Project Visit Report Bihar, India November 2015
By Philippe Birker & David Caspers
We will start this journey from the point where we are writing it from, the lovely capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. The three founders of the Love Foundation (Marius, David and Philippe) gathered here on the 8th of November 2015, and after a few days here we embarked towards our project in Bihar, India close to the Nepalese border. Due to the Nepalese fuel crisis sparked by an Indian-imposed fuel import blockade this was a bigger task than expected. Long story short we ended up in a Jeep with 7 other Nepalese and Chinese people trying to make it towards the border. Due to the current political turbulences on the Indian/Nepalese border, the main crossing in Raxaul was closed and we had to head further south to Biratnagar.
The journey started with crossing the Nepalese mountains (serious mountains) in order to reach the valley where the Indian border was. Soon after we embarked, it became clear that safe driving in Nepal has a different meaning than in Europe and the three of us had a fair share of bonding moments when we went with screaming tires into another curve downwards the hills
Once at the bottom a military convoy welcomed us, being so kind escorting us and hundreds of other cars, busses and vans through the occupied militants zone in the south east of Nepal - through the dark of the middle of the night. Tensions between Nepal and India are at a height right now, given the blockade of fuel and oil imports from India to Nepal. With the sunrise in our backs, we finally believed to have reached our destination, and we walked over the border to India.
However, a crucial exit stamp from Nepal was needed, which could only be gotten roughly 300 km east from where we were. Thus, we headed further to the border of Nepal and the Indian state of Bengal, in order to enter the country where our project is carried out. After another 8 hours and a total journey of 2.5 days, we finally reached our project area, and met with our colleagues Sanjib and Francesca from the Welthungerhilfe in Darbhanga, India.
After a good night of rest, we left the hotel at 8am to drive to our project area. We were warmly welcomed by the Indian partner organization of the Welthungerhilfe, called GPSVS, which is operating from its head office in the middle of the project area, which we have been supporting over the last three years.
There, we got a first overview and personal introduction to the work that has been carried out over the last few years, and we got an overview of what has been achieved. Before showing you the facts, we should explain that the main approach of GPSVS is to empower the local community and to initiate a behaviour change in the local population. The idea is that it does not help if you as an external actor build toilets that no one uses afterwards and that it is much more important to educate people about the importance of hygiene, the difference between clean water and pure water and other information related to WASH.
The method that the GPSVS chose for this is the establishment of WASH committees in all of the project villages under its supervision. WASH committees are largely consisting of women (usually more than 80%) from the local villages. This serves the double purpose of giving empowering women in a male dominated society, as well as giving voice and decision making power to the community, as the WASH committee decides together with the GPSVS what should be done in order to increase the cleanliness as well as the access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygienic practices in the specific village.
Our partner organisation GPSVS was established in 1977. Since then it is working on community-based mechanisms for self reliance and sustainability and cultivate e.g. an administrative unit as the focal point for promoting an inclusive model of self reliance, development and organization. Their focus is village self-reliance based on principles of Equity, Justice, Tolerance and ‘Ahimsa’ (= non violence). Key objectives of the organisation contain e.g. the formation of people’s organization for women and youths to strengthen the capacity of marginalized communities for sustainable development, influencing policies to create enabling environments for community led programmes. For GPSVS, all objectives should be achieved with gender sensitivity. GPSVS tries to work on a grassroots level with creative people’s involvement throughout the last 35 years in Bihar, and is since the past decade geographically widening their activities to other districts.