntary labor. Instead, it should be convinced as the disciplined and organized involvement of local people. This demands effective decentralization of power to the village and district political institutions for planning, programming and implementation of rural development.
8. Efforts should be made to prepare experienced rural development cadres based on the fieldwork.
9. Realistic methods of continuous monitoring and evaluation should be adopted.
10. Most prominently, state as being central economic and social development should not act as a direct and sole provider of growth but as a partner, catalyst, facilitator, and regulator for rural development. Good governance mechanism should be there so that people’s participation can be guaranteed in the process of development right from the very beginning of plan formulation and execution.

These are the true spirits of rural development that combats rural poverty paving way for elevated esteem of the rural mass and remarkable usefulness of the policies.

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