11 - 24 October 2013 #677

Taking farmers to market

Allert van den Ham, CEO of the Dutch development organisation SNV recently visited Nepal to assess the impact of SNV’s work at the grassroots. Nepali Times met with Ham (pic, centre) to discuss the role of SNV and its projects.

Nepali Times: You have recently visited SNV projects in western Nepal, what were your impressions?

Allert van den Ham: I have been impressed by the results so far. In sanitation, we have developed an approach to introduce hardware and influence the behavioural attitude. Statistics show the intervention areas have a high score of coverage when compared to national average. Much progress has been made and much needs be done, but I am confident that local actors will finish the job and for SNV it is important to focus on new areas and new issues.

What is the main reason why SNV has prioritised energy, sanitation, and agriculture in Nepal?

We think these are the areas where we can make the biggest contribution in terms of value added. It does not mean that other sectors like tourism are not important, but you can spend your rupee only once and from a global perspective, these are our special areas of attention.

You spoke to ginger farmers in Surkhet, what were their main concerns?

Under the current conditions farmers have only one option and that is to produce and sell only when a buyer comes to procure their produce. We hope to help create more options in terms of improving their technical capacities, opening up new and more diverse markets, fixing longer term agreements with farmers, and facilitating processing of ginger before it is exported. It is up to the farmers to choose what is most helpful to them.

But you have also tried to rope in the private sector in your projects in Nepal. Why is that?

You know, in spite of all the talk, I don’t think the private sector is going to solve the poverty problem. The poverty problem will also not be solved without the private sector. Entrepreneurs know the markets, they have access to capital, and can organise supply chains. Farmers know how to produce, if we can connect the two it is a powerful alliance for change. Of course the farmers are usually fragmented and they often have a weak negotiation position so we have to unite them and help them in developing into a more equal partner that have a strong bargaining position and can negotiate fair prices and conditions.

As the global head of SNV are you concerned about the shrinking ODA budget?

To a certain extent, yes. It’s being easily said that private sector can solve the issue, but let’s face it, the private sector has its own interests so the government will always have an important role to play in developing public utilities etc. I don’t see the private sector massively investing in infrastructure, quality education or sanitation. Decreasing ODA may restrict the current speed of development and that is a cause for worry.

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