Empowering Local Actors for Inclusive Development: USAID Nepal's Commitment to Localization
This post is written by David Ratliff and Pratigya Silwal.
The sustainability and long-term success of agricultural development assistance requires local ownership and strong capacity of local partners to produce development results. This requires a commitment to shift more leadership, ownership, decision making and implementation to the local people and institutions who possess the capability, connectedness and credibility to drive change in their own countries and communities.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power announced two interconnected, Agency-wide targets in November 2021. Specifically, USAID will provide at least a quarter of our program funds directly to local partners by the end of 2025. And by 2030, 50 percent of our programming will place local communities in the lead to set priorities, codesign projects, drive implementation or evaluate the impact of our programs. While in Nepal, Administrator Power met with local actors from the private sector, civil society and the Government of Nepal, to see and hear first-hand how USAID is expanding its locally led portfolio in Nepal — with local actors defining priorities and leading their communities’ and countries’ development agendas. For more information on USAID’s efforts, read the opening blog for localization month.
What Does this Change Look Like at USAID/Nepal?
To support locally led development and more sustainable outcomes, USAID/Nepal’s senior leadership team established an ambitious 40-percent localization target by 2025, which includes both direct local awards and government to government (G2G). In addition, the Mission revamped its activity design process to put local actors at the forefront of the design process and move towards local communities being in the driver’s seat to determine their development priorities and solutions.
To prepare for this transition, the Mission conducted a strategic portfolio review to start identifying risks and needs related to localization. Each technical office identified opportunities for new local and G2G awards, discussed barriers to localization and identified steps to mitigate those challenges. Following these sessions, the Mission developed an adaptive management plan largely focused on the actions that the Mission will need to take to make localization successful and continually revisits the plan.
Next, the Mission held a series of co-creation sessions to envision our localization approach, give all staff a voice in the process and define individual and office roles in the process.
To elevate local voices in this process, the Mission conducted Listening Tours in some of the most marginalized communities in 10 municipalities across 7 provinces. The goal of the Listening Tours was to give a voice to marginalized communities and populations in vulnerable geographies facing high levels of risk, shocks and stresses.
The Listening Tours shed light on the importance of inclusive development within the localization approach. First, the marginalized communities and people in vulnerable geographies need to be appropriately identified. It’s not enough to focus on larger sub-sects of the population, such as women. There is a spectrum of marginalization within any group. By keeping it too broad, the voices and needs of the most marginalized are lost. Similarly, data become blurred and don’t show the degree of the need of those most marginalized.
Finally, the Listening Tours highlighted the difficulty we have in reaching the most marginalized individuals. Whether they live literally cut off from the world in some of the most remote geographies, or due to societal barriers, these individuals are outside of local networks making it difficult for our assistance to reach them. While it might take more resources to reach these populations, it is critical that we make that extra effort to truly advance inclusive development.
These steps are only the beginning of USAID/Nepal’s long-term vision to transition to a sustainable localization model. In addition, we are adding a significant number of new staff in Kathmandu and in remote locations to ensure we have the human capacity to manage the transition. We will need to continue learning and adapting to the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities to advance localization. Now is the time to seize the opportunity to slow down, go the extra mile and listen so that we can empower local actors, strengthen local systems and facilitate local leadership for truly inclusive development and humanitarian assistance.