Nepali Times
Pragatinagar's progress


HEAVY DUTY: A community mobiliser and her husband weigh their child to monitor growth

If you think plans mean nothing in Nepal, think again. There is a place in Nepal where plans translate into reality, goals are achieved on time and government offices do not reek of incompetence and corruption. Welcome to Pragatinagar VDC in Nawalparasi, a model village in every sense.

Pragatinagar was once an inhospitable highway settlement 25 kilometres west of Bharatpur. Many now know it as the first VDC in Nepal to declare itself a No Open Defecation Zone. But this was just the beginning. On May 26 this year, this VDC of 2690 households added feathers to its cap by declaring itself the first VDC with 100 per cent school enrollment, iodine coverage and birth registration. Pragatinagar also has the lowest level of malnutrition (2.5%) and one of the highest levels of adult literacy (86%) in Nepal.

What do these statistics mean? Every child above five, irrespective of socioeconomic status, has access to education, every household with children consumes iodised salt (reducing malnutrition) and every child born is registered within 35 days of birth, ensuring its fundamental right to identity. The advances made in physical infrastructure are no less inspiring. The road networks are well managed, the water is safe to drink, and there are irrigation facilities as well as health and education services available.

VDC secretary Rajendra Prasad Devkota is full of excitement when describing these achievements. "There are many VDCs that receive more assistance from the government. But every change that has taken place in Pragatinagar is because of the untiring efforts of the child clubs, women's groups and community mobilisers," he says. Pragatinagar's amazing network of community stakeholders was set up with UNICEF's DACAW program over a decade ago.

Its child club network, comprising 20 clubs (including Nepal's first, Jagriti Child Club), is one of the driving forces of Pragatinagar's development. The network spearheaded the No Open Defecation campaign, conducting door-to-door visits, raising awareness, helping in toilet construction in all households, and monitoring the campaign to ensure its success. A School Sanitation Program launched 10 years ago has also been successful.

President of the child club network, Sanju Khanal, and acting secretary of Jagriti Child Club, Sagar Neupane, describe their watchdog role. "We work as a bridge between the community and the local authorities. We collaborate with the VDC in its every endeavour to ensure that the community benefits."

The community mobilisers, mostly women, are also key to Pragatinagar's achievements. There are one to three community mobilisers in each neighbourhood who go from door to door weighing newborns, distributing vitamin A capsules, sending pregnant women for at least four compulsory medical check-ups, and handing out birth registration forms. These unpaid workers have no interest other than to serve the community. Maintaining the VDC's achievements, they say, is a lot harder than reaching targets in the first place.

Kamala Ghimire, 28, had her hands full with her two children, husband and in-laws. But now she looks after all the households in ward no. 5 as its community mobiliser. In the last decade she has wheeled her bicycle to every home in Pragatinagar. She has truly witnessed the transformation of her village and her only motivation, she says, is to see that "no child or mother ever has to die for lack of proper health care."

It's not out to place to wonder at the selflessness of people such as Kamala Ghimire. But instead of providing monetary incentives, VDC secretary Devkota leads by example. His office is plastered with detailed descriptions of the VDC's expenses and sources of income, and this is updated every month for the benefit of the public. There's even a fortnightly schedule detailing Devkota's activities. He does it to instill a sense of ownership among the community and to make them feel that the VDC is accountable to them. "There is no place for irregularities and red tape in my office. If we want to involve the community, we have to earn their trust."

Devkota speaks of the challenges ahead, the limited resources and the infrastructure that is still needed to meet the targets Pragatinagar has set for itself. But going by its record, it is impossible not to be hopeful. Pragatinagar proves that all it takes to develop a place is not money or resources, but leadership and determination.

Progress, incorporated
Toilets in all 2690 households
100% school enrollment (5 to 8 years old)
100% iodine coverage
100% birth registration
86% adult literacy
2.5% malnutrition
7 cooperatives
3 development banks
18 educational institutions
20 child clubs

Tamakoshi bonanza

1. jhankri
Thats it then I am moving to this village.

2. Mero Desh
Wow, I am so much thrilled about this article that local communities are acting as a role model for whole nation. This again under scores the point that empowering women, effective leadership and selfless attitude can make a big difference.

Cheers for the Pragatinagar and their people and best wishes for the future.

3. Anonymous
The local initiative of this kind is exemplary, the hard numerical evidences speak for themselves! Nepal needs more of "Pragatinagars" all over the Nation. I think that the NPC members of Nepal should learn from Pragatinagar. Instead of having donor-dictated seminars and workshops in five star hotels in KTM, and imposing top-down policies from the pulpit, our professionals and leaders should learn to go to the people and learn from them. Nepali youth have tremendous enthusiasm, talent and organizational capacity. They still  have love for their native places. In the past, initiatives like "Rastriya Bikash Sewa" (NDS), or "Afno Gaun Afai Banau" or "Bishwesor with Gareeb" were sounding superb on paper, however, there was lack of local spirit in these programs, that's why they weathered away and eventually died down. On the other hand, people-initiated models like "Pragatinagar" has different narrative. It is the people's passion for change and the burning desire for self-management that have given fuel to the engine. In contrast to the cynicism, back-biting, hollow-sounding tall orders among our so-called intellectuals and political pundits, people in-action can transform the national psyche. Positive change is possible in Nepal-- "Yes we CAN!"

4. wtf
the first thing to do here is to send all the politicos, so called high-level committees and the self-declared 'intelligensia' (I hate that term, as if the rest of us are morons), press to boot camps in this village...let them realize what they 'could have' done in the last 10 years had they had an iota of focus outside of playing attempts at grabbing the chair...better still gather them all, 'allocate' some isolated space somewhere and let them 'build' a model village from of it...believe me , it's a win win situation for us...if they succeed, hopefully they come out with SOME ideas to do A LITTLE BIT of development work in the country...if they don't, well, we'll just leave them alone and let them keep trying ;-)

5. wtf

6. KiranL
I really want to thank Nepali Times and Rubeena Mahato for this issue and for showing us that there is also positive things happening in Nepal and that Nepalese people are capable of improving their lives by themselves. Now, all we need to do is replicate Pragatinagar to other VDC and DDC all over Nepal.  

7. Arthur
Good article! It would be interesting to have more information on how the local leadership and determination was able to overcome the obstacles higher up.

8. R RAI

I agree with Anonymous 100%. A very inspiring report. Thanks to Ms Mahato and NT.

I wish every single Nepali knew about Pragatinagar and its pragati.It is a fantastic news not only for Nepalis but everyone living in the developing countries.I hope it will get the publicity it deserves.

I am from this Village, 
This is great. I eve didnt know that my village is such a great place to live.
Thanks for posting this article-RUBEENA MAHATO in NAWALPARASI.
I really appreciate your effort and good luck to your Journalism Career
Jitendra Gautam Pragatinagar-4, Dhaulagiri Line Nawalparasi

10. nirdosh
ohh thts, gr8.

11. Pramod Acharya

thats incredible...i love my village pragatinagar

12. sandman67
damn ,hard to believe that nepali people are able to  work towards something good like developing their own community.everyone should read this article and learn to be diligent ,hard-working and cooperative like pragatinagarians.a lil bit of positive energy can do so much.those achievements are remarkable ,imagine if the entire country had a literacy rate of 86%,we would certainly have had better leaders.maybe the VDC secretary mr.devkota should be the next PM of nepal,instead of PKD or MKN.

13. Nirmal
the child in the photograph is very beautiful, yes vote to VDC committee of this community for the new cabinet! no more habitual maobadi khaobadi netas we need only good karyakartas of the society. Devkota is my favorite PM for the emntire Nation. Let's vote for them!

14. Tilottam paudel
I am Tilottam Paudel founder president of the Jagriti Child Club Nepal (First Child Club in Nepal)and local people of the Pargatinagar VDC. I am very glad to see this news with the covering of the our V.D.C., progress and about the child Club. I would like give special thanks for the V.D.C. Secretary and Reporter, who published in media. I would like to suggest, Pargatinagar V.D.C. have other more that kins of information if you are interested to research in this VDC. From my side I am always contribute how much i can, to make this VDC as a Child Friendly VDC and Model VDC of Nepal. My email address is 

15. Sargam

Pragatinagar's progress is in the limelight

This write-up of Pragatinagar's progress was a large claim. Let me try to reinforce it with some substance.

We cannot put it on a par with anything already existing. Because every experience of a successfully administered village is an example to be taken as unique and exhaustive as it entirely depends on the way the stakeholders of Pragatinagar lived and felt throughout.

To quote the author, “Pragatinagar proves that all it takes to develop a place is not money or resources, but leadership and determination.”

Such a rare point of satisfaction in a country where seldom folks are acclaimed for their outstanding performances either indoor or outdoor activity should be taken with relative satisfaction. Let us be hopeful that such things get momentum little by little and will this crusade swirl nationwide in order to pull those other laggards up to showcase their new achievements. After all what we search is the satisfaction to live even far away in a backwater as the crisis abates throughout the country, and not feel woefully hurt with the turn of events.

Whatever may befall, all this speaks volumes about how the governing body of Pragatinagar headed by people like the VDC Secretary Rajendra Prasad Devkota along with the president of the Child Club network Sanju Khanal and acting secretary of Jagriti Child Club Sagar Neupane seemed pretty sorted out in terms of understanding they placed in the polity of their village most probably facing all kinds of spread of innuendos peddled by their rivals to defeat them in elections or otherwise. But as the majority might have favored them they could pass an important milestone of it with probity to making it at the end a success story. They all deserve with other denizens of Pragatinagar our due consideration and faith in their bright future.

“Every village has to become a self-sufficient Republic.” was the dream of a great soul like Gandhi. I gather that Pragatinagar is hands-on showing us the path to its realization.

If I were in the vicinity of Pragatinagar for sure I would have taken pain for a 'how to book on' or 'how to video on' this small village as a footage to show on telly as a reportage in order to showcase a good example to be followed by other villages in Nepal or abroad. I wouldn't be surprised that very soon there will be some prolific reportage spawning from that end to showcase as an example to be exhibited in UN conferences throughout the world.

For once, I would like to emphasize on the example given by Pragatinagar relevant to economic analysis of social wants of the folks that form the bulk of population.

As everybody is aware of the fact that there are as many interpretations of the term poverty as there are sociologists, economists and social workers. But the root cause of rural poverty is no doubt the illiteracy and ignorance. If in Nepal the peasants were as well instructed as in developed world of the West I am dead sure they would have enhanced their exploitation by leaps and bounds. Slowly this hurdle is getting wound up thanks to the international aids and better transmission of information through media interposed.

And ' Poverty' is a catchword. Woefully, the poor (the have-nots) are forced by economic circumstances to cooperate and help in organizing activities of middlemen and are exploitable by the rich (the haves), thereby widening the gap even more making the poor poorer and the rich richer. Because of this stalemate, marginal propensity to consume is greater than marginal propensity to save.

In all poverty-stricken countries, keeping aside the lack of staples, there are other tellingly important deficiencies relevant to health hazard. In recent past international UN organizations are getting involved in catering to the Vitamin and Mineral deficiency. In the case of Pragatinagar much have been done by providing iodized salt, to fight malnutrition, iron added flour and children are receiving two rounds of outreach of vitamin A supplementation.

Great progress will be done when flour fortification will be taken for granted as a must and the spread of vitamin A, iron, folic acid and zinc, which are known as micro-nutrients, will be reached out to those with VM deficiency to wipe out 'hidden hunger' or deficiency in calories, proteins or micro-nutrients.

Of all the good deeds, for a pragmatist it is but natural to accept that it is normal in nature things get old, worn out, and pop at the seams.

We need a radical change in our culture, from how we think about what life is to the economic system that supports it to the political system that enforces it. Our old system no longer works and cannot be made to work as its internal logic is apparently false and lethal.

Let us concentrate ourselves on some endemic problems. Nepal is often victim of different natural calamities brought about sometimes by monsoons causing inundation and landslide, sometimes by famine and drought, and now climate change. As this country has the chance to have all varieties of climate what could be more suitable than fruits to be planted according to climate change in the territory of Nepal.

When Terai could be blossoming with all sorts of juicy fruits such as mango, orange, jack fruit, pine apple, banana and papaya, the sub-tropical region could produce, plum of Syria, apricot, nectarine, peach, and grape fruit as well as string of grapes. Whereas the cold regions where seasons are like that of Switzerland, Sweden, and Canada could produce abundance of black berry, cranberry, raspberry, arbutus berry (strawberry), varieties of apple and et al. As we have seen the region of Ilam could be very prolific in producing tomatoes like in Spain and Morocco under the plastic shelters to control temperature, water distribution and fertilizers if possible monitored by the computer assisted device whole year round.

Mustang region is all set for the mushroom production as there are plenty of natural caves and abundance of horse dung so as to make the mushroom farming meant for exportation of the same to the region of Tibet.

It has been proved that some of the vegetables are the wonders by themselves. If you could take a kiwi everyday your heart will be as robust as that of a lad of fifteen thanks to vitamin C daily intake. If you need a vegetable which contains almost all vitamins and minerals do not hesitate to take curly parsley .or broccoli or sprouts everyday. All fruits with red and yellow color are full of vitamin A which mainly lack in Nepal frequently causing eye-diseases and slow growth of kids' height. If not take cod lever oil for its omega 3 , vitamin A and vitamin D.

We all must have a way with food which really helps.

All successful governments must have policy wonks who are experts in nutrition so as to help the Health minister to elaborate a caring policy for the sake of citizens in want of appropriate information about nutriments.

I took this opportunity to give a free ride on the roller coaster of my imagination in changing mind about giving the tot up. All that was made possible by Ms. Rubeena Mahato of Nawalparasi whose article deserves a dithyrambic praise from the part of the browsers who had access to the NT.

I firmly hope the abduction case of that cute lad Ashish Baniya,11, would be over with the happy end by the time you go through my lines.

C'mon folks, get a life!?!

16. d
Way to go Ru! Great reporting :)

17. surbir sthapit

We really proud the development of Pragatinagar.  we have seen all the changes in Pragatinagar from very near as we implemneting the same DACAW program which play vital role of the development of Pragatinagar. Yes ofcourse all the credit goes to the people living there, their enthusiam to develop their community, collective efforts and implement their plan in reality. We have seen lots of better plan which in vain because of lacking ethusiam to implement. This is the good example how we can make the  life better if you think and work collaboratively rather than looking other for our development.

The heartly thanks goes to all the active hands ofcourse VDC secretary, Child clubs, all the leaders, community mobilisers, mother groups etc. and also my sincere thanks to Rubeen for well coverage of the development of Pragatinagar and Nepali Times to publish it . It will definately encourge other VDCs to follow the footstep of Pragatinagar.


18. Rajesh
To Sargam: *Yawn*

To Pragatinagar: Rock on!

19. sagar neupane
I am very glad to read this report about my village.I am also from the same village, pragatinagar-1, daldale.And I really appreciate the great effort of the writer of this report.You have done a damn good job.I am in the UK now.Before six months when I was in Nepal, I had seen the rapid progress of pragatinagar for example the construction of road to pokhara..increase in number of school attending childrens..establishment of development of buildings..tourism development..the involvement of people in community development and management..the involvement of different institutes and clubs...And I am very happy to know about the progress of my village..and I feel lucky somewhere to be the part of this village...I pray to god that my village take the same pace of development and and create such a magic that encourages the people of other parts for the same.We all know that and we experienced that there is gonna be no favor from the polticians and the corrupt government...So if all the peoples from each and every part of the country themselves involved actively in an effective way like pragatinagarians then it won't take no more time for our country to grab the kaso...DES BIKAS GARNU CHA SURUWAT AFAI BATA GARAUN....SAGAR NEUPANE....THANK YOU,,,,,I LOVE MY DALDALE I LOVE MY PRAGATINAGAR.....

20. debaki acharya

We would like to say thank you so much for the Reporters and Paper which published the Pargatinagar progressive activities. In Pargatinagar there have one Jagriti Child and Youth Concern Nepal organization. Which organization had held the program on the Topic of "Youth Leadership Training" and they were also making the network of Child Club and Youth Club. Youth Club network leading by JCYCN and Child Club leading by Jagriti Child Club. I thought that, Pargatinagar VDC is famous for the Child Club active VDC of all over the Nepal. I would like to wish, Pargatinagar VDC will doing very good work in future.

21. anuj raj a
i agree wid sagar  neupane,,

22. M.A.C. Shakya

If only some 'Pratinagars' could grow everywhere, including in Kathmandu Valley! Or better still, if the country as a whole could apply the lessons learned from this small-scale model and upscale it, then perhaps we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and see positive change in the next decade.  Who will start it - the youth clubs, the mothers' clubs?

I left Kathmandu over a year ago and am now working part-time with a small charitable organization in Vancouver BC which is supporting education and health initiatives in the Himalayan region. In Nepal we are currently supporting education projects in Humla and Kathmandu.


23. chandra chapagain

small may be a place, raged may be the villagers, and they may lack an adroit of speaking, thier thought, dedication and labour cannot be compared to the technocratized metropolitan cities because it always soars in a height , since they have a pure heart, loving mind and hospitable behavoir. i know my villagers, pragatinagar basi, they love their village, villagers and thier guests. let the world, learn the lesson of hospitability from them, obama and laden will shake their hand. our pride, pragatinagar.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)