For demonstrating over many years the power of community mobilisation to address the multiple causes of poverty even when threatened by political violence and instability.
Shrikrishna Upadhyay is a Nepalese development practitioner who has empowered more than a million people in rural Nepal to work for the improvement of their living conditions. Through his work with different organisations, he has demonstrated that poverty can be eradicated if the poor are mobilised and organised. A strong advocate of local self-governance, Upadhyay has strengthened Nepalese communities despite violent political conflict in the country.
In 1991, Upadhyay founded the organisation Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal (SAPPROS). SAPPROS works in the poorest areas of a very poor country: a third of the population live in absolute poverty, according to government figures. SAPPROS’ strategy is to develop grassroots level institutions that are self-sufficient, replicable and enable people in poverty to self-govern and manage community affairs.
SAPPROS’ infrastructure programmes have led to the instalment of water systems, rural roads, suspension bridges, while also renovating health posts, schools and community buildings in several villages.
Shrikrishna Upadhyay was educated in the US and earned an MS in Economics. Serving as chairman of the board and general manager of the Agricultural Development Bank of Nepal (1982-1990) and as a member of the National Planning Commission of Nepal (1990-1993), Upadhyay came to the conclusion that top-down development does not work.
Thus, in 1975 he helped initiate the Small Farmer Development Programme (SFDP) which yielded substantial achievements in the fields of microcredit, low-cost drinking water supply schemes, tree planting, training and literacy through social mobilisation.
In 1991, Upadhyay established SAPPROS (Support Activities for Poor Producers of Nepal).
SAPPROS works in the poorest areas of a very poor country: a third of the population live in absolute poverty, according to government figures. SAPPROS' strategy is to develop grassroots level institutions that are self-sufficient, replicable and enable the poor people to self-govern and manage community affairs.
SAPPROS is currently working in 12 districts of Nepal, all but one in the northwest of the country. In total, by 2010, SAPPROS had formed 2,434 Savings and Credit Groups and 273 Cooperatives with a membership of 1.3 million of whom about 40 per cent are women.
Under SAPPROS' programmes, the following infrastructure has been installed by the villagers over the years:
rural roads, mule and foot trails, suspension bridges and wooden bridges
health posts, schools and community buildings were either built or rehabilitated.
SAPPROS has also helped communities manage dozens of community forests, covering over 2,000 hectares, and install thousands of latrines, hundreds of cooling stores, in addition to photovoltaic and biogas systems.
In all these works SAPPROS provided funds, but the community also contributed funds or labour or both. Because of this, under SAPPROS' schemes, these installations often cost much less than in conventional development cooperation projects. In total, SAPPROS has now worked with over 235,000 households.
How SAPPROS works
When working in a new village, SAPPROS first discusses with the participants their way of living and helps them identify positive and negative traditions. Next, they help the villagers analyse the root causes of poverty by conducting a "village survey." SAPPROS asks the villagers to identify their resources like water, land, forests etc., as well as their economic and social status. By asking who is rich and who is poor in the village and why this is the case, collecting data becomes an awareness-raising process. Based on this survey, the villagers choose among them one or more social mobilisers (local catalysts) who organise the implementation of their ideas. SAPPROS advises the villagers on different technical solutions, provides training to the local mobilisers and helps mobilise funding.
SAPPROS has developed manuals for user-groups covering topics such as irrigation, drinking water, forestry and rural roads. The manuals have been used for training by many other NGOs, and have also been utilised by international agencies, such as the UN Development Programme. It has also published a Social Mobilisation Manual, which explains social mobilisation for development.
The most remarkable fact about SAPPROS is that it has been able to conduct this work despite the political instability in Nepal. During the Maoist insurgency, it was often the only NGO left in contested areas and had to work on a razor edge between the warring parties, but it never lost any of its staff.
Upadhyay's experience has been recognised internationally in the form of invitations to act as a consultant for an agricultural credit review in Bangladesh (for the Asian Development Bank), irrigation management in Thailand, rural institutions in Nepal and local governance in Mongolia (UN Development Programme), and community development and integrated crop and food production in Afghanistan. He was a member of the Independent SARC (South Asian Regional Cooperation) Commission on Poverty organised by heads of state of the region in 1991. He has served on several committees in Nepal, among them the Prime Minister's coordination committee on decentralisation.
The Poverty Alleviation Fund
Upadhyay is now actively scaling up the success of community mobilisation in Nepal through a new institution, the Poverty Alleviation Fund. Upadhyay is a board member of the fund, and the Prime Minister is its chairman. The fund is supported by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and the World Bank, and the idea is to channel money directly to the communities, with NGOs and local governments as advisors and mobilisers, but avoiding the state bureaucracy. He hopes that the fund will soon be working in all 75 districts of Nepal, reaching almost 3 million people through thousands of community organisations.