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Micro-economic intiatives programme in Nepal: jointly implemented by the ICRC and the NRCS

25-01-2011 Report

During the period of armed conflict in Nepal, the NRCS and the ICRC worked in most parts of the country and in close proximity to thousands of already impoverished families whose lives had been shattered by the armed conflict and whose economic security had been dangerously undermined. Soon after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in November 2006, our organizations therefore decided to launch an ambitious micro-economic initiative programme aimed at helping those families hardest hit by the conflict to restore their livelihoods.


“Micro-economic initiative” is a term used by the ICRC to refer to an income-generating programme implemented using a bottom-up approach, whereby each beneficiary helps identify and design the assistance to be received. This approach is unlike other production initiatives, which are generally agricultural in nature and consist in the distribution of assistance kits with identical inputs to all the intended beneficiaries. Placing the beneficiaries at the heart of the decision-making process not only ensures sustainable outputs through greater ownership of the project, it also has a strong psychosocial impact on their lives.

The ICRC started its first MEI programme in 2001, in Serbia, and the approach was so successful that it was expanded worldwide. More than 150,000 individuals have since benefited from the 30,000 MEI projects implemented.

The programme in Nepal was rolled out during a three-year period in the 35 districts deemed most affected by the conflict and is one of the three largest MEI programmes implemented by the ICRC. Its success is largely due to the close partnership between our two organizations: the ICRC provided financial and technical support while the NRCS handled implementation. In all, 316 volunteers visited approximately 8,800 families, of which 5,050 benefited from an MEI.

During the final stage of the programme’s implementation, we jointly carried out a final and comprehensive review to assess its impact, various organizational and technical aspects and the efficiency of the operational partnership between our two institutions. The findings of this review revealed that the programme was highly relevant to the beneficiaries in the sense that it was timely (it was implemented before the Government started providing interim relief ) and met their need for a sustainable form of income support (on average, beneficiaries increased their monthly income by about 30 per cent).

The lessons we have learned from this exercise will be useful for replicating the programme elsewhere. For example, the findings confirm that MEIs are most successful when they help the skilled and enterprising victims of a sudden external shock, like displacement, an incapacitating injury or the loss of the family breadwinner. The long-term unemployed and structurally poor are less likely to succeed, and selecting the right candidates is the single most important determinant of success.

We felt it was important to share some of these findings and lessons learned, so that other organizations, donor agencies or governmental institutions can benefit from them while supporting or engaging in similar production initiatives. Indeed, MEIs are well suited to meet the needs of victims of the recurrent natural disasters occurring in Nepal. They are also particularly well adapted to urban environments, where there is a bigger market for the goods produced by the beneficiaries. This is an important consideration given the demographic trend towards urbanization.

We therefore hope that this brief report will be of interest to individuals and institutions whose common goal is to help the many Nepalese families struggling to survive and who, with modest but properly adapted support, can reclaim their livelihoods and dignity.

Patrick Vial, Head of Delegation, ICRC Nepal                                                                           Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, Secretary General, NRCS