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As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, ANSAB is concerned about the danger it poses in Nepal, particularly, the impacts on the rural poor communities it serves. As the reported cases are increasing with no mortality from the disease, the danger is far from over. If we are unable to contain, allowing this virus to spread to high-density areas, working people neighbourhoods, and other centres of vulnerability and poverty, we will have to face health, economic, social and psychological disasters on a scale never experienced before. It is not yet clear how much of the people are infected and to what extent the disease will spread in the rural communities incl. in the ANSAB projects area, but we see that this has already been a cause of concern and hardship for many people due to its economic, social and psychological consequences.
While the lessons from this crisis may serve as a wake up call to realize the need of paradigm shift in the concept of development from the present dominant model of consumerism and individualistic culture to a more balanced way of life with stable economy, peace, harmony and happiness for all beings. This would encourage individuals to change their behaviour that would be beneficial to them and others. This will take a considerable time and effort as change in behavior or habit is not easy. But we can start taking proper steps towards this direction for the future. In this context, the importance of the community-based, eco-centric agriculture and forestry works (with triple bottom lines of ecology, economy and equity) that ANSAB has been promoting over the past two decades cannot be highlighted more. The system helps people become more self-reliant, ensure more sustainable food systems and food security, increase rural prosperity, and create greater resilience to unwanted socio-economic and environmental changes. It is important to support a change in a direction where community-based, enterprise oriented local economy with sustainable production and marketing system come out stronger in the long run.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while giving utmost priority to the safety of its staff and stakeholders and strictly observing all government regulations and WHO guidelines, ANSAB is continuing some of the crucial activities in the field, including working with and supporting local municipalities to be better prepared for response and deliver some of the crucial support to vulnerable and needy people in the project area. To complement its ongoing program, ANSAB in collaboration with its partners has designed a support program that aims to address the much-needed requirements of the affected populations while increasing their resiliency to future shocks. The overall objective of this program is to strengthen the preparedness and governance mechanism with effective participation of local communities, provide immediate relief and recovery support to the vulnerable communities while demonstrating a model of much needed recovery action leading to more resilient livelihoods and sustainable development balancing social, economic and environmental concerns.
For this, ANSAB has designed support activities adopting a two-pronged strategic approach, consisting of i) strengthening the governance mechanism and ii) facilitating the design and delivery of relief and recovery activities, that is built on the research, lessons and experience of ANSAB and its partners.
The first component will focus on strengthening local governance and coordination mechanism for planning, preparedness and delivery for their increased disaster preparedness, planning and coordination, which will help them to cater to specific needs of the vulnerable population more effectively, minimize the gap and duplication of efforts, avoid inappropriate support, and balance efforts in relief and recovery.
Building on the clearly defined mechanism and making use of justified criteria acceptable to stakeholders, the second component will focus on delivering essential support to the vulnerable population. ANSAB will work with the local government, enterprises (especially those which play the role of a lead firm in the industries based on community produced products) and organized civil society organizations that are at the forefront and understand the community needs for the efficient mobilization of support activities. ANSAB will also build on the social capital it developed in the area with its previous programs, namely the local resource persons, lead firms, community-based institutions (community forest user groups and farmers groups), on-the-job training (OJT) students along with the staff from municipality and ANSAB, and mobilize them for delivery of support activities in the field.