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How do Projects Implemented by Beneficiary Communities Save Time and Costs?

Kalesh Kumar's picture

In 2010, under the nationwide Elementary Education Program called Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), an education committee in Bhagwan Garhi in the Aligarh district of Uttar Pradesh, India completed the construction of an eight classroom school for the cost of $80 per square meter, whereas the cost incurred for a contractor lead construction of a comparable school structure in the nearby district of Lucknow was $124 per square meter.

According to review reports, the Community Beneficiary Committee in Bhagwan Garhi had completed the work drawing labor from the community and buying the required amount of materials at a lower rate with technical guidance from the district level engineer.

How does this happen?

A “Problem Tree” Assures that Complaints are Quickly Addressed in Tamil Nadu

Kalesh Kumar's picture

The multi-colored ‘problem tree’ on the branch of a Banyan tree in Elamangalam Village in the Kadaloor district of Tamil Nadu grabs your attention. You see it as soon as you enter the village and English letters ending in @worldbank.org immediately piqued our curiosity despite our lack of knowledge of the local language. This poster, placed around the Village Poverty Reduction Committee (VPRC) and established under the World Bank supported Tamil Nadu Empowerment and Poverty Reduction Project (TNEPRP - “Vazhndu Kaatuvom”), in Elamangalam and other villages in Tamil Nadu gives the title, addresses and phone numbers of all the responsible project leaders from the government and the World Bank to help solve any complaints.

This innovative Complaint Redressal System provides a timeframe within which a complaint is expected to get a response. If unsatisfactory, the plaintiff can appeal to a higher authority. Having clear time lines for escalation and resolution of problems is an essential cornerstone of good governance and social accountability in projects that are implemented at the grass root level. The last row of the poster has the name and email address of the project leader from World Bank and suggests 48 hrs as the time available for her to provide a response! The former project team leader confirmed to have received about 20 emails from across Tamil Nadu in her Washington office over two years reflecting the utilization of the system.

What Dream Does Kamlabhai Aspire for from $300?

Kalesh Kumar's picture

We were in Kachnaria village, about 45 kms from the Biora Block headquarters in late May. Kachnaria has a population of 2600 with 290 households identified as extremely poor and supported by the Madhya Pradesh Poverty Initiatives Project, which has created 12 Self Help Groups of women thus far. My good friend Raman Wadhwa from the state project office and other colleagues were with us when we me with the Village Development Council (VDC) members.

Raman and I joined the VDC meeting as guests and the Sakhi (a lady from the village who takes care of bookkeeping for the rest of the group) formally introduced us to the group as observers and instructed us to sign the attendance registration along with other members. The proceedings of a community group that has learned over the last few months to stand on their own feet and lead respectful life has many intricate lessons for federating and finding a common place for everything that is significant in life, including prayer in the beginning in Hindi (“Humko man ki sakthi dena… man vijay kare… “roughly translated as “Oh God, Give strength to our mind, for the mind to be victorious… make ourselves victorious over our mind for us to cheer the victory of others...”) their long log books of money brought in by each Self Help Group (SHG) and their inquisitive interactions ensure that money taken by members as loan was spent for productive purposes.

A Bridge Across Poverty for $30,000 in Chapran Village, India

Kalesh Kumar's picture

Chattarpur district in Madhya Pradesh state of India is famous for the Khajuraho temples. About 40 kms from the district headquarters is large village called Chapran, which is surrounded by minor tributaries of the river Ganges and the backwaters from Lehsura dam, causing the village to become like a water-trapped island, particularly during the monsoon season.

A few years back, the only option available for the villagers was to walk along a railway bridge to cross the surrounding water. Unfortunately, a blind turn along the railway track made it impossible for a passer-by to see if a train was oncoming, until it was too late. To avoid disaster, they often had no option other than to jump off the 12 metre high bridge or risk losing a limb or their life by getting crushed under the train.

Laxmibai’s aged eyes crinkled with tears as she narrated the tragic story of her son-in-law to us: “Five years ago Raju, who was 25 years old, had come to our village on the eve of a festival. It was monsoon season and the village was surrounded by water.” Taking a deep breath, she continued, “On his return home, he was riding a bicycle along the railway track, to cross the water. Suddenly a train appeared around the blind turn … some laborers who were working in a nearby field later told us that he didn’t have time to even get off the bicycle. We had to collect his body in a sack, there were limbs all over. Had there been an overbridge or any other arrangement to safely cross the stream, this tragedy would not have happened.”

At 80, Thimmakka Has Planted More than 8,000 Saplings

Kalesh Kumar's picture

I was in Karnataka, travelling to the village of Kudur in Ramanagara district, about 35 kms from Bengeluru (formerly Bangalore). The dusty road leading to Hulikal and Kudur village seemed monotonous, but for a four kilometer stretch, it came alive with massive trees, spreading shade and providing home to innumerable birds and animals. This unique pattern of the line of trees attracted everyone's attention and appreciation. That's when accompanying officials told us about environmentalist Saalu Marada Thimmakka.

Thimmaka was married young to a landless laborer Chinnappa and they made their living tilling land and cutting stones. Despite a long wait and countless prayers and poojas, the couple did not have any children. The personal suffering coupled with snide remarks of the society that looked down at childless couples as a curse from gods that lead them to a unique engagement that is now widely recognized.

Moving Mumbai into the Future

South Asia's picture

India's largest city, Mumbai, holds the record for some the world's most crowded trains and congested roads. With the help of the World Bank, Mumbai is revamping its transportation systems, embarking on one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the world. Resettling 100,000 residents and building new roads and train tracks.

Will recent events in the Middle East Affect Remittance Flows to South Asia?

Ceren Ozer's picture

For countries with substantial numbers of workers in the Middle East, recent events have not only raised concerns for the repatriation and welfare of their citizens, but have also raised fears of a possible slowdown in remittances. Will remittance flows noticeably decrease due to recent events in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia?

For South Asian countries, remittances are among the largest and most stable sources of foreign exchange and their developmental impact have been remarkable. For example, in Nepal national poverty level has come down from 42% to 31% during 1996 to 2004, and to 21% today, largely on the account of remittances which finance household consumption as well as education and health expenditures. Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, were among the top 15 remittance recipients in 2009—with inflows being equivalent to 24% of the GDP in Nepal, 12% in Bangladesh, 8% in Sri Lanka, 5% in Pakistan and 4% in India.

Gulf States employ more than 11 million expatriate workers, an estimated 8 million or more from South and East Asian countries. Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E, and Qatar are top destination for South Asian migrants and are main sources of remittance inflows. The table as well as the country profiles below demonstrates the sheer magnitude of migrant workers in the Arab Gulf countries and their contributions to the labor force; sometimes greater in overall numbers and proportion than the respective labor force in the countries.

India's Karnataka State Pioneers a Holistic Approach to Watershed Development

South Asia's picture


The Karnataka Watershed Development project - also known as Sujala - has increased the availability of water in seven drought-prone districts of northern Karnataka. Treatments on the upper and lower reaches of watersheds have helped raise water tables, brought degraded lands under cultivation, enabled farmers to diversify into higher value crops and horticulture, and raised agricultural productivity. State of the art remote sensing has been used to monitor impacts. Incomes for both the landed and landless poor have increased.

The Value of Connected Savings

Daniel Radcliffe's picture

The business case for low-balance savings is tough, as the margin on float may not amount to much. In much of South Asia, the economics of savings for the poor has been buttressed by microcredit – the notion that the account anchors the customer relationship and the loan gives it profitability. But financial inclusion premised on credit is always going to leave some people behind: those who do not feel like credit is the right financial tool for them or who simply do not have the ability to commit to future payment streams.

A new vision is emerging around integrating the savings proposition into a broader payments network. Offering “connected savings” accounts rather than stand-alone accounts helps the economics of low-balance savings in three ways:

Capitalizing on the Demographic Transition

Michael Engelgau's picture

For decades, the leading causes of mortality have differed between low income countries and high income countries. Those who have worked their careers in health and development probably never thought they would see the day when maternal/child health and communicable diseases would not be the leading health burden in many low income countries.

The new actor is non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which are characterized by chronic diseases (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease), along with injury and mental health which are now responsible for half the health burden in South Asia. Thus, the challenge now is how best to juggle this “double burden”.

Currently, many compelling reasons are pushing countries toward starting to tackle NCDs. From both a social and political standpoint, South Asians are 6 years younger than those in the rest of the world at their first heart attack. This type of trend threatens a country’s ability to fully capitalize on the demographic dividend from a larger mature working force because healthy aging is necessary, which in turn, requires tackling NCDs.

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