Current situationThe objective of EIIP's work in Nepal is to improve the capacity for provision and maintenance of rural infrastructure, thus contributing to government efforts to alleviate poverty in rural areas. As part of this support, the ILO assists the government in developing their infrastructure investment programmes with an emphasis on enhancing the use of local resources in infrastructure works through measures such as local employment creation, involvement of the local private sector and strengthening local government institutions.
With funding from the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund, the ILO recently commenced employment-intensive rural road maintenance works in two provinces as a means to increase employment opportunities for households that has lost jobs and income as a result of economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the mobilisation of community groups living in the vicinity of the roads, both men and women are being employed to maintain provincial roads. The work arrangements are based on the recent guidelines the ILO prepared for the WB supported Strengthening the National Transport Rural Transport Programme, SNRTP.
Recent EIIP InvolvementFrom 2014 to 2019, EIIP activities in Nepal focused on providing technical assistance to the Strengthening the National Rural Transport Programme. The objective of the SNRTP was to improve the availability and reliability of core rural roads in 37 districts. Besides upgrading roads in poor condition, priority was also given to protecting existing rural road assets through regular provision of maintenance.
Forming an integral part of the project capacity building programme, the ILO technical assistance focused on establishing sustainable maintenance practices in the districts, thereby protecting the investments made so far in the rural road network. The bulk of the ILO technical assistance consisted of engineers and technicians posted in each of the project districts, with the task of establishing a comprehensive maintenance management system. This system included establishing an up-to-date road condition inventory and, on this basis, implementing the routine and periodic maintenance regime.
Routine maintenance was carried out through local Road Maintenance Groups (RMG), applying employment-intensive work methods. Each group consisted of 4 to 5 workers, in charge of 8 to 10 km road sections. Workers were recruited from the poorest households in the vicinity of the roads - with two thirds of the workforce being women. The district authorities awarded each group a contract for a period of one year. Payments were based on work performance and carried out through bank transfers to each of the group members.
The maintenance works generated some 4 million workdays of employment. Innovative solutions were introduced to secure decent working conditions, introducing wage payments through local banks, improving occupational safety and health practices and securing accident insurance for the workforce. Local communities benefited from both the jobs created during the works and continue to see the benefit of the improved access.
Historical informationThe ILO’s involvement in employment-intensive infrastructure works started back in the 1980s through the Nepal Special Public Works Programme and thereafter the Dhaulagiri Irrigation Development Project. At the time, the technical cooperation focused on community works related to hill irrigation schemes.
In the 1990s, EIIP related activities shifted to the rural road subsector during which major efforts were provided as institutional support to the Ministry of Local Development. With funding from the Asian Development Bank, the ILO provided support to the creation of the Department of Local Infrastructure and Agricultural Roads (DoLIDAR). The ILO technical support during this period produced some of the key implementation guidelines of DoLIDAR, including guidelines on district level transport planning, work norms and technical specifications. The preparation of district master plans following the technical guidelines, as well as the development of local capacity to carry out rural transport planning and infrastructure works, were the first steps towards the implementation of a national strategy.
During the same period, the ILO worked closely with the World Bank to build capacity within district authorities and private contractors for the construction and maintenance of rural roads using employment-intensive methods. A training centre was established in Butwal where both contractors and government staff were trained.
In the early 2000s, the ILO provided training and monitoring to the WB funded Rural Infrastructure Project (RIP). At the end of the RIP, the ILO participated in the formulation and appraisal of the Rural Access Improvement Project. As part of this exercise, the ILO carried out a comprehensive training needs assessment for DoLIDAR and the District Technical Offices.
The planning process through local government was further supported during the same period through collaboration with DoLIDAR on developing a Nepali version of Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning (IRAP). A generic IRAP process applied in other Asian countries was adapted to Nepalese conditions and implemented through the district authorities.
Starting in 2007, employment-intensive infrastructure works figured as a major component in the Dutch funded Employment and Local Economic Development project, consisting of irrigation, watershed management and rural road works. This project also provided the opportunity to further develop the concept of contracting local communities to maintain rural roads.
In 2009 the EIIP was involved in local infrastructure works in Dhanusha and Ramechhap Districts introducing community contracting in rural road maintenance and urban improvement works. The urban infrastructure work was prioritised and implemented by the communities, consisting of improving streets, drainage canals and community buildings. Emanating from the road works was the first maintenance guideline for rural roads in Nepal.
The EIIP also provided technical inputs to the Karnali Employment Programme (KEP). The KEP was a public works based social protection scheme attempting to address poverty and vulnerability in the poorest part of Nepal.
In 2010, employment-intensive investments in community infrastructure featured as one of the components in the Jobs for Peace Project, a joint FAO-ILO programme promoting youth employment as part of the post-conflict process of reintegration. The EIIP supported local communities in improving local roads, market infrastructure and irrigation schemes in Parsa and Rautahat Districts.
With financial and technical support from the ILO and in close coordination with the Rural Access Improvement and Decentralization Project (RAIDP), routine maintenance of rural roads through community groups was piloted in three districts, Palpa, Kaski and Rupandehi. Through the use of employment-intensive work methods, these pilot activities again demonstrated how rural roads could be effectively maintained and at the same time create more jobs. At the same time, key aspects of the decent work agenda were further strengthened, including improvements in occupational safety and health and wages paid through local bank.
On various occasions, the EIIP has worked closely with Tribhuvan University. Back in the early 2000s an extensive collection of literature on labour-based technology was provided to its library.
After the earthquakes in 2015, the EIIP actively participated in the Post Disaster Needs Assessment and also supported the government efforts in its early reconstruction works with technical assistance and funding support to debris clearance and maintaining access roads into the affected areas.
Key reference literature
- An alternative to migration: Building roads and bridges, SNRTP, World of Work Magazine, Nepal special report, ILO 2015
- Occupational safety and health guidelines, Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (DOLIDAR), ILO 2017
- Road Maintenance Groups (RMG), Guideline, Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agricultural Roads (DOLIDAR), ILO 2015
- Technical assistance to the Strengthening the National Rural Transport Programme, SNRTP, Final report, ILO 2020
- Road maintenance as a vehicle for social inclusion and decent work for women, SNRTP, ILO 2019
- Appraisal of the Karnali Employment Programme as a Regional Social Protection Scheme, Kirit Vaidya, ILO 2010
- Integrated Rural Accessibility Planning in Nepal, Chris Donnges, Jagannath Ojha, Chloe Pearse, ILO 2003
- Decent Civil Works in Nepal: From Research to Action Planning, David Tajgman, ILO 2005