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Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal

Material Information

Title:
Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal Independent impacts and recovery monitoring phase 3, qualitative field monitoring, September 2016
Creator:
The Asia Foundation ( Author, Primary )
UK aid ( contributor )
Swiss Development Cooperation ( contributor )
Place of Publication:
San Francisco, CA
Publisher:
The Asia Foundation
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
© 2015, The Asia Foundation
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
एशिया -- नेपाल
Asie -- Népal
Reconstruction and development ( SWAY )
Nepal -- Economic development ( LCSH )
Nepal -- Repair and reconstruction ( LCSH )
पुन:निर्माण तथा विकास ( SWAY )
Subsidies and compensation ( SWAY )
Subsidies ( LCSH )
Wages ( LCSH )
अनुदान र क्षतिपूर्ति ( SWAY )
Politics ( SWAY )
Politics and government ( LCSH )
राजनीति ( SWAY )
Political leaders ( SWAY )
Political leadership ( LCSH )
Politicians ( LCSH )
राजनैतिक नेताहरु ( SWAY )
Vulnerability ( SWAY )
Vulnerability (Personality trait) ( LCSH )
जोखिमयुक्त अवस्था ( SWAY )
Genre:
NGO Report ( SWAY )
Temporal Coverage:
20150426 - 20150109
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Nepal
Coordinates:
28 x 84

Notes

General Note:
Funded by GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund) through AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council), Grant number AH/P003648/1, as "After the Earth's Violent Sway: the tangible and intangible legacies of a natural disaster", Dr. Michael Hutt, Principal Investigator.

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SOAS University of London
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Aid and Recovery in
Post-Earthquake Nepal
Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 3
Qualitative Field Monitoring: September 2016
The Asia Foundation
UKaid
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Federal Department of Forego Affairs FDFA
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DEMOCRACY
RESOURCE CENTER




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The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing
Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—
strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional
cooperation. Headquartered in San Francisco, The Asia Foundation works through a network of offices in 18 Asian countries and in
Washington, DC.
Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 3
Qualitative Field Monitoring: September 2016
© The Asia Foundation
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced
without written permission from The Asia Foundation
The Asia Foundation
456 California Street, 9th Floor
San Francisco, CA U.S.A. 94104
www.asiafoundation.org
The project is funded by UK aid through the UK government and the Swiss Development Cooperation.
The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the UK or the Swiss government’s official policies.
Cover photo: Anurag Devkota, Binu Sharma
Design: Deddeaw Laosinchai


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
PREFACE
In the early weeks after the earthquakes of April and
May 2015, The Asia Foundation conducted a study
aimed at assessing its impacts on the ground and
understanding whether the emergency aid that was
flowing in to affected areas was helping people recover.
Using both quantitative and qualitative methods,
the initial study highlighted just how destructive the
earthquakes had been and the immense challenges
that would lie ahead. Since then, two further rounds
of mixed methods research have been conducted in the
same areas, allowing for a tracking of how recovery has
been occurring. The second round of research, which
involved fieldwork almost a year after the disasters,
highlighted new emerging issues. Borrowing had risen
massively and the reports discussed the potential for
the poor and marginalized to get stuck in a vicious debt
trap. Very few at that point had moved from temporary
shelters into more sturdy housing. It was clear that the
livelihoods of many people, in particular farmers, was
recovering very slowly. And tensions were brewing
related to a series of contentious damage assessments
and perceived mistargeting of aid.
This report presents findings from the third round
of research, conducted in September 2016 almost
eighteen months after the earthquakes. Because each
round of research takes place in the same areas, with
the same people interviewed where possible, the series
of studies provides insights into how people’s experi-
ences and perceptions are evolving over time.
Between the second and third round of fieldwork, the
process of distributing reconstruction cash grants to
those whose houses were destroyed or badly damaged,
and who were identified as beneficiaries during a new
round of assessments, began. This report provides
insights into this process and the impacts it has had.
It also looks, amongst other things, at overall progress
made with regards to reconstruction in the research
areas, the make-up of aid in the earthquake-affected
zone, and remaining needs. Further, the report dis-
cusses the roles and involvement of political parties
and other local leaders during reconstruction, changes
to social relations, protection issues and vulnerable
groups, impacts on the local economy and people’s
livelihoods, and the coping strategies people are using
and their effectiveness.
The fourth round of research is scheduled for April
2017.
George Varughese, Ph.D.
Nepal Country Representative
The Asia Foundation
Patrick Barron, Ph.D.
Regional Director for Conflict & Development
The Asia Foundation


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Acknowledgements
Democracy Resource Center Nepal (DRCN) and
The Asia Foundation (TAF) wish to express
their appreciation to the many people who
made this report possible, particularly the people in
Gorkha, Okhaldhunga, Sindhupalchowk, Syangja,
Ramechhap, and Solukhumbu districts who took the
time to participate in the research.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers
from DRCN led by Sudip Pokharel. The research
was coordinated by Apurba Khatiwada of DRCN.
Analysis of the data was done by Apurba Khatiwada,
Soyesh Lakhey, Amanda Manandhar Gurung, Shekhar
Parajulee, and Sudip Pokharel, who co-authored the
report with TAF contributors Lena Michaels and
Sasiwan Chingchit. Patrick Barron provided guidance
and inputs throughout.
Special thanks goes to the team of researchers for their
dedication in the field: the lead researchers Anubhav
Ajeet, Chiran Manandhar, Ishwari Bhattarai, Nayan
Pokhrel, Shekhar Parajulee, and Subhash Lamich-
hane; and the researchers Alok Pokharel, Anurag
Devkota, Binu Sharma, Janak Raj Sapkota, Punam
Limbu, and Tanka Gurung. Special thanks also goes
to Sapana Sanjeevani and Shreya Paudel for their val-
uable assistance during the preparation of the report.
A number of people provided useful inputs at various
stages, including in the formation of the question-
naires, finalization of the sampling strategy, and
analysis of the data. They include George Varughese,
James Sharrock, and our graphic designer, Deddeaw
Laosinchai. Siobhan Kennedy of HRRP provided
comments.
The project is funded by UK aid through the UK gov-
ernment and the Swiss Development Cooperation,
with support from the UK Department for Interna-
tional Development’s Programme Partnership Ar-
rangement with The Asia Foundation. Andy Murray
(UK DFID) and Pia Haenni (SDC) have managed the
project from the donor side, and have produced useful
inputs at every stage. Thanks also to Stefan Feurst
(SDC) and Craig Irwin (DFID) who took over manage-
ment of the project as the report was being produced.
The views here do not necessarily reflect the UK or the
Swiss governments’ official policies.
The IRM research is directed by Patrick Barron with
assistance from Sasiwan Chingchit. Lena Michaels
coordinates the project in Nepal with support from
The Asia Foundation-Nepal.
iv


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Executive Summary
A year and a half after two powerful earthquakes
hit Nepal in 2015, the Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring for Accountability
in Post-earthquake Nepal (IRM) project continues
to track how the disaster’s impacts have evolved and
how people are recovering. IRM monitors changes
in five key areas: (i) aid delivery and effectiveness;
(ii) politics and leadership; (iii) social relations and
conflict; (iv) protection and vulnerability; and (v)
economy and livelihoods. The research is longitudinal
and mixed methods, involving both qualitative field
monitoring and quantitative surveys. The first and
second rounds of IRM were conducted in June 2015
and February-March 2016. This report, produced by
Democracy Resource Center Nepal and The Asia Foun-
dation, provides findings and analysis from the third
round of IRM monitoring conducted 27 August-13
September 2016.
The report is based on data collected in six earthquake-
affected districts, selected to represent varying levels
of impact: Gorkha, Sindhupalchowk, Ramechhap,
Okhaldhunga, Solukhumbu, and Syangja. Field
research methods included participant observation,
key informant interviews, and focus group discussions
with data gathered at district, VDC, and ward levels.
In total, 36 wards (six per district) were visited for
the research. The analyses examine changes that
have occurred over time, comparing data and findings
from all three rounds of research. While the fieldwork
was conducted in September, the report includes
updated information (to March 2017) on progress with
reconstruction where this was available from news and
other secondary sources.
Aid delivery and effectiveness
The coverage of direct aid declined between IRM-
2 (February-March 2016) and IRM-3 (September
2016). After early 2016, government aid has focused
largely on the distribution of reconstruction grants for
private houses and some limited livelihood support.
Direct aid and relief distribution from I/NGOs
declined, although non-governmental support for
housing reconstruction increased. Generally, I/NGOs
focused on ‘soft’ forms of support, such as trainings
and awareness raising, rather than direct assistance
for rebuilding. The distribution of aid remained
uneven. Non-governmental aid was concentrated in
severely hit districts, in particular Sindhulpalchowk
and Gorkha. In contrast to earlier rounds of IRM,
remote VDCs received noticeably less assistance
than have more accessible areas, largely because of
transportation problems during the monsoon.
The gap between needs and aid provided seemed
to be increasing. The reconstruction of houses re-
mained the primary need, while other identified
needs included the reconstruction of community
infrastructure, water and sanitation, farm inputs,
health care and improvement of school infrastructure.
Yet, progress in reconstruction was slow and the cash
amounts provided for the purpose were considered
to be insufficient by earthquake-affected households
struggling to finance reconstruction. Awareness of
and access to loan schemes remained very low. All
this increased dissatisfaction with aid providers. Dis-
satisfaction with I/NGOs was rising primarily due to
the perception that the aid provided did not fit with
needs. Discontent with the government and political
parties also increased, largely due to frustrations over
delays in the housing reconstruction program, unclear
policies, and delays in addressing complaints. Local
government offices did not systematically record
people’s needs nor coordinate between themselves
and with non-governmental organizations to facil-
itate a shared understanding of needs. This meant
that many needs beyond reconstruction remained
unaddressed.
There have been weaknesses in the coordination of
aid - between different arms of government and
between the state and I/NGOs. Overlap of duties,
and an unclear division of responsibilities, between
different government bodies has reduced efficiency.
Communication between various levels of government
was also weak and irregular.
V


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
At the time of the research, progress in distributing
reconstruction cash grants for private houses was
slow, although there has been substantial progress in
the months since then. People were frustrated with
the CBS damage assessment, not understanding the
criteria used and why some who had benefitted in the
past from government aid did not make the list. This
led to delays due to local protests in over one-third
of the wards visited where the assessment had been
conducted. However, disputes were generally solved;
and people were happier with the process of signing
cash grant agreements. Ward Citizen Forums, as well
as I/NGOs, played an active role in disseminating
information about the program. Delays in the pro-
gram, however, were one factor leading some people
to start rebuilding themselves, frequently not using
earthquake-safe measures.
Politics and leadership
The formal role of political parties in recovery efforts
was reduced with the beginning of the reconstruction
phase due to the technical and bureaucratic approach
of the reconstruction process in general and the cash
grant program in particular. They were not formally
involved in the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS)
assessment or the cash grant agreement process.
This led to increasing dissatisfaction among political
leaders. Citizen dissatisfaction with political parties
was also high due to their lack of formal involvement
in earthquake related activities more than any real or
perceived politicization of relief or recovery work. As
in IRM-2, political parties also did not conduct their
own activities at the local level to assist the recovery
and reconstruction process. However, as observed
in previous rounds, government officials continued
to consult with and rely on political parties for
decisions on local governance, Further, communities
continued to look to their local leaders for assistance
and information. Local political party representatives
therefore were able to play crucial roles in facilitating
communication between government offices and local
communities. They were involved in obstructions
of the cash grant process to raise the concerns and
demands of those excluded from the beneficiary
lists but were also instrumental in negotiating the
resumption of the process by seeking assurances
from government officials that grievances would
be addressed. While they had no formal role, local
political party representatives were often individually
and informally involved in the cash grant process
and other recovery efforts. Many leaders were found
to be assisting individual earthquake victims with
procedures and complaints during the signing of cash
grant agreements and the distribution of the first
installment of the grant. Yet, there was little room for
the emergence of new leadership.
Social relations and conflicts
Social relations have generally been good since the
earthquakes and remained unchanged between IRM-
2 and IRM-3 in most of the wards visited. There was
no increase of crime and people generally felt safe.
In several places where tensions were reported in
IRM-2, these had since disappeared. As the volume
and coverage of aid declined, complaints about un-
even access to aid and perceived discrimination in
distribution also decreased. However, conflicts and
tensions continued where local disagreements over
displacement and resettlement were not addressed.
Caste-based discrimination often shaped the nature of
these conflicts and water scarcity seemed to aggravate
such tensions.
Strong social cohesion enabled community members
to assist each other during the recovery process and
help speed rebuilding for example through labor
sharing practices and communal efforts. Further, so-
cial networks beyond the immediate community was
observed to facilitate access to financial and material
resources for rebuilding as well as information. Mar-
ginalized groups, however, were less likely to access
and benefit from extended networks but families were
sometimes helping each other within communities
across caste and ethnic divisions.
Protection and vulnerability
The displaced and those living in temporary shelters
remain among the most vulnerable as they face a
multitude of problems including exposure to harsh
weather conditions and, in the case of the displaced,
tensions with the local communities in their new
settlements. Vulnerability was increased for those
returning to damaged houses or landslide-prone
land without repairs or land assessments having
been conducted to avoid hardships. Various health
problems associated with living in shelters such as
asthma among the elderly and pneumonia among
children, as well as diarrhea and dysentery due to
poor sanitary conditions, continued to be common in
temporary shelters. Malnutrition among children was
also observed by respondents to have increased among
those in temporary shelters.
Women, children, and the elderly were considered
to be more vulnerable as they faced particular risks,
especially health risks. Women faced additional risks
of gender-based violence and trafficking. People in
remote areas also continued to be more vulnerable
as they faced greater obstacles accessing cash grants,
due to longer travel time and higher costs to reach
locations where the required documents are issued
and the cash grants are disbursed via banks. Further,
costs for transporting construction materials were also
higher in remote areas.
vi


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
While marginalized groups in general were observed
to be falling behind in their recovery in IRM-3, thus
becoming more vulnerable to debt traps, endemic
poverty and exploitation, Dalits were standing out as
a highly vulnerable group. Dalits have been slower to
recover their livelihoods and to rebuild their houses,
due to economic, social, and structural obstacles.
Discrimination against Dalits was common and many
lacked assets, alternative income sources, and access
to credit that would help them cope.
Economy and livelihoods
Livelihoods have been recovering and very few house-
holds have changed their primary occupation but
pre-existing conditions of poverty in earthquake-af-
fected areas have shaped recovery and trends pre-
dating the earthquakes, such as the move away from
agriculture, urbanization, and reliance on remittances
from migrant labor, are likely to be reinforced.
Markets were fully operating in areas visited. Good
rainfall during the 2016 monsoon had a positive
impact on recovery of the agricultural sector but
negatively affected transportation and travel. Prices
for construction materials and transportation were
significantly higher than before the earthquakes as
well as during IRM-1 and IRM-2, increasing the costs
of rebuilding. Higher wages for laborers and water
shortages further raised construction costs.
Farmers were the most strongly impacted group, in
terms of numbers of affected households as well as
the nature of ongoing difficulties. Despite returning
to cultivating their land quickly after the earthquakes,
farmers are facing significant challenges and continue
to be most in need of assistance. Water shortages due
to insufficient rainfall, the drying of water sources,
and damaged irrigation systems affected agriculture
in many areas. Livestock farming also continued to be
affected by the earthquakes and the resulting shortage
of manure had implications for agriculture. Farmers
who were displaced or lost family members and live-
stock were struggling the most.
Businesses were recovering, with the exception of
some small businesses that lost everything and where
owners had no alternative income sources. The tour-
ism sector, too, was beginning to recover after long-
term disruptions. It was widely expected that tourism
would resume during the upcoming tourist season in
late 2016 because of good bookings for this season.
The labor sector continued to gain. Demands for wage
labor, especially in construction, increased. Yet, Dalits
only marginally benefitted from this despite commonly
depending on wage labor as income source given other
significant challenges Dalits face in their recovery.
Livelihoods support was sporadic and unevenly
distributed but widely cited as important need, espe-
cially for farmers who have been struggling since the
earthquakes despite generally being able to return to
farming.
Borrowing was very common across areas visited
since before the earthquakes but did not increase
significantly between IRM-2 and IRM-3. Where it did
increase, it was for house reconstruction, especially in
Solukhumbu and Syangja, the two districts where the
cash grant agreement process had not begun. Many
said they would have to borrow more to rebuild but
hoped for improved access to low-interest loans. Bor-
rowing from informal sources such as moneylenders,
friends, family, or other individuals was significantly
more common than borrowing from banks as the
former were seen to be more accessible and flexible
and many therefore preferred them despite higher
interest rates.
For marginalized groups such as Dalits, accessing
credit was particularly difficult, but rising debts were
a worry for many households and the risk of debt
traps was observed to be increasing. Labor migration
is common and has generally continued after the
earthquakes. Migration rates are likely to increase if
households struggle to finance the reconstruction of
their houses and to pay back loans. The majority of
households did not have to adjust consumption. Sale
of assets was minimal and mostly limited to the sale of
livestock. But there were isolated cases of households
that sold assets to finance reconstruction and more
tried to sell but were unsuccessful.
vii


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
LIST OF ACRONYMS
APM All Party Mechanism
CBS Central Bureau of Statistics
CDO Chief District Officer
CEO Chief Executive Officer
CFP Common Feedback Project
CGI Corrugated Galvanized Iron
CL-PIU Central Level Programme Implementation Unit
CPN-MC Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre)
CPN-UML Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist)
CSRC Community Self-Reliance Center
DADO District Agriculture Development Office
DAO District Administration Office
DCC District Coordination Committee
DDC District Development Committee
DDRC District Disaster Relief Committee
DFID UK Department for International Development
DFO District Forest Office
DL-PIU District Level Programme Implementation Unit
DLSA District Lead Support Agencies
DLSC District Livestock Service Center
DRCN Democracy Resource Center Nepal
DTM Displacement Tracking Matrix
DUDBC Department of Urban Development and Building Construction
FGD Focus Group Discussion
HRRP Housing Recovery and Reconstruction Platform
INGO International non-governmental organization
IOM International Organisation for Migration
IRM Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring for Accountability in Post-Earthquake Nepal project
viii


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
IRM-1 First round of the IRM study (June 2015)
IRM-2 Second round of the IRM study (February-March 2016)
IRM-3 Third round of the IRM study (September 2016)
JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency
LDO Local Development Officer
MCA Manaslu Conservation Area
MoFALD Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development
MoUD Ministry of Urban Development
MP Member of Parliament
NC Nepali Congress
NGO Non-governmental organization
NPC Nepal Planning Commission
NPR Nepali Rupees
NRA National Reconstruction Authority
PDNA Post-Disaster Needs Assessment
PDRF Post-Disaster Recovery Framework
RDC Relief Distribution Committee
RHRP Rural Housing Reconstruction Program
SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
TAF The Asia Foundation
UN United Nations
UNDP United Nations Development Program
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund
USAID United States Agency for International Development
USD United States Dollars
VDC Village Development Committee
WCF Ward Citizen Forum
ix


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE III
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS IV
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY V
LIST OF ACRONYMS VIII
LIST OF FIGURES XII
LIST OF TABLES XII
LIST OF CASE STUDIES XIII
Chapter 1. Introduction 1
1.1 Background 1
1.2 Focus areas 2
1.3 Methods 4
1.4 Structure of the report 6
Chapter 2. Developments since IRM-2 7
2.1 Current status of reconstruction 7
2.2 Policy framework 10
Chapter 3. Aid Delivery and Effectiveness 17
3.1 Types and volumes of aid 19
3.2 Satisfaction with aid 21
3.3 Needs 23
3.4 Government mechanisms and coordination of aid at the local level 24
3.5 Cash grants for the reconstruction of houses 27
Chapter 4. Politics and Leadership 31
4.1 Roles and activities of political parties 32
4.2 Political party involvement in the cash grant agreement process 38
4.3 Emergence of new leadership 40
4.4 Support for political parties and local leaders 41
Chapter 5. Social Relations and Conflict 43
5.1 Social cohesion and tensions 44
5.2 Violence, crime, and security 50
5.3 Social networks and recovery 50
5.4 Potential sources of conflict 51
Chapter 6. Protection and Vulnerability 53
6.1 Vulnerable groups and the challenges they face 55
6.2 Dalits 60
6.3 Addressing the needs of vulnerable groups 61
Chapter 7. Economy and Livelihoods 63
7.1 The context for livelihoods recovery 65
7.2 The recovery of local economies 67
7.3 The recovery of livelihoods 70
7.4 Livelihoods support and needs 79
7.5 Strategies for coping with financial stress 81
X


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Chapter 8. Conclusions and Recommendations 89
8.1 Summary of main findings 89
8.2 Focus areas and recommendations 90
Annex A. Methods 95
Site selection 96
Districts 96
VDCs/municipalities 96
Wards 97
Ward classification 97
Annex B: Earthquake Impacts 99
xi


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 3.1: Levels of satisfaction with government aid 22
Figure 3.2: Citizens’ perception of the government’s cash grant program (number of wards) 27
Figure 6.1: Vulnerable groups identified by local communities in wards visited 55
Figure 7.1: Percentage of wards where farming was disrupted in the long, medium or 71
short-term, or not affected
Figure 7,2: Factors affecting farming after the earthquakes (at any point between June 73
2015 and September 2016) by number of wards in which they were reported
Figure 7.3: Incidence of livelihood needs cited in VDCs visited 80
Figure B.i: Percentage of fully and partially damaged houses by district 99
Figure B.2: Numbers of deaths and injured in districts visited 100
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1.1: District level earthquake impact (PDNA) 5
Table 2.1: Progress of private house reconstruction and cash grant distribution in 8
the research areas
Table 7,1: Types of livelihoods support provided by district 79
Table A.i: Number of respondents by district 95
Table A.2: Criteria for VDC/municipality selection 96
Table A.3: VDCs visited and ward classification 97
xii


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
LIST OF CASE STUDIES
Case Study 3.1: Confusion over responding to complaints in Okhaldhunga 25
Case Study 3.2: Contentious targeting by a NGO 26
Case Study 4.1: A local government official struggling to work without the support of 36
local residents and political party representatives
Case Study 5.1: Water, caste, and conflict 47
Case Study 5.2: Community support for rebuilding 51
Case Study 6.1: Distress and alcohol consumption 56
Case Study 6.2: Challenges of rebuilding on guthi land 59
Case Study 7.1: High transportation costs during the monsoon affect reconstruction 67
Case Study 7,2: Community forests and the use of local resources for reconstruction 69
Case Study 7.3: A displaced Dalit is struggling to resume farming 72
Case Study 7,4: A migrant laborer returns home to start a poultry business 75
Case Study 7.5: Resuming a small business in Gorkha 77
Case Study 7.6: Masonry continues to gain in Solukhumbu 78
Case Study 7,7: A migrant laborer borrowing to rebuild 85
Case Study 7.8: Young entrepreneurs find new opportunities at home 87
Case Study 7.9: Sharing labor to rebuild faster 88
xiii





1.1 Background
The impacts of natural disasters can be enduring
and will evolve over time. Many impacts—deaths,
destroyed houses, and infrastructure—are immediate.
But other effects play out over the longer run. Trauma
and vulnerability to illness, for example, may last for
months or even years after the initial disaster. The
impacts on people’s livelihoods and income sources
may only become clear after time has passed. Pre-
existing social, economic, and political norms and
institutions may change as people find ways to get by
and recover. Aid, in turn, may shape such relations
and institutions and patterns of recovery. Long after
the flashlight of international media attention has
dimmed, disaster-affected people will face continuing
and morphing challenges that need to be overcome
if they are to fully recover. Understanding these
challenges, along with how people are coping, is key
if recovery and reconstruction aid is to be effective.
The Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring
for Accountability in Post-Earthquake Nepal (IRM)
project tracks evolving conditions and needs in areas
of Nepal that were affected by the earthquakes of April
and May 2015. Using both quantitative surveying and
in-depth qualitative fieldwork, IRM involves revisiting
areas and people at roughly six month intervals to
assess current conditions and how they are changing.
Because data collection and research is conducted in
the same areas in each round, with many of the same
people interviewed, IRM allows for an assessment of
how conditions and needs are changing over time and
of the roles that aid is playing—positive and negative-
in shaping recovery patterns.
This report, produced by Democracy Resource Center
Nepal (DRCN) and The Asia Foundation, provides data
and analysis on how aid delivery practices, political
cultures, social relations, and livelihoods intersect
in order to determine the local-level conditions
that shape community and individual recovery. It
complements a report based on quantitative data that
has been published in parallel.1 The findings from the
two reports will be synthesized into a third report.
The information provided is from the third wave of
a ward-level longitudinal qualitative field research
study. The methodology combines participant ob-
servation, interviews, and focus group discussion
methods. In the third wave of research, additional
interviews with citizens were also conducted to un-
derstand more clearly citizens’ perspectives about
'The Asia Foundation and Interdisciplinary Analysts (2017).
Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase 3 - Quantitative
Survey (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok:
The Asia Foundation. All IRM reports are available at: http://
asiafoundation.org/tag/independent-impacts-and-recovery-
monitoring-nepal /
1


Introduction
the thematic issues covered by the research. This
report focuses on findings from the third phase of
research (IRM-3), which took place from 27 August
to 13 September 2016. Six teams of DRCN researchers
conducted research in a total of 36 wards across six
earthquake-affected districts.
The first wave of the research (IRM-1) was concluded
eight weeks after the 25 April 2015 earthquake and
therefore focused on the delivery of humanitarian as-
sistance and the earliest phases of recovery.2 The first
phase of monitoring made a series of recommenda-
tions on the basis of research findings and qualitative
analysis. It was recommended that relief and recovery
efforts should work through government mechanisms:
District Disaster Relief Committees (DDRC), Village
Development Committee (VDC), and Relief Distribu-
tion Committees (RDCs). The research recommended
improving existing government mechanisms to make
them more transparent, ensuring information was
more clearly communicated, and providing effective
complaint mechanisms. This included clarifying the
damage assessment process and instituting inclusive
decision-making processes that prioritize the partic-
ipation of victims of the earthquake. The research
pointed towards emerging gaps in resettlement plans
for the displaced population, inadequate land assess-
ments, and challenges with regard to access to finance
and the long-term relief and reconstruction plan.
Research also found that while social cohesion and po-
litical dynamics had not significantly worsened in the
immediate aftermath of the earthquake, caution was
needed among policymakers and aid agencies about
the possible impact of large-scale reconstruction and
other relief on social relations and conflict.
The second round of research (IRM-2) was conducted
in February and March of 2016 and provided infor-
mation on the challenges of the monsoon and winter
seasons, as well as the medium-term recovery efforts
that took place.3 It was recommended that needs
assessments should look beyond the reconstruction
of physical infrastructure and collate information
through coordination mechanisms to develop a
shared understanding of needs between government,
NGOs, the UN, and foreign agencies. The research
also pointed to the importance of clarifying the roles
and responsibilities of different government agencies
at the district and central levels. With regard to the
National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), the report
recommended providing detailed information about
assessment standards and developing a uniform dis-
pute settlement mechanism to process complaints
that will emerge after the Central Bureau of Statistics
(CBS) assessment of damaged houses. Further, the
report recommended generating and sharing the re-
sults of geological assessments of affected areas and
identifying and supporting displaced persons who will
need temporary as well as permanent resettlement.
Increased focus on protection issues, especially for
women and the displaced, and clarification and im-
plementation of soft loans, were also highlighted as
important needs.
In this third round of research (IRM-3), conducted
in September 2016, many of the same challenges
persisted while new concerns have also emerged.
This report provides analysis of the last six months
of recovery and changes in the environment in the
studied areas. It also provides recommendations on
how to move forward efficiently and effectively with
recovery and reconstruction efforts.4
1.2 Focus areas
The report focuses on five thematic areas, seeking to
answer key questions for each:
Aid delivery and effectiveness
How have affected villagers and communities expe-
rienced the recovery effort at the local level and how
effective has been the effort in addressing their needs?
Here, the report examines how the types and volumes
of aid provided have evolved over time, how assis-
tance has been targeted and delivered, coordinating
mechanisms (including the government’s institutional
framework for coordination), how decisions have
been made and complaints resolved (including levels
2 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase 1 - Qualitative
Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The
Asia Foundation.
3 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
4 Recommendations are from the authors alone and do not neces-
sarily reflect the views of the donors.
2


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Photo: Anurag Devkota
of local participation), and levels of satisfaction with
responses.
Politics and leadership
What has been the impact of the disaster and the aid
effort on the dynamics and leadership of local formal
and informal institutions and how has this changed
over time? The report analyzes whether the aid effort
has resulted in changes in the structure, influence, and
leadership of local institutions. The report examines
the roles of political parties and their leaders in local
relief and reconstruction efforts and whether there
have been any changes in local political dynamics.
Social relations and conflict
What have the impacts of the disaster and subsequent
aid and reconstruction efforts been on social relations
such as relations within settlements and groups
(among caste, religious, and ethnic groups) as well
as inter-settlement and inter-group relations? Have
patterns of violence and crime emerged that are
directly related to the disaster and aid effort? Here,
the report examines whether social relations have
changed over time since the earthquakes and what
the (potential) sources of conflict are.
Protection and vulnerability
Did new vulnerabilities and challenges related to
protecting vulnerable groups arise due to the impact of
the earthquake and how have these evolved? The report
discusses factors increasing people’s vulnerability and
examines which groups are particularly vulnerable.
Economy and livelihoods
What are the ongoing impacts of the disaster and the
aid response on occupational groups such as farmers,
entrepreneurs, and casual laborers? The report
examines issues related to livelihoods, including debt
and credit, land tenure, access to markets, in- and
out- migration, and remittances, discussing changes
compared to previous rounds of research
3


Introduction
1.3 Methods
This report is based on in-depth qualitative field re-
search conducted between 27 August and 13 Septem-
ber 2016. Researchers visited 36 wards in 18 VDCs/
municipalities5 in six earthquake-affected districts:
Gorkha, Okhaldhunga, Ramechhap, Syangja, Sind-
hupalchowk, and Solukhumbu, all of which were also
visited in IRM-2 (Map 1).6 Researchers also spent
time in district headquarters to track changes or de-
velopments in the dynamics of the aid response and
reconstruction processes.
As with previous rounds, the research teams used key
informant interviews, focus group discussions, citizens
interviews, and participant observation to gather two
kinds of data. First, they collected standardized data
on the five focus areas at the district, VDC, and ward
levels. This facilitated comparisons of the impact,
emerging issues, and the disaster response across
research areas. Second, teams provided a descriptive
picture of the five research areas through in-depth field
research. The data were used to explain changes in the
five research areas and new trends that have emerged
since the earlier rounds of the research.
The report focuses on the impact of the earthquake
and the response at the ward level. Sampling of lo-
cations was done at three levels—district, VDC, and
ward—with the intention of selecting sites which var-
ied in terms of two key factors that were predicted to
affect the nature and speed of recovery: (i) the degree
of impact of the earthquake; and (ii) the degree of
remoteness.
Districts were selected to vary by level of earthquake
damage: three severely hit, one crisis hit, one hit
with heavy losses, and one hit district were chosen
(Table 1.1). Affected districts were categorized based
on the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA)
carried out by the Government of Nepal.
Levels of impact within these districts varied widely.
VDCs were chosen based on information on levels of
impact and remoteness gathered by research teams
at the district headquarters. Among the 18 VDCs/
municipalities that were visited, eight were high
impact, seven were medium impact, and three were
low impact. Similarly, nine VDCs/municipalities were
5 The research covered 15 VDCs and three municipalities. In this
report, unless mentioned otherwise, VDCs should be read to
include municipalities.
6 The sampling strategy changed between IRM-i and IRM-2. See
the IRM-2 reports for a discussion.
4


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Photo: Binu Sharma
accessible, seven were remote, and two were accessible
as well as remote depending on where the affected
areas in the VDC were located. In each VDC, teams
conducted research in the ward where the VDC hub
(center) is located along with a less accessible ward
located up to a day’s drive or walk away from the VDC
hub. Wards were then selected based on information
gathered in the VDCs on levels of impact, the location
of the wards, and other relevant factors.
Table 1.1: District level earthquake impact (PDNA)
Severely hit Crisis hit Hit with heavy losses Hit
Ramechhap Okhaldhunga Solukhumbu Syangja
Gorkha
Sindhupalchowk
During the analysis stage, wards were classified
separately to reflect the significant variance in the
levels of impact observed by research teams. Wards
were classified according to an estimate of the actual
level of damage taking into account the percentage
of homes completely destroyed and homes rendered
unlivable. A more complete description of the research
methodology is provided in Annex A.
Limitations
Research locations: The research is a part of the
longitudinal study of the impacts of the earthquake and
the changing needs of the victims of the earthquake.
Therefore, researchers revisited only those VDCs and
wards that were part of the previous rounds of the
study.7 Researchers in the first round of the research
were not able to visit very remote and inaccessible
VDCs and wards as this round was conducted during
the early monsoon period. Therefore, remote VDCs for
the purpose of this study also include VDCs that were
situated more than half a day’s drive or walk from the
district headquarters.
Data: Government agencies, including VDC offices
and district level agencies, often did not have adequate
data on earthquake’s impact, aid, and the recovery
and reconstruction process. Research teams therefore
relied on secondary data, key informant interviews,
and their general impressions and observations when
there was a gap in the availability of data.
7 The VDCs and wards visited in IRM-2 and IRM-3 remained the
same. However, two districts changed after IRM-1 to reflect the
PDNA damage categories that were not yet public at the time of the
first research round. Therefore, only in four districts were selected
VDCs and wards visited in all three research rounds.
5


Introduction
1.4 Structure of the report
The report continues as follows:
Chapter 2 provides an update on the current status
of reconstruction, as well as policies and recent po-
litical developments in Nepal that have affected the
earthquake recovery process since the last round of
research was completed.
Chapter 3 discusses the types and volumes of aid
distributed, including the distribution of cash grants
for the reconstruction of private houses, patterns of
aid distribution, as well as government mechanisms
for assessing damages and coordinating aid, local
involvement in decision-making around aid, changes
in the needs and priorities of the people, changes in
the nature of aid, and levels of satisfaction with the
response.
Chapter 4 focuses on the impact on local leadership
structures and political dynamics as well as the role
of political parties in reconstruction and the recovery
process in general. This chapter also focuses on politi-
cal party activities and dynamics at the local level and
the role of political parties and other local leaders in
the cash grant agreement process. The emergence of
new leadership at the local level and levels of support
for political parties are also discussed.
Chapter 5 discusses the impact of the earthquake
and the response on social relations and issues that
may lead, or already have led, to conflict and tensions.
This chapter also traces the changes in social relations
since the early weeks of relief distribution.
Chapter 6 focuses on protection issues and factors
that increase vulnerability in affected areas, especially
for some groups.
Chapter 7 describes the impact on livelihoods and
the economy in the wards visited and discusses the
implications this is having for recovery. This chapter
also examines the coping mechanisms people are
using to address their needs.
The report concludes with a discussion of main find-
ings and policy implications. The recommendations
provided are those of the authors alone and not of
the donors.
6


Photo: Nayan Pokharel

2.1 Current status of reconstruction
At the time of IRM-2 (February-March 2016), the
reconstruction of damaged structures had not yet fully
begun as policy frameworks to guide reconstruction
were still being developed. By IRM-3 (early September
2016), the signing of agreements with beneficiaries to
receive cash assistance for reconstruction was ongoing
but many had not yet received the cash in hand. With
the monsoon having just ended, and many roads
inaccessible and transportation difficult, weather
conditions were only starting to improve allowing
construction to take place.
According to the PDNA, 498,852 private houses
were fully damaged and 256,697 private houses were
partially damaged in 31 districts by the earthquakes
of April and May 2015 (see Annex B).8 Those whose
houses were majorly damaged are eligible to re-
ceive reconstruction cash grants through the Rural
Housing Reconstruction Program (RHRP), which is
implemented by the NRA with donor support; those
whose houses were partially damaged are now eligible
for retrofitting grants (see below).9 According to the
latest results from a new assessment conducted by
the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), 626,695 pri-
vate houses across the 14 most affected districts have
now been identified as fully damaged and eligible to
receive reconstruction cash assistance.10 A further
19,866 private houses have been assessed as partially
damaged and deemed eligible for cash assistance for
retrofitting.11 This figure will likely increase as more
districts are covered.
Progress in rebuilding has been slow — both com-
pared to other post-disaster contexts such as Aceh
and Sichuan and in the perception of many of the
earthquake-affected. By December 2016, more than 18
months after the disasters, a total of 41,311 houses had
been rebuilt according to the National Reconstruction
8 Government of Nepal, National Planning Commission, Nepal
Earthquake 2015: Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (Volume A:
Key Findings), Kathmandu 2015. (available at: http://www.nra.
gov.np/uploads/docs/PDNA%2oVolume%2oA%2oFinal.pdf).
9 Support for retrofitting was only made available by a Cabinet
decision on 29 December 2016 when The Procedure for the Re-
construction Grant Distribution for Private Houses Damaged by
Earthquake 2016 (2073 BS) was adopted http://nra.gov.np/down
load/details/187. According to this document, eligible households
will receive NPR 100,000 as a retrofitting cash grant.
10 NRA Note on the state of distribution of Reconstruction Cash
Grant, January 31, 2017 (available at: http://nra.gov.np/news/
details/205). Also note, this data includes assessments from only
14 districts of 31 earthquake-affected districts.
11 The Himalayan Times, ‘19,866 to get aid for retrofitting houses’,
13 February 2017 (available at: https://thehimalayantimes.com/
nepal/i9866-get-aid-retrofitting-houses/?utm_source=HR
RP+Partners+List&utmcampaign=O4fddifc76-EMAlLCAM
PAlGN20i7 02 20&utmmedium=email&utmterm=()
62c42fcbf3-O4fddifc76-9i9i55O9).
7


Developments since IRM-2
Authority (NRA).12 This data, however, contradicts
that provided by the Ministry of Urban Development’s
Central Level Project Implementation Unit, which
states that only 18,485 houses had been reconstruct-
ed by February 2017.13 Many of these houses and
other structures have been rebuilt through individual
efforts and non-governmental assistance since the
earthquakes.
At the time of the IRM-3 fieldwork in September 2016,
the signing of beneficiary agreements and distribution
of the first installment of the reconstruction cash grant
was underway in 11 districts, including the following
districts visited during the research: Gorkha, Sindhu-
palchowk, Ramechhap, and Okhaldhunga. Of the six
districts visited, the assessment and cash grant agree-
ment processes had not yet started in Solukhumbu and
Syangja at the time of research. The NRA began the
process of signing cash grant agreements with these
beneficiaries on 13 March 2016 in Dolakha district and
started distributing the first installment of the grant
shortly after in May 2016.14 As of 5 March 2017,553,111
households across all districts had signed beneficiary
agreements and 532,260 had received the first install-
ment of the grant in their beneficiary bank account.
No data exists on how many people have withdrawn
the amount from their account.15 NRA data show that
as of January 2017 41 percent of complaints received
had been reviewed.
Although the reconstruction of private houses has
been the “special priority” of the NRA, infrastructure
was also badly damaged and roads, bridges, health
posts, schools, water pipes and taps, and electricity
poles and hydropower projects, amongst other infra-
structure, needed to be rebuilt or repaired. Govern-
ment buildings have also been damaged. According
to the PDNA, infrastructure worth NPR 57 billion was
destroyed.16 17 Most has not yet been rebuilt although
much progress has been made with regards to repair-
ing and rebuilding schools, health posts, roads, and
water sources.
Table 2.1: Progress of private house reconstruction and cash grant
distribution in the research areas17
Total (nationwide) Gorkha Sindhupalchowk Ramechhap Okhaldhunga
Damage and assessments
Private houses severely or fully damaged (damage grades 3-5 in CBS assessment)18 N/A19 65,168 85,499 49,345 22,786
Private house owners identified as beneficiaries20 626,69521 58,503 78,537 43,609 19,819
Households identified for retrofitting grants22 19,866 2,019 376 2,149 1,643
12 http://nra.gov.np/uploads/docs/ctQFbdKaF161229o5422o.pdf.
13 http://202.45.144.197/nfdnfis/clpiu/index.htm
14 In September 2016, at the time of research, the Central Bureau
of Statistics (CBS) had only conducted surveys in severely hit and
crisis hit districts: Dhading, Dolakha, Gorkha, Kavrepalanchok,
Makawanpur, Nuwakot, Okhaldhunga, Ramechhap, Rasuwa,
Sindhuli, and Sindhupalchowk. The CBS assessment had not yet
finished in 17 out of 31 affected districts as of March 2017.
15 http://www.mofald.gov.np/ne/node/i8i4?utm
16 Government of Nepal, National Planning Commission, Nepal
Earthquake 2015: Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (Volume
A: Key Findings), Kathmandu 2015. http://www.nra.gov.np/
uploads/docs/PDNA%2oVolume%2oA%2oFinal.pdf
17 As the CBS survey was not yet conducted in Solukhumbu and
Syangja, two of the four districts visited, no data exist for these
districts. Source for numbers in this table, unless indicated
otherwise: http://hrrpnepal.org/maps/map-and-infographics/
district-profile/
18 District data as of early 2017 for houses assigned damage grades
3-5 in the CBS assessment (major damages or fully destroyed).
http://hrrpnepal.org/maps/map-and-infographics/district-
profile/?page=i
19 The CBS assessment is still ongoing. According to the PDNA a total
of 755,549 private houses were fully or partially damaged (498,852
fully destroyed and a total of 256,697 partially damaged). See,
Government of Nepal, National Planning Commission, Nepal
Earthquake 2015: Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (Volume
A: Key Findings), Kathmandu 2015. http://www.nra.gov.np/
uploads/docs/PDNA%2oVolume%2oA%2oFinal.pdf
20 http://www.mofald.gov.np/ne/node/1814Putm
21 Ibid. Note: The CBS assessment had not yet finished in 17 out of
31 affected districts as of March 2017. The total number therefore
only refers to households from the 14 priority districts rather than
all earthquake-affected districts.
22 The Himalayan Times, 19,866 to get aid for retrofitting
houses, 13 February 2017 https://thehimalayantimes.com/
nepal/i9866-get-aid-retrofitting-houses/?utm_source=
HRRP+Partners+List&utmcampaign=()4fddifc76-EMA1L
CAMPAIGN—2 O17_O2_2 o&utm_medium=email&utm_
term=o_62c42fcbf3-O4fddifc76-9i9i55O9
8


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Total (nationwide) Gorkha Sindhupalchowk Ramechhap Okhaldhunga
Cash grants
Beneficiaries who signed reconstruction cash grant agreements as of March 201723 553,111 53,349 74,924 40,911 18,489
Beneficiaries who received the first installment of the reconstruction cash grant (in beneficiary account)24 532,260 52,675 74,912 39,759 18,301
Complaints
Registered complaints at the local level25 205,196 15,746 14,447 13,972 7,810
Complaints reviewed by the NRA as of January 201726 83,413 11,606 2,964 8,553 6,775
Approved complaints27 21,459 2,313 1,269 1,043 346
Complaints needing further field verification28 4,255 849 114 342 273
Reassessment ordered by the NRA29 21,613 2,609 1,016 2,376 1,581
Rejected complaints30 36,086 5,835 565 4,792 4,575
Reconstruction
Houses already rebuilt by reconstruction scheme beneficiaries as of March 201731 2,265 N/A 22 709 N/A
Number of self-constructed houses (without assistance) as of March 201732 16,220 N/A 1,293 1,199 N/A
Damage to land and potential risks, especially for
landslides, have now been assessed in many areas in
14 districts by geo-hazards risk assessment teams.33
Many communities have faced uncertainty since the
earthquakes about whether they can continue to live
on or return to land which is feared to be unsafe due
to landslides, cracks, or other geological risks. The
need for land assessments has been highlighted in
previous rounds of the IRM research, being identified
by local stakeholders as a major need. It is therefore
encouraging that progress has been made in this area.
23 http://www.mofald.gov.np/ne/node/1814Putm
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid.
26 HRRP Weekly Bulletin 13 Feb 2017 http://hrrpnepal.org/
resources-documents/weekly-bulletins/weekly-bulletin-13-
february-2017/
27 Includes both probably beneficiaries (deemed eligible post-
verification) and potential beneficiaries (cases of multiple
ownership). HRRP Weekly Bulletin 13 Feb 2017 http://hrrpnepal.
org/resources-documents/weekly-bulletins/weekly-bulletin-13-
february-2017/
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid.
30 Ibid.
31 Data from MoUD-CLPIU MIS portal: http://202.45.144.197/
nfdnfis / clpiu / index.htm.
32 Ibid.
33 https://drive.google.eom/file/d/oB2zdLrvHH4uVVBjRV
NaYTRvekU/view; http:// www.bbc.com/nepali/news-
38965 i85?utmsource = HRRP + Partners + List&utm_
campaign=O4fddifc76-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN—2017—02—20
&utm_medium=email&utm_term=o_62c42fcbf3-O4fddifc
76-91915509
9


Developments since IRM-2
2.2 Policy framework
The NRA
The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) is the
lead government agency for all post-earthquake recon-
struction activities and has a wide mandate relating
to the coordination and facilitation of reconstruction,
recovery, and preparedness work. In May 2016, over
one year after the first major earthquake on 25 April
2015, the NRA published the Post Disaster Recovery
Framework (PDRF) which establishes the institutional
and policy framework for reconstruction from 2016
to 2020.34
The NRA was legally established by the NRA Act in
late December 2015 but did not begin operations
until mid-January 2016.35 In 2015, a focus on the
promulgation of the Constitution, political protests
and difference between political parties, as well as
an economic blockade along the Nepal-India border
delayed the adoption of the NRA Act and the estab-
lishment of the NRA.36 Disagreements between then
coalition partners regarding the appointment of the
NRA CEO also prevented the timely passing of the
act. The NRA has admitted that the ongoing political
transition in Nepal is a major challenge to reconstruc-
tion and also cited the difficult geographical terrain as
a factor delaying the provision of assistance to remote
parts of the country.37
Other challenges the NRA has faced include staffing
issues. The agency is reportedly facing difficulties in
attracting and retaining civil service staff.38 In Decem-
ber 2016, engineers deployed by the Ministry of Urban
Development Central Level Programme Implementa-
tion Unit (MoUD CL-PIU) went on strike, citing poor
conditions. 39 Additionally, the NRA has highlighted
shortages in technical staff and trained masons in
earthquake-affected districts.40 In response, the NRA
reached an agreement with the Nepal Army to mobi-
lize 200 army staff, including masons and carpenters
in Sindhuli, Okhaldhunga, and Ramechhap districts,
where there is an acute lack of skilled masons and tech-
nical manpower.41 The NRA has also started training
3,500 final year civil engineering students to assist in
reconstruction across the 14 most-affected districts.42
The NRA is mandated to work closely with a number of
other government ministries. The Ministry of Federal
Affairs and Local Development (MoFALD), through its
Central Level Programme Implementation Unit (CL-
PIU) and District Level Programme Implementation
Units (DL-PIUs), holds primary responsibility for
the disbursement of the housing grant. Primary
responsibility for technical standards and staffing for
housing reconstruction are the responsibility of the
Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), through
its CL-PIU and DL-PIUs, as well as the Department
of Urban Development and Building Construction
(DUDBC).
A Multi Donor Trust Fund assists the NRA and sup-
ports the government-led Rural Housing Reconstruc-
tion Program (RHRP).43 The main partners involved
are the World Bank, USAID, SDC, the Government of
Canada, and DFID. The fund also works closely with
JICA and other development partners. The Hous-
ing Recovery and Reconstruction Platform (HRRP)
further provides assistance through strategic plan-
ning and technical guidance to agencies involved in
recovery and reconstruction and to the Government
of Nepal, supporting the coordination of the national
reconstruction program and facilitating coordination
with other stakeholders.44
34 Post Disaster Recovery Framework 2016-2020, NRA, May 2016.
http://nra.gov.np/uploads/docs/84LdZ2BkQ8i6io26o9285i.
pdf
35 NRA Act (Official Translation), December 2015. Available at
http://hrrpnepal.org/media/9148/nra-act-english-official-
translation.pdf
36 For more information, see: The Asia Foundation and Democracy
Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earth-
quake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring
Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (February and March
2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 9-10.
37 NRA Press Note of 25 December 2016 http://nra.gov.np/uploads/
docs/HQYgvmi4CGi6i228o85528.pdf
38 ‘Staff crunch dogs NRA since birth’, 26 December 2016, http://
kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2o16-12-26/staff-crunch-
dogs-nra-since-birth.html
39 ‘Engineers halt post-quake reconstruction work, put forth various
demands’, 12 December 2016, http://setopati.net/politics/18944/
Engineers-halt-post-quake-reconstruction-work,-put-forth-
various-demands /
40 ‘Shortage of masons threatens to hamper reconstruction efforts’,
25 January 2016, http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/
news/2Oi7-oi-25/shortage-of-masons-threatens-to-hamper-
reconstruction-efforts .html
41 ‘Nepal Army personnel to aid house reconstruction’, 21 January
2017, http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2o17-o1-21/
nepal-army-personnel-to-aid-house-reconstruction.html
42 ‘Students to get involved in reconstruction work’, 19 February
2017, https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/students-get-
involved-reconstruction-work/
43 https://www.nepalhousingreconstruction.org. See also,
http://hrrpnepal.org/media/78963/nepal-rural-housing-
reconstruction-program.pdf
44 http://hrrpnepal.org/
10


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
The Rural Housing Reconstruction Program (RHRP)
In order to get people back into safer, permanent
housing, the Government of Nepal and major donors
developed the Nepal Rural Housing Reconstruction
Program (RHRP).45 Through this program, which
emphasizes owner-driven reconstruction, cash grants
of NPR 300,000 are provided in three instalments
to eligible beneficiaries to aid them in building
earthquake-resistant houses. The June 2015 credit
agreement between donors and the government46
requires the government to conduct a house-by-house
damage assessment and eligibility survey, sign a
participation agreement between eligible beneficiaries
and the government, provide housing grants in three
tranches through bank accounts, release subsequent
tranches based on progress achieved in resilient
construction and conduct comprehensive, multi-tier,
and hands-on training.47 While non-governmental
and individual donors have also provided cash
assistance to earthquake victims including support for
rebuilding, the RHRP is the main mechanism through
which resources are being provided to those whose
house was destroyed or badly damaged.
The CBS assessment
In February 2016, the government began a new round
of damage assessments aimed at identifying recon-
struction grant beneficiaries. Previous rounds of as-
sessments, used to identify beneficiaries for emergency
and winter relief distribution, had been contentious
with a large number of complaints across affected
districts and protests against beneficiary lists in some
areas.48 It was believed that a new, more technically
sound assessment was needed. The new assessment—
the third since the 2015 earthquakes—was conducted
by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) at the behest
of the NRA. The CBS initially deployed engineers to the
11 most affected districts, excluding districts catego-
rized by the government as being ‘hit with heavy losses’
or ‘hit’. Assessments in three additional districts in
the Kathmandu valley have been completed in 2016
while assessments of the remaining 17 lesser-affected
districts, which started in late 2016, are ongoing as of
March 2017 and have yet to be completed.49
The CBS assessment teams graded the level of damage
to houses on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest
damage (‘negligible to slight damage’) and 5 being the
highest (‘destruction’).50 Heavily damaged houses were
listed under grades 3, 4, and 5 (‘substantial to heavy
damage’, ‘very heavy damage’, and ‘destruction’),
depending on the extent of structural damage and
levels of destruction, and deemed eligible for the
reconstruction cash grant assistance. Houses with
grades 2-major repairs) and 3-minor repairs were later
deemed eligible for retrofitting grants (see below).51
The CBS assessment was not without controversy
(see Chapter 3 and the IRM Thematic Paper on Re-
construction Cash Grants).52 Firstly, it delayed the
distribution of assistance in the form of reconstruc-
tion cash grants in less-affected districts, causing
uncertainty and frustration as well as uncertainty
among earthquake victims there.53 Frustrations were
also expressed in districts where the CBS assessment
was conducted. Many earthquake victims, as well as
some local officials and leaders, complained that the
assessment was conducted without sufficient staff and
45 The Nepal Rural Housing Reconstruction Program (RHRP) is also
sometimes called Earthquake Housing Reconstruction Program
(EHRP) or Nepal Housing Reconstruction Program (NHRP). For a
program overview see: http://www.nepalhousingreconstruction.
org/documents/nepal-earthquake-housing-recontruction-
program-overview-summary. Also see https ://www.nepalhousingreconstruction.org
46 http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/speech/2015/06/25/
world-bank-group-pledge-statement-at-the-international-con
ference-on-nepals-reconstruction-2015
47 https://www.nepalhousingreconstruction.org; http://hrrpnepal.
org/media/78963/nepal-rural-housing-reconstruction-program.
pdf. For detailed information on the reconstruction grants see,
‘Information Booklet - Housing Reconstruction Grant - Vol I
(Nepali version)’ http://hrrpnepal.org/media/39293/book_nra-
2016_final_20160310.pdf
48 For more information on various rounds of assessments and re-
lated protests, see The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource
Center Nepal (2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake
Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase
1 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation. And, The Asia Foundation and
Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in
Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery
Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (February
and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation
http://asiafoundation.org/tag/independent-impacts-and-recov-
ery-monitoring-nepal /
49 As of 16th March, the assessments were 83% complete according
to HRRP.
50 For definitions of the damage categories used during the CBS
assessment see: http://hrrpnepal.org/media/102534/cbs_
damage_category_definition.pdf
51 http://hrrpnepal.org/media/121155/i7Oio8_grant_disburse
ment_privatehouses-2o73-2o16-_unofficialtranslation.pdf
52 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Recon-
struction Cash Grants for Private Houses - Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Thematic Study. Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
53 Three rounds of IRM research have shown that even in lesser-
affected districts, there are pockets of high impact with many
destroyed and damaged houses.
11


Developments since IRM-2
technical knowledge and without local involvement.54
Of those who were declared not to be eligible for the
reconstruction grant, almost one-third believed they
should be.55
Cash grant agreements
The process of signing reconstruction grant agree-
ments with beneficiaries began in March 2016. A
total of 533,182 houses were initially deemed eligible
for receiving the house reconstruction grant in the 11
most affected districts.56 Later, an additional 94,459
beneficiaries were deemed eligible after assessments
were completed in Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and Kath-
mandu districts in the Kathmandu valley. The process
is ongoing and more will be listed as beneficiaries
after assessments are completed in all districts and
after complaints are verified and addressed. As of
late February 2017, 626,695 households were listed
as beneficiaries and 553,111 had signed beneficiary
agreements (see Table 2.1 above).
In many districts, the agreement process faced logis-
tical and technical challenges as well as protests and
obstructions due to local complaints against the new
beneficiary lists (for details, see Chapter 3 and the IRM
Thematic Paper on Reconstruction Cash Grants).57
This caused delays in the signing of agreements as well
as the distribution of grants in some areas. Provisions
for complaints mechanisms have been developed to
address the grievances of those who believed they had
been wrongly excluded from the beneficiary lists at the
VDC, district, regional, and central levels. Yet, many
of those protesting were initially unaware of these
mechanisms, which also began operating only after
the cash grant agreement process had already started
in several areas.58
Complaints and re-verification
Earthquake victims who want to register grievances
related to the beneficiary lists and the housing recon-
struction cash grant can do so at the VDC or munic-
ipality level, District Administration Offices (DAOs)
and District Development Committees (DDCs),
sub-regional NRA offices, or the NRA in Kathmandu.
Grievances must be registered through official forms
and supporting documentation must be submitted.
Committees to manage and, if possible, address
grievances were formed at the VDC/municipality and
district levels. If grievances cannot be resolved locally,
they are to be passed on to the next higher level.59
A total of 205,196 grievances were registered in the
14 most affected districts as of February 2017 (see
Table 2.1).60 Of these, 83,413 grievances were reviewed
in 12 districts.61 Most who complained were found
not to be eligible due to owning another habitable
house.62 Many complaints, however, require further
field observation to verify missing or mismatching
information, and around 21,000 households were
not identified in the CBS assessment and need to be
assessed in a re-survey.63
Cash grant distribution
The size of the housing reconstruction grant was
initially set at NPR 200,000. The original plan was for
the grant to be dispersed in three installments of NPR
50,000, 80,000, and 70,000, respectively. However,
in late August 2016, Prime Minister Dahal directed
the NRA to allocate an additional NPR 100,000 to the
housing reconstruction grant taking the total available
for fully damaged houses to NPR 300,000.64 The NRA
steering committee approved this policy change in late
September 2016, and the new NRA guidelines issued
54 The involvement of local stakeholders in previous assessments
was higher.
55 The Asia Foundation and Interdisciplinary Analysts (2017). Aid
and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Phase 3 - Quantitative Survey (Sep-
tember 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
56 NRA, ‘Rebuilding Nepal - October 2016-Janaury 2017’, http://
www.np.undp.org/content/dam/nepal/docs/generic/UNDP_
NP_newsletter-rebuilding-nepal-2016.pdf
57 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Recon-
struction Cash Grants for Private Houses - Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Thematic Study. Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
58 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Recon-
struction Cash Grants for Private Houses - Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Thematic Study. Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
59 The Procedures Relating to Grievances Management with Regard
to Reconstruction and Rehabilitation 2073 (2016), available at:
http://nra.gov.np/download/details/132. Unofficial English
translation: http://hrrpnepal.org/media/102543/grievances-
management-guidelines-2o73_unofficial-translation.pdf
60 http://www.mofald.gov.np/ne/node/178oPutm_source
61 Eleven target districts plus Lalitpur in the Kathmandu valley.
62 https://drive.google.eom/file/d/oB8POqqAzoLWFa2ZaeGFy
ZHNKLVk/view
63 On 13 February 2017, the steering committee meeting of the
NRA decided to carry out another survey to settle the grievances
of quake victims that cannot be resolved through the current
mechanisms, https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/national-
reconstruction-authority-resurvey-settle-unresolved-grievances/
64 ‘Govt Prepares to up housing grant’, 6 September 2016, http://
kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2o16-o9-o6/post-quake-
reconstruction-govt-prepares-to-up-housing-grant.html
12


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
in December 2016 confirm that earthquake victims
will receive a total of NPR 300,000 (if they fulfill
all requirements): NPR 50,000 in the first tranche,
NPR 150,000 in the second, and an additional NPR
100,000 in the third tranche.65
It is important to note that the government and the
NRA have defined payment of the housing grant as
being the point at which the money is put into bank
accounts opened specifically for the purpose in the
name of those who had signed agreements. Disburse-
ment of the first tranche of the reconstruction grant,
set at NPR 50,000, into beneficiary bank accounts
began in May 2016.66 The deadline to complete dis-
tribution in the 11 most affected districts was initially
set for mid-September and later 6 October. Both
deadlines were missed.67 The fact that the number of
beneficiaries who have actually withdrawn the grant
money currently remains undocumented is prob-
lematic because many earthquake victims have faced
obstacles accessing their bank accounts, ranging from
living far from the next bank to being abroad, lacking
the required documentation or having one’s name
misspelled in beneficiary lists or agreements, amongst
other factors (see Chapter 3 and the IRM Thematic
Paper on Reconstruction Cash Grants).68 As of March
2017,532,260 of 626,695 identified beneficiaries had
received the first installment of the grant in their ben-
eficiary bank account.69
Retrofitting grants
Although retrofitting grants were a part of reconstruc-
tion policy, the terms and criteria were not formalized
until recently and there was a lack of support for
lesser-impacted homes that could be repaired. These
delays and a lack of technical training on retrofitting
meant that many households focused on receiving
the reconstruction cash grant, which requires them
to completely rebuild. Yet the costs of demolishing
partially damaged houses and rebuilding are generally
much higher than repairing/retrofitting. Following
complaints and advocacy from some INGOs and
donors, the terms of the retrofitting cash grant were
elaborated and passed by Cabinet. As per the new
(December 2016) Procedure for the Reconstruction
Grant Distribution for Private Houses Damaged by
Earthquake 2016 (2073 BS),7° retrofitting cash grants
of NPR 100,000 only apply to houses classified in
the CBS damage assessment as being grade 3-minor
repairs and grade 2-major repairs houses.71 Grade
3-minor repairs households will only receive an ad-
ditional NPR 50,000 if they have already received
the first tranche of the housing reconstruction grant.
Retrofitting cash grants can also be applied retrospec-
tively if houses have already been retrofitted and then
verified by engineers.
Building codes
The new Procedure has added two new preconditions
to receive the third NPR 100,000 installment of
the reconstruction grant. NPR 75,000 of the last
installment will be granted for the purpose of the
construction of the roof-level of the houses while the
remaining NPR 25,000 is tied with the construction
of a toilet or the installment of an alternative source
of energy such as solar energy or a biogas plant within
two years of the construction of the houses.
Technical supervision
In May 2015, the Government of Nepal requested
partner organizations to focus on providing techni-
cal assistance. In late February 2017, the NRA again
requested partners to increase technical assistance to
households who were building back in order to help
them meet the technical specifications in the building
codes and inspection SOP.72 This request came as in-
ternal NRA surveys suggested that up to 50 percent
of house being rebuilt were not compliant with the
technical guidelines in the inspection SOP. As of 10th
March 2017, only 24 VDCs out of a total of 618 in the
earthquake-affected districts had full technical cover-
age from NGOs and development partners with 150
receiving no technical assistance.73
65 The Procedure for the Reconstruction Grant Distribution for
Private Houses Damaged by Earthquake 2016 (2073 BS) http://
nra.gov.np/download/details/187; ‘NRA meeting approves
additional housing grant of NPR 100,000’, 27 September 2016,
http://www.myrepublica.com/news/6394
66 ‘Grant Distribution Guideline for Completely Destroyed Private
Houses by Earthquakes 2072 (2015)’. http://hrrpnepal.org/
media/105464/grant-distribution-guidelineS—unofficial-
translationa-eng_16o52o.pdf
67 ‘Local bodies told to distribute first tranche before Dashain’, 22
September 2016, http://www.myrepublica.com/news/6103
68 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Recon-
struction Cash Grants for Private Houses - Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Thematic Study. Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation,
69 Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development update, 5
March 2017 http://www.mofald.gov.np/ne/node/1814Putm
70 http://hrrpnepal.0rg/media/121155/170108_grant_disburse
ment_privatehouses-2o73-2o16-_unofficialtranslation.pdf
71 Houses classified as grade 1 or as grade 2 (requiring minor repairs)
are not eligible for retrofitting or other support. Houses listed
as grade 2 (requiring major repairs), however, are eligible for
retrofitting support.
72 ‘NRA dials dev partners for more technical support’, 24 February
2017, http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2o17-o2-24/
nra-dials-dev-partners-for-more-technical-support.html
73 Data provided by HRRP.
13


Developments since IRM-2
Photo: Ishwari Bhattarai
Access to credit and loans
Alongside the reconstruction cash grants for private
houses that were damaged, the government has made
provisions for soft loans of up to NPR 300,000 with-
out collateral. There is also provision for subsidized
loans of up to NPR 1,500,000 outside the Kathmandu
Valley, and up to NPR 2,500,000 inside the Valley
with collateral.74 However, banks have been found to
be reluctant to provide soft loans without assurances
from the government for repayment.75 At the time of
the IRM-3 research, few were able to access loans from
formal institutions and even fewer knew how to access
or had received soft loans. Most were borrowing from
informal sources at high interest rates (see Chapter
7.5). This highlights both households’ needs for addi-
tional cash to rebuild and the real risks of debt traps
if loans schemes are not made more easily and widely
available alongside the reconstruction cash grant.76
74 http://hrrpnepal.org/media/105469/161110—briefing-pack_
v3.pdf
75 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Recon-
struction Cash Grants for Private Houses - Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Thematic Study. Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
76 See also the IRM-3 survey which provides detailed information on
borrowing patterns: The Asia Foundation and Interdisciplinary
Analysts (2017). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal:
Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 3 - Quan-
titative Survey (September 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The
Asia Foundation.
14


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Political developments and policy changes
National level politics
Political infighting at the central level, the confus-
ing implementation of new structures in the PDRF,
changes in government, and changes in reconstruction
policy have all continued to cause uncertainty and de-
lay reconstruction in 2016.77 Disagreements between
parties centered on the size of reconstruction cash
grant, the number of installments, and the conditions
for receiving further installments of the grant as well
as the leadership of the NRA. This has caused confu-
sion and uncertainty and was observed to have made
the work of local government offices and NRA staff
working at the local level more difficult.78
In mid-2016, ruling and opposition parties put
forward various proposals on the number of install-
ments and amounts of the reconstruction cash grant.
In June, Nepali Congress, then the main opposition
party, obstructed parliament for a number of days
demanding the release of the entire cash grant to
eligible earthquake victims in one installment as op-
posed to the three installments proposed by the NRA.
The government eventually gave in to pressure from
Nepali Congress, announcing that the grant would be
disbursed in two installments instead of three but the
credit agreement between donors and the Government
of Nepal did not allow for such a change. Additional-
ly, donors objected to changing the modality, in part
because it would cause further delays.79 As a result the
government quickly reverted to the three installments
model for the distribution of cash grant.
Changes in government also impacted on reconstruc-
tion policy. Opposition parties CPN-MC and Nepali
Congress introduced a no confidence motion in par-
liament against the CPN-UML government. Prime
Minister K.P. Oli resigned on 24 July 2016 paving the
way for Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of CPN-MC,
to become the new Prime Minister with the support
of Nepali Congress. Following earlier promises, in late
August the then new Prime Minister Dahal announced
that the overall reconstruction grant would be raised
from NPR 200,000 to NPR 300,000 but this was not
confirmed as policy until December 2016 (see below).
On 11 January 2017, the government decided to
replace the NRA’s CEO, Sushil Gyewali, “for the failure
of the NRA to ensure satisfactory reconstruction
of damaged private houses” with his predecessor,
Govinda Pokharel.80 * The Nepali Congress and CPN-
UML coalition government had initially appointed
Mr. Pokharel, who is a Nepali Congress leader, as the
CEO. Later, the new coalition government of CPN-
UML and CPN-MC decided against Mr. Pokharel and
appointed Mr. Gyewali who is considered to be close
to CPN-UML. Since the government’s decision, Mr.
Gyewali has moved a case protesting his dismissal
in the Supreme Court against the government and
the NRA, which has the potential of further inviting
uncertainty with regard to the reconstruction process.
Aside from post-earthquake disputes, the attention
of political parties and the government has moved
away from reconstruction on other divisive issues
including a proposed constitutional amendment, local
body restructuring, and constitutionally-mandated
elections at three different levels.81 The CPN-MC-
led government’s decision to remove the NRA CEO
is likely to widen the distrust between the current
government and the main opposition party, CPN-
UML. Further, potential protests related to local
elections and local body restructuring may have an
impact on recovery by taking the focus away from
reconstruction or delaying the delivery of assistance.
New guidelines
The new Procedure for the Reconstruction Grant Dis-
tribution for Private Houses Damaged by Earthquake
2016 (2073 BS) was issued on 29 December 2016,
77 Already in 2015, political differences between then-coalition part-
ners, CPN-UML and Nepali Congress, and the promulgation of the
Constitution delayed the establishment of the NRA. See, The Asia
Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid
and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring
(February and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia
Foundation, pp. 9-10.
78 See Chapter 3 and The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource
Center Nepal (2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earth-
quake Reconstruction Cash Grants for Private Houses, IRM -
Thematic Study. Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
79 ‘World Bank objects to change in quake grant modality’, 1 July
2016, http://www.myrepublica.com/news/1217
80 Nepal Removes Leader of Post-Quake Rebuilding Effort, 11
January 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2o17/o1/11/world/
asia/nepal-removes-leader-of-post-earthquake-rebuilding-effort.
html?r=o.
81 The Constitution of Nepal promulgated in 2015 has created three
tiers of government: local government, state government, and
federal government. In March 2016, the Government of Nepal
constituted the Commission for Restructuring of Village, Munic-
ipalities, and Special, Protected and Autonomous Area, commonly
known as the Local Body Restructuring Commission (LBRC).
For more information, see DRCN, ‘Preliminary Findings on
Local Body Restructuring at the Local Level’ September 8, 2016,
available at: https://drcnepal.files.wordpress.com/2o16/o9/
drcn_local-body-restructuring-in-nepal_-o9-o8-16.pdf). Also
see a follow up note, available at: http://democracyresource.
org/admin/images/Local%2obody%2oRestructuring%2oState-
ment_Nepali.pdf.
15


Developments since IRM-2
replacing the 2015 version of the document. The new
procedure has tried to address many concerns relating
to access to reconstruction cash grant that were earlier
raised by the victims of the earthquake.82 First, the
newly promulgated Procedure has clarified rules and
procedures relating to the distribution of the retrofit-
ting cash grant (see above). Second, the new Procedure
has addressed the concerns many had with regard to
the requirement of a land registration certificate for
the purpose of concluding cash grant agreements.
Many victims who were living on land that was not
registered had previously—at the time of the IRM-3
research—been unable to conclude reconstruction
cash grant agreements.83 The new Procedure makes
land registration certificate optional and states that
households can conclude cash grant agreements, “if at
least two people attest that the concerned household
had possessed the land and the damaged house.”84
Third, victims of the earthquake who were residing on
public land, guthi (trust) land, government land, forest
land, or on land with additional tenancy rights and
other forms of customary land systems are also eligible
to conclude reconstruction cash grant agreements and
receive the reconstruction cash grant.
The NRA has further clarified that households that
have reconstructed their houses without government
assistance will be eligible to receive the full cash grant
even after the completion of construction if they are
listed as eligible beneficiaries in the CBS assessment
and meet the building standards. These houses, too,
must be approved by MoUD District Level Programme
Implementation Unit (DL-PIU) engineers. 85
82 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Recon-
struction Cash Grants for Private Houses, IRM - Thematic
Study. Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, p. 18.
83 Ibid.
84 The Procedure for the Reconstruction Grant Distribution for
Private Houses Damaged by Earthquake 2016 (2073 BS) Annex
1, section 12 (http://nra.gov.np/download/details/187).
85 http://nra.gov.np/uploads/docs/HDK64ttaPd16o7111o1741.pdf
16


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Photo: Nayan Pokharel
Types and volumes of aid
• The coverage of both government and non-gov-
ernment aid declined markedly since IRM-2
with far fewer people receiving assistance. Gov-
ernment aid focused almost entirely on the pro-
vision of reconstruction cash grants. Following
government guidance, I/NGOs largely focused
on ‘soft’ assistance such as technical assistance
in the form of trainings.
• Remote VDCs received noticeably less assistance
than more accessible areas.
Satisfaction with aid
• Dissatisfaction with I/NGOs was rising in some
areas. Reasons included aid provided not fitting
with people’s perceived needs. Dissatisfaction
was higher in districts where I/NGO presence
was greater.
• Dissatisfaction with the government and political
parties also increased, largely due to delays in the
provision of cash grants, unclear policies, and
delays addressing complaints.
Needs
• Local government offices have not systematically
identified and recorded people’s needs.
• The reconstruction of houses was the most widely
cited need; other identified needs included the
reconstruction of community infrastructure,
water and sanitation, farm inputs, health care and
improvement of school infrastructure.
• The gap between needs and aid provided seems
to be increasing.
Government mechanism and
coordination of aid at the local level
• Delays in the establishment of sub-regional
NRA offices led to problems. Overlap of duties
between different government bodies, and a lack
of coordination between them, reduced efficiency.
• The role of District Coordination Committees was
generally ceremonial and the body was largely
ineffective.
• Coordination between I/NGOs and local govern-
ment offices is often weak.
Cash grants for the reconstruction of
houses
• Many were dissatisfied with the housing recon-
struction program. Reasons included the size of
the grant, delays in the program and perceived
inadequacies of the CBS damage assessment. In
over one-third of VDCs, protests led to the pro-
gram being disrupted.
• Frustration was particularly high in districts
where the CBS assessment had not been conduct-
ed at the time of the research.
• Once disputes were resolved, the cash grant
agreement process was well managed, coordinat-
ed and completed without any major problems.
Citizens who signed agreements were generally
positive about the program.
17


Aid Delivery and Effectiveness
• I/NGOs were active in providing support to the
program and Ward Citizen Forums played a key
role in disseminating information.
• Many people, however, had problems accessing
cash, often due to mistakes in recording benefi-
ciaries’ details.
• Delays in the program were a factor leading some
people to start to rebuild, generally not using
earthquake-safe measures.
Box 3.1: IRM-1 (June 2015) and IRM-2 (February-March 2016)
findings on aid delivery and effectiveness
Previous rounds of IRM found that the
nature and volumes of aid changed over
time. Initial aid after the earthquakes focused
on emergency food relief and emergency
shelter such as tarps and CGI sheets. Although
food and emergency shelter relief was widely
distributed, the amounts were often considered
inadequate by the affected and the distribution
was uncoordinated and uneven in many places.
When IRM-2 was conducted, almost one year
after the earthquake, some emergency shelter
aid continued but the focus of the government
was on providing small cash grants aimed at
helping people cope with the winter. Volumes
of aid from the government declined markedly
between IRM-1 and IRM-2. The government
declared the formal end of the emergency relief
period in June 2015. In IRM-1 needs varied
depending on earthquake impact levels and
aid received but in IRM-2 the most commonly
cited needs were the reconstruction of private
houses and local infrastructure, associated cash
and credit assistance, the rebuilding of water
sources, and geological land assessments.
Delays in the establishment of the Na-
tional Reconstruction Authority (NRA)
had slowed progress, leaving many
people frustrated. Reconstruction assis-
tance was not yet distributed in areas visited in
early 2016. The lack of clarity on policies and
assistance resulted in misinformation, rumors
and frustrations among earthquake survivors.
By IRM-2, most local government activity was
focused on completing steps to prepare for fu-
ture reconstruction aid by conducting damage
assessments and distributing beneficiary ID
cards. The damage assessments were particu-
larly contentious. While other assessments
had been used to provide emergency relief and
small cash grants, the government undertook
a new assessment, led by the Central Bureau
of Statistics (CBS), to determine eligibility for
future housing grants. Lack of understanding
of the criteria for inclusion on beneficiary
lists, perceived mistakes in the classification
of houses, assessment teams who did not have
sufficient technical knowledge, and perceived
manipulation by political parties and leaders
all led to discontent and sometimes protests.
The government bodies responsible for
overseeing the aid response changed
over time. In IRM-1, existing government
mechanisms—District Disaster Relief Com-
mittees (DDRCs) and Relief Distribution Com-
mittees (RDCs)—were activated and played an
important and often useful role, although a lack
of complaints and redress systems caused prob-
lems. By IRM-2, DDRCs had largely become
inactive with different districts seeing different
combinations of actors fill the gap. There was
some confusion and uncertainty about how the
DDRCs and RDCs, and other local government
bodies, would coordinate with new NRA field
offices and line ministries.
Coordination and information shar-
ing was weak. In the early months after
the earthquakes, aid was generally targeted
through government coordinating mechanisms.
This worked fairly well although there were
complaints about I/NGOs bypassing these
mechanisms and there was limited oversight. In
both previous rounds of IRM, communication
between various levels of government and be-
tween government and non-government actors
was weak. This as well as the lack of systemic
two-way communication between government
offices resulted in limited awareness at the cen-
tral level about local needs and in confusion re-
garding reconstruction policies at the local level,
including among local government officials.
18


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
3.1 Types and volumes of aid
The coverage of aid has declined markedly.
Far fewer people have received aid since IRM-2 was
conducted in February 2016. Aid from the government
has focused largely on the housing reconstruction
program. But relatively few had actually received cash
under this program when fieldwork was conducted
in September 2016 (see Chapter 2). Aid from non-
governmental organizations also declined in coverage
and volume since IRM-2.
Government aid focused on the provision of
reconstruction cash grants to rebuild private
houses and some, but limited, livelihood
assistance.
The reconstruction cash grant agreement and distribu-
tion processes were ongoing at the time of the IRM-3
research (see Chapter 2 and Chapter 3.5 below). In
addition, the government also provided livelihood
support, especially in Syangja and Solukhumbu where
the cash grant agreement process had not started.
Livelihood support included the distribution of seeds,
goats and other livestock, and farming tools such as
tractors. The Syangja District Livestock Service Center
(DLSC) provided cash of NPR 18,000 to 100 earth-
quake-affected households to buy livestock and NPR
60,000 to five affected households in each VDC to buy
a buffalo. The District Agriculture Development Office
(DADO) also distributed six tons of corn seeds to af-
fected households across the district. In Solukhumbu,
the only official government scheme that was imple-
mented in 29 of the 32 VDCs in the district was the
Cattle Shed Improvement Program, under which 1,206
selected earthquake-affected households received cash
assistance of NPR 25,000 to build improved cattle
sheds. In Baruwa VDC in Sindhupalchowk, the District
Livestock Office gave NPR 15,000 to 34 households
for buying goats.
Between IRM-2 and IRM-3 the government
continued to distribute winter assistance in
areas where there had been delays.
In February-March 2016 (IRM-2), some VDCs had not
yet received the government’s winterization support of
NPR 10,000 yet. At the time of IRM-2, 64 households
in Syaule VDC in Sindhupalchowk, for example, had
not received the winter cash grant due to insufficient
budget. The budget was released only in August 2016
by the District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) for
41 households considered eligible. This money was
then distributed equally among the 64 households
initially considered eligible in the VDC, amounting to
around NRP 6,400 for each household.
Non-governmental organizations largely
focused on ‘software’ assistance such as
trainings and awareness programs. Some
provided direct material or cash assistance.
But, overall, the volume of relief materials
distributed reduced.
Non-governmental organizations were largely
focusing on ‘soft’ forms of assistance at the local
level—as opposed to ‘hard’ material assistance—such
as sanitation and hygiene or livelihood support
programs. Some of these programs have continued
since before the earthquakes. New types of ‘soft’
assistance were trainings related to reconstruction,
psychosocial counseling, and disaster awareness.
It should be noted that the NRA has requested that
I/NGOs focus on ‘software’ assistance. Further, many
I/NGOs were still wait for their ‘hardware’ projects
to be approved by the government at the time of
research.
Some I/NGOs also helped rebuild infrastructure
such as water and irrigation systems, schools, health
centers, or roads. I/NGOs were found to be providing
sanitation and water systems support by building
toilets and water taps or repairing water sources -
much needed given that water and sanitation facilities
were damaged in many areas during the earthquakes
and water shortages have been a common problem
since the end of the 2015 monsoon (see Chapters 7.3
and 7.4).86 In Lisankhu VDC in Sindhupalchowk, for
example, Malteser International was building 15 water
systems and 300 toilets under its “improved access
to sanitation and safe drinking water program.” In
VDCs visited, I/NGOs were also providing support
for rebuilding schools and for children. REED Nepal,
for instance, was supporting the reconstruction of
two school buildings, and provided furniture and
education materials to seven more schools in Kerung
VDC in Solukhumbu. Similarly, CARE Nepal had
almost completed building a new water system that
would supply every household in five wards of Barpak
VDC in Gorkha. UNICEF was supporting children
under five years by distributing cash of NPR 4,000 in
eight of the 18 VDCs visited.
86 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
19


Aid Delivery and Effectiveness
Livelihoods assistance was also provided by I/NGOs
through income generation schemes and trainings
for farmers or hotel and restaurant owners, as well as
other occupations such as tailors, small businesses,
and handicraft producers. Assistance for farmers
included both material assistance in the form of seeds,
tools, livestock support, and the building of irrigation
canals, as well as trainings for vegetable or livestock
farming. Some I/NGOs provided cash assistance to
help with livelihood recovery, for example, cash grants
for livestock farming.
Overall, however, both livelihoods and infrastructure
support was observed to be uneven and limited, with
farmers in particular being in need of wider and more
sustained assistance (see Chapter 7.4). Indeed, the
volume and variety of relief materials distributed
decreased compared to IRM-2. There were isolated
examples of organizations continuing to distribute
hygiene kits, cookery kits, mosquito nets, and small
amounts of cash. These were more common in severely
hit districts. For instance, UNICEF distributed kitchen
utensils and hygiene kits for women and children in
Lisankhu VDC in Sindhupalchowk and in all three
VDCs visited in Gorkha district. But the coverage of
such initiatives was not wide with many areas and
people not receiving assistance.
Non-governmental supportfor reconstruction
at the local level increased compared to IRM 2
but most of this took the form of ‘soft’ support
rather than rebuilding.
Alongside the roll out of the government’s reconstruc-
tion cash grant scheme, non-governmental support for
reconstruction had increased compared to previous
Uneven distribution of aid
Remote VDCs received noticeably less assis-
tance compared to more accessible areas.
In contrast to findings from IRM1, and to a lesser ex-
tent IRM2, remote areas in the districts visited were
reported to be receiving less attention from aid pro-
viders. This was primarily because of transportation
problems due to monsoon rains with air transport
being too expensive. For example, remote and inac-
cessible VDCs like Goli, Bhakanje, and Chaulakharka,
in the eastern part of Solukhumbu district bordering
Ramechhap and Dolakha districts, were particularly
hard hit by the eatthquakes. Yet, according to data
from the district offices, these VDCs received less relief
and aid due to their extreme remoteness.
District officials in Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk were
of the opinion that I/NGOs prefer to work in or near
the district headquarters leaving remote areas mostly
research rounds. Most of this came in the form of‘soft’
support in the form of trainings, awareness raising on
earthquake safety and earthquake-resilient building
techniques, and the building of model structures
for these purposes. As noted above, this is likely a
reflection of the NRA’s request to I/NGOs to provide
‘software’ assistance and the long approval process for
‘hardware’ projects. In the VDCs visited, there were
only a few examples of non-governmental actors and
private donors directly building, or planning to build,
private houses for earthquake victims in the VDCs vis-
ited. In Doramba VDC in Ramechhap, Himalayan Cli-
mate Initiative helped to build 41 temporary shelters,
distributing iron rods, bolt nuts, hooks and corrugated
iron sheets to earthquake-affected single women and
elders. In Nele VDC in Solukhumbu, 200 houses were
rebuilt with cash assistance from an individual donor,
mostly through funds collected from private foreign
donors through his trekking agency. However, such
direct support was rare.
Many non-governmental agencies were involved in
masonry trainings on earthquake-resilient struc-
tures. Such trainings were provided in seven out of 18
VDCs visited. For instance, Red Cross Society Nepal
trained 30 masons in Prapcha and Baruneswor VDCs
in Okhaldhunga while Community Support Reliance
Center trained 50 masons in Baruwa VDC in Sindhu-
palchowk. Similarly, JICA provided masonry trainings
to residents of Syaule VDC in Sindhupalchowk and
Barpak VDC in Gorkha districts. Such trainings were
surely useful. There is often a need for such support
to ensure the effectiveness of ‘hardware’ assistance
focused on reconstruction. Yet in many cases, the ab-
sence of the latter meant that ‘soft’ forms of support
were not fully appreciated by communities.
unattended to. Northern VDCs in Gorkha (Chhekam-
par, Samagau, Prok, Lho, Sirdibas, Chumchet, Bihi,
Kerauja) are reportedly getting less attention from 1/
NGOs because of difficulty in accessing those VDCs
during monsoon. District level authorities in both
districts said they tried to persuade organizations to
focus on remote areas. The Local Development Officer
(LDO) of Gorkha said, “It was obvious for Barpak VDC
to get more attention as it was the epicenter of the
earthquake but the district government has tried to
balance it by rechanneling support to other affected
areas as well.” Respondents generally agreed that
this disparity was mainly due to poor access and not
deliberate.
Non-govemment organizations were more in-
volved in recovery efforts in Sindhupalchowk
and Gorkha districts with lower presence in
other districts.
20


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
The number of non-government organizations and
activities remained higher in Gorkha and Sindhu-
palchowk compared to those in other districts, as
in previous rounds of research.87 For instance, 24
INGOs, 19 NGOs, and 7 UN agencies were working
on recovery efforts in Sindhupalchowk, while Syangja
had no registered I/NGO support. In the VDCs visited
in Solukhumbu, Ramechhap, and Okhaldhunga, the
number of programs supported by I/NGOs were none
to four. Only Himalayan Climate Initiative was found
in Doramba VDC in Ramechhap and no non-govern-
mental organizations were found to be present in the
other two VDCs visited in the district even though it
is listed in the same damage category (severely hit) as
Sindhupakchowk and Gorkha.
Solukhumbu was receiving comparatively more aid
than other districts, as already reported in IRM-2,
mostly from individual private donors. Thirty-two
organizations were registered as conducting earth-
quake recovery schemes at the District Development
Committee (DDC) in Solukhumbu. Yet, researchers
only encountered one of these organizations, REED
Nepal, in VDCs visited, where REED was rebuilding
damaged school buildings.
3.2 Satisfaction with aid
Dissatisfaction with I/NGOs was rising in
some areas. Reported reasons for this were
the alleged disregard of people’s needs when
designing and implementing programs.
Dissatisfaction with non-governmental recovery
programs was mainly due to the high priority people
gave to the reconstruction of private houses. Where 1/
NGOs worked on reconstruction, it was largely focused
on trainings and other soft forms of assistance rather
than directly rebuilding or providing cash grants for
rebuilding houses. People did not always think such
‘soft’ assistance was a priority. Both citizens and offi-
cials stated that reconstruction of private houses was
the most urgent need while assistance in the form of
livelihood, capacity building, or psycho-social sup-
port was perceived as less urgent. As one civil society
representative in Sindhupalchowk said, “I/NGOs are
not spending on what is actually needed,” citing the
example of a psychological counseling program target-
ing school children worth NPR 20 million.
Dissatisfaction was higher and more strongly ex-
pressed in Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk where I/NGO
presence was higher. In these districts, government
officials, local leaders, and many citizens thought
that reconstruction support was needed the most and
argued that continuing other forms of support may
add to aid dependence. In Syaule and Baruwa VDCs
in Sindhupalchowk, citizens expressed dissatisfaction
with I/NGO programs. One citizen in Syaule VDC said
that their major need was construction material: “Life
does not move ahead with bucket and soap. The time
to distribute such materials is over. Organizations
should start distributing construction materials if they
really want to help the earthquake victims.” Likewise,
the Social Mobilizer in Baruwa VDC reported that the
participation of people in I/NGO orientation programs
for earthquake-safe reconstruction was very low due
to people’s preference for material support rather than
training and orientation. In Gorkha, many households
displaced in Barpak VDC were living in temporary
shelters in scattered locations and were therefore not
included in an IOM relief scheme for displaced com-
munities.88 Relief based on specific procedures and
criteria set by I/NGOs for targeting also drew criticism
from those excluded. For example, in Tanglichok VDC
in Gorkha, the VDC Secretary criticized that there
had been, “An NGO cash distribution scheme which
included households with alternative source of income
such as a government pension while leaving out poor
households.”
Dissatisfaction with the government and
political parties also increased, largely due to
delays in the provision ofcash grants, unclear
policies, and delays in addressing complaints.
In Syangja and Solukhumbu, where the cash grant
agreement process had not yet begun, dissatisfaction
was highest. People in these districts were highly
dissatisfied with the government. Citizens expressed
87 People in the VDCs visited for research in Gorkha and Sind-
hupalchowk reported that active NGOs included TEWA, Solid
Nepal, Ekikaran, Swara Saghan Integrated Community Devel-
opment Centre, Goreto Gorkha, ECO Nepal, CSRC, Mahila Atma
Nirvarata Kendra, Social Welfare Association of Nepal, Nepal
Red Cross Society, Community Development and Environment
Conservation Forum, among others. INGOs active in these VDCs
were Plan international, CARE, Save the Children, IOM, Malteser
International, and OXFAM.
IOM distributed relief materials only to those living in a cluster
of 20 or more displaced households.
21


Aid Delivery and Effectiveness
their frustration over delays in rolling out the recon-
struction cash grant program. Since there has been
no official information on whether and when they
would receive assistance, they were confused. The
Chief Executive Officer in Dudhkunda municipality
in Solukhumbu said that everyday people asked him
questions and shared complaints about the lack of
information on cash grants and assistance but that
he had no answers. People seem to have understood
that the VDC/municipality is not responsible for this
delay of cash grant distribution and, therefore, their
resentment regarding cash grant distribution was
mainly targeted at the central government and central
leaders with locals still looking to village and district
level officials and political leaders for support. Yet,
there were some isolated incidents of threats and vio-
lence against local government officials (see Chapter 4)
and locals still had a variety of complaints about local
government offices (see below).
Even in districts where cash grants were being distrib-
uted, people were dissatisfied with the government.
This was mainly due to what they considered to be
flaws in the CBS assessment, being missed out of
the beneficiary lists, delayed cash grant distribution,
inadequate cash support, and the delayed or unclear
process of addressing grievances. A citizen in Doramba
VDC in Ramechhap for example said, “Donors have
provided the government with a lot of money but most
of it is spent on government staff. People like us are
suffering because of the government.”
In IRM-3, a minimum of 10 citizens were interviewed
in each of the 36 wards visited. Only four citizens out of
the 362 interviewed said that they were very satisfied
with the government’s aid while 244 were found to
be dissatisfied (Figure 3.1). Citizens in Syangja and
Solukhumbu were the most likely to be dissatisfied.
Figure 3.1: Levels of satisfaction with government aid
In all areas visited, at least some of the complaints
from households who had been excluded from the
beneficiary list and filed grievances were considered
to be genuine. This caused discontent among many
of those who had grievances and delays in addressing
these further raised dissatisfaction. At the time of
writing few complaints had been resolved and most
were passed to the next higher office or the NRA.
Most of those who had filed grievances had not heard
anything on whether and how their grievances would
be resolved. Much progress has since been made in
addressing complaints. Yet many still need further
verification or re-assessment meaning that those
households who were wrongly left out from beneficiary
lists have now been waiting many months to receive
cash assistance for reconstruction (see Chapter 2).
People were also concerned that the cash grant for
reconstruction was not enough for them to rebuild and
said they needed soft loans but were unsure if such
loans were available and how to access them.
Dissatisfaction with VDC offices was also
high.
Complaints about VDC offices’ ineffectiveness were
common among residents in the VDCs visited. Most
often, residents complained about the absence of VDC
secretaries. In 12 out of 18 VDCs visited, the Secretary
was staying in the district headquarters and only occa-
sionally visiting the VDC for mandatory work such as
Village Council meetings, social security cash distribu-
tion, or other government schemes including the cash
grant agreement process. People often had to travel
to the district headquarters for basic services such as
obtaining birth, death, or marriage registration. There
were also complaints about the accountability of the
VDC office and a lack of information.
22


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
3.3 Needs
Local government offices did not systemat-
ically identify and record needs in commu-
nities nor coordinate to facilitate a shared
understanding of needs.
Similar to findings from previous rounds of research,
VDCs or districts have not officially recorded and
identified local needs that specifically relate to the
earthquakes. This means that there is no systematic
identification of needs or plan to address needs, nor
any shared understanding of needs between different
government offices or between government and non-
governmental organizations at the local level. Non-gov-
ernment organizations were sometimes conducting
needs assessments before launching their programs
but local stakeholders said that most non-governmen-
tal organizations did not conduct such assessments.
Where INGOs have conducted needs assessments,
these are often limited to just the sector the program
works in or limited to a number of VDCs in the district.
Overall, there was little coordination at the local level
to facilitate a shared understanding of needs.
The reconstruction of private houses and
related support was the most widely cited
need by the citizens.
Both citizens and officials in the districts visited men-
tioned that the reconstruction of private houses was
the most urgent need. Some other needs mentioned
were directly related to reconstruction such as cash
grants, soft loans, demolishing of old houses, avail-
ability of reconstruction materials such as cement,
sand, iron rod, wood, etc. Citizens also mentioned the
improvement of road conditions to transport recon-
struction materials as necessary.
Some needs mentioned were specific to certain district
or VDCs. Citizens from Syangja and Solukhumbu,
where the CBS assessment had not yet been conducted,
said their priority needs were the CBS assessment and
clear information on the timeline and implementation
of the government’s reconstruction assistance. The
availability of construction materials and labor was a
big challenge for many local residents trying to rebuild
(see Chapter 7.2).
Reconstruction of community infrastructure,
water and sanitation, farm inputs, health and
medical care, and improvement of education/
school infrastructure were also mentioned as
important needs, though less frequently.
Improvement of basic services, reconstruction of struc-
tures other than private houses, and psycho-social
needs were still cited as needs, but seen as compara-
tively less urgent and cited less frequently compared
to IRM-1 and IRM-2. The same was true for geological
land assessments (see below). Drinking water and ir-
rigation needs were heavily featured in IRM-2 as the
research was conducted in February/March (the dry
season) and less frequently mentioned in IRM3 (at the
end of a good monsoon season). Citizens and officials
in this round of research frequently mentioned the im-
provement of road conditions as urgent because roads
had been destroyed by monsoon rains and people had
to travel to access cash grants via banks and transport
construction materials.
Unlike the previous round of research, food was not
mentioned as a primary need. Katunje VDC in Okhald-
hunga was an exception. In this VDC people identified
food as one of the main requirements because of insuf-
ficient food production in the ward to sustain families.
The need for geological assessments remains.
Geological land surveys are still a major need for
many people in eight of the 36 wards visited. This
has been repeatedly mentioned since IRM-1.89 Some
communities have now returned to land with landslide
risks while others whose land was heavily damaged
remain displaced. People from Nele (Solukhumbu),
Baruwa and Syaule (Sindhupalchowk), Prapcha
(Okhaldhunga), Bamti Bhandar (Ramechhap), and
Barpak (Gorkha), said they urgently need geological
assessments of landslide risks. Some people from
these VDCs, except those in Solukhumbu, received the
cash grant for reconstruction, but they were not sure if
they could construct their house on damaged or land-
slide-prone land. A Dalit woman in Barpak, Gorkha,
said, “We requested the top leaders of all parties that
a geological survey be conducted so that we can de-
cide whether to build or not to build a house there.
If the survey says it is unsafe, the government has to
give us new land.” In a settlement called Kerabari in
Syaule-8 in Sindhupalchowk, JICAhad independently
conducted a land assessment and confirmed that it is
at a high risk of landslides. The people there said they
would like to be resettled but the government had not
yet provided long-term resettlement solutions for
those whose land was unsafe (see also Chapter 7.4
and Case Study 7.3).
As time passes, the gap between needs and aid
provided seems to be increasing.
89 The government has since begun to conduct geological risk
assessments in many areas. See Chapter 2 for details.
23


Aid Delivery and Effectiveness
There has thus been a mismatch between the types of
needs people say they have and the types of aid that
have arrived. While in earlier rounds of IRM, most
agencies—government and non-government—focused
on delivering emergency assistance that was needed,
over time the gap between stated needs on the ground
and types of assistance has enlarged.
3.4 Government mechanisms and
coordination of aid at the local level
Delays in the establishment of sub-regional
NRA offices led to problems.
Sub-regional NRA offices were established late and
were not fully functional in many locations as of
September 2016. In districts such as Okhaldhunga,
Sindhupalchowk, and Ramechhap, NRA representa-
tives were appointed only after the completion of the
CBS assessment and when the cash grant agreement
process had already started. For instance, the cash
grant agreement process began in the first week of
May 2016 in Sindhupalchowk while the focal person
of NRA was appointed after mid-June. District level
informants in Ramechhap thought that the late open-
ing of regional NRA offices delayed the distribution of
reconstruction cash grants. No NRA representatives
had been appointed in Syangja and Solukhumbu dis-
tricts at the time of research.
Some districts have an NRA sub-regional office that
also has to look after neighboring districts. This was
also seen to hinder effective disaster recovery at the
local level. According to government offices in Okhald-
hunga, the NRA representative from the NRA sub-re-
gional office Dolakha sometimes comes to the district
in a hurry to discuss issues but goes back immediately.
This does not produce fruitful results.
Overlap of duties between different govern-
ment bodies, and a lack of coordination be-
tween them, also reduced efficiency.
The majority of local stakeholders argued that the
establishment of the NRA had actually hindered the
process of reconstruction, which could have been im-
plemented through already established government
offices working on recovery and reconstruction. They
also highlighted that there was lack of proper coordi-
nation between other government offices and the NRA.
For instance, the NRA directly selected the Chautara
municipality head as the NRA’s focal person in Sind-
hupalchowk. When people were confused about who
was responsible for collecting cash grant complaints
forms, the District Coordination Committee (DCC)
pointed to the municipality office since its executive
officer was appointed as the NRA representative. The
municipality’s executive officer, however, pointed to
the District Development Committee (DDC) since it
was handling reconstruction-related activities. One of
the VDC secretaries interviewed mentioned that this
confusion hampered the cash grant distribution, which
was delayed. Similarly, in Gorkha, the grievances filed
by earthquake victims in VDC offices were transferred
to various offices due to confusion. The Nepal Con-
gress’s representative in Gorkha explained that the
role of addressing complaints has been transferred
from the Chief District Officer (CDO) to the NRA
and from the NRA to VDC secretaries. But nobody
wanted to take risks in deciding on complaints since
this could create tensions. As such, they transferred
the responsibility to other offices. The Assistant CDO
in Gorkha said, “The NRA is a tiger with no teeth and
claws. It has not been able to take any appropriate
action against any complaints.”
The NRA’s new provision ignores established offices
previously involved in the disaster response such as
District Disaster Relief Committees (DDRCs). Instead,
new bodies such as the DCCs were formed. Moreover,
there was conflict of jurisdiction over which govern-
ment office was responsible for what. Questioning the
role of NRA, a journalist in Gorkha said, “We don’t
find NRA’s activities very practical. We believe that
there was no actual need for the NRA, it is a waste of
the state’s money. The coordination and monitoring
work was being conducted by clusters and the rest of
the work was done through DDCs.”
District and VDC level political parties were also dis-
satisfied with the NRA and their lack of representation
in NRAplatforms (see Chapter 4). New NRAplatforms
such as sub-regional NRA offices, DCCs and griev-
ance hearing mechanisms do not formally involve
local level political parties. Political party leaders in
Sindhupalchowk, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, and
Gorkha have complained that the NRA has ignored
district level political parties by creating DCCs where
only parliamentarians from the respective districts
and government officials are represented. The district
level interlocutors in Okhaldhunga assessed the work
of sub-regional NRA office as very poor with a lack of
coordination.
24


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
District and local level authorities and political parties
complained that NRA policies changed frequently
making it difficult to implement them. They also said it
was unrealistic to implement complaints mechanisms
according to NRA guidelines and that already existing
and relatively well-functioning structures (such as the
DDRCs and RDCs) were ignored and replaced with
new bodies with overlapping jurisdiction (such as the
DCCs). This was seen to make coordination of the cash
grant scheme and the resolution of local level concerns
more difficult, especially as the cash grant agreement
process faced opposition from locals and political
parties in many VDCs across the four districts visited
where the process had begun.
Case Study 3.1: Confusion over responding
to complaints in Okhaldhunga
In Okhaldhunga, informants said that the
NRA’s ineffectiveness, and conflicting juris-
dictions between different agencies involved in
reconstruction, has added to the delays in the
reconstruction process.
Government officials and political parties
involved in reconstruction work through the
DDRC prior to NRA-CBS assessment blamed the
NRA for disregarding earlier assessments and
complaints. The DDRC had categorized 15,619
households as being fully damaged meaning
they would receive NPR 15,000 and NPR
10,000 cash assistance for temporary shelter
construction and for winter relief. Some 6,000
complaints against the categorization were
received by the DDRC. The CBS categorization
increased the list of beneficiaries to 19,818. Yet
even after the new assessment, around 5,600
new complaints were filed. The district level
authorities said they were confused whether to
address the complaints received by the DDRC
or the new complaints received after the CBS
categorization. The Chief District Officer of
Okhaldhunga said that NRA guidelines were
confusing and officials have struggled to address
even genuine complaints due to a lack of clarity.
According to Local Development Officer, almost
70 percent of the beneficiary details were
wrongly entered in the NRA list. These mistakes
were corrected by VDC secretaries along with
computer operators who prepared excel sheets
with the right details. A NRA sub-divisional
representative appointed as a focal person
to look into the issues in Okhaldhunga could
not continue his work due to dissatisfaction
over the NRA’s role and with the exclusion of
district level political parties in the District
Coordination Committee.
The role of District Coordination Committees
(DCCs) was generally ceremonial and this
body was found to be ineffective.
DCCs were not functioning well due to the absence
of members of parliament directed to lead these
bodies from the districts. Further, local political party
representatives whose support local government
officials tend to need to implement decisions, were
not invited to DCC meetings. The head of the NRA
sub-regional office in Gorkha acknowledged that the
DCC has not been effective since it has been difficult
to get everyone to come to the district together and
hold meetings.
Coordination between I/NGOs and local
government offices is weak.
Coordination between the organizations involved in
recovery and reconstruction and local government
bodies seems to be poor in the districts visited despite
some attempts to make coordination smooth. I/NGOs
were widely criticized for not coordinating with district
stakeholders (government and civil society). This,
district officials and members of civil society claimed,
is leading to a mismatch between I/NGO support and
people’s needs. Lack of coordination between NGOs
and local government institutions has also reportedly
led to problems in some areas (Case Study 3.2).
Syangja has no I/NGOs working for recovery and
reconstruction. In the other districts, the officials
complained that I/NGOs were bypassing them,
operating without formal approval. The Okhaldhunga
CDO shared that some I/NGOs are operating in the
district without informing or getting permission
from the DAO office. In Solukhumbu, also, district
officials complained that INGOs were bypassing them,
operating without formal approval.
25


Aid Delivery and Effectiveness
In some cases, I/NGOs coordinate with the district
level authority and do not bother to contact VDC offices
for implementing their program. Some organizations
also prefer to coordinate with Ward Citizen Forum
coordinator in the VDC instead of contacting the
VDC office. A key informant in Barpak VDC, Gorkha,
highlighted the lack of coordination between non-
government organizations with an example, “The
VDC Secretary asked me if I had any idea about the
distribution of goats by SwaraSaghan in Snan area,
but I had no idea about it. It was already done but I
did not know about it.” Even the VDC Secretary was
unaware of the program. The VDC Secretary was asked
to provide a letter of completion of the project from the
VDC office; only then did he find out about the project.
Similarly, UNICEF Nepal is building a pre-fab ward
in the hospital in Phaplu of Solukhumbu although
the municipality official said that they had no record
of their work.
Case Study 3.2: Contentious targeting by a NGO
One NGO is particularly active in Tanglichowk
VDC. Most relief and recovery activities, in-
cluding the government’s assistance, are being
undertaken with the support of this group.
The organization has been involved in building
toilets. Recently, it has distributed NPR 15,000
to selected households for livelihood support.
Early on, the group faced criticism for not
engaging beneficiaries regarding sharing of
information. The organization was said to have
changed its approach after citizen and political
pressure. They have now formed a working
committee involving local party leaders, VDC
staff, and others.
A staff member of the NGO was the social mo-
bilizer in this VDC. Its assistance reconstructing
and repairing toilets in the village was well
appreciated and said to have addressed a need
of the people.
At the time of the IRM-3 research, however,
many VDC residents raised concerns over the
organization’s targeting when providing sup-
port for toilet construction. It is alleged that the
NGO’s blanket coverage of ward 9 of the VDC
was done without proper consultation with the
VDC. However, its social mobilizer said that the
reason they chose ward 9 was because, “almost
all household in this ward belongs to Chepang
who are socio-economically backward and have
no steady source of income.” In contrast, VDC
officials said that had the NGO consulted with
the VDC before initiating their program they
would have been aware of other communities
who are also deprived, such as Dalits. Following
the dispute, a VDC-level ‘Planning Implemen-
tation Sub-committee’ was formed to select
households based on their economic status for
the distribution of the livelihood support grant.
Attempts have been made to improve coordination
among the stakeholders involved in recovery and
reconstruction. In Gorkha, for instance, a task force
consisted of 10 people, five from NGOs and five from
the government, was formed. It developed a draft code
of conduct for organizations. However, the draft has
not been finalized by the DDRC. In Sindhupalchowk,
the DDRC has established an ERN (early recovery
network) to coordinate programs, activities, and
monitoring of I/NGOs working in the district. Yet this
is has not solved coordination issues in the district.
I/NGOs often have their own take. According to
representatives of non-governmental organizations,
they have to go through difficult and lengthy
bureaucratic procedures for I/NGOs to seek timely
official approval for their projects. Sometimes,
government policies are difficult to follow and I/NGOs
try to avoid going through formal mechanisms. One
NGO leader in Sindhupalchowk said, “It is difficult
to coordinate with government institutions because
of the difference in the working style. NGOs have to
work under certain time frame and project period
which is not compulsory to government agencies.”
Another mentioned that it takes long time to receive
approvals of programs from NRA headquarters. A
civil society representative in Gorkha argued that
NGOs and INGOs cannot be put into the same basket.
He said, “INGOs have a dominant nature and there
is a tendency among some of them to not follow
instructions from the government.”
26


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
3.5 Cash grants for the reconstruction of houses
Views of the cash grant program
Overall, perceptions of the RHRP housing
reconstruction program were not favorable.
In each of the 24 wards in the six districts where the
cash grant program had been launched, researchers
sought to determine views towards the program,
ranking each ward by whether most people felt the
program had been satisfactory or not. They also
sought to unpack views towards different stages of
the program.90
As Figure 3.2 shows, people were more likely to express
dissatisfaction with the program than satisfaction. In
15 wards, dissatisfaction was common compared
to only four where people were generally satisfied.
Dissatisfaction was particularly high about the CBS
damage assessment, which determined eligibility, and
about access to cash grants once people had signed
agreements. In contrast, people viewed the cash grant
agreement process more favorably.
Figure 3.2: Citizens’ perception of the government’s cash grant program (number of wards)
Satisfied
Neutral H Dissatisfied
Citizens’ dissatisfaction was primarily over
the amount of the cash grant.
Although generally happy about eventually being able
to receive cash assistance, beneficiaries commonly
expressed dissatisfaction over the cash grant amount
being too little. The majority of citizens interviewed
said that the first installment of NPR 50,000 was not
even enough for initial preparation for construction
such as demolition, clearing the debris, and damp
proofing coursing. Respondents in Sindhupalchowk
and Gorkha said that NPR 50,000 was barely enough
to demolish their old house. Concerns regarding high
carriage charge for transporting building materials
to remote northern parts of these districts were also
raised. Beg Bahadur Gurung, from Barpak VDC in
90 The data is based on researchers’ conversations (individual
meetings, citizen interviews and FGDs) with ward citizens,
officials, and other stakeholders. As such it is not necessarily an
objective reflection on the quality of these processes.
Gorkha, and Satai Singh Bomjan, of Baruwa, Sindhu-
palchowk, had similar concerns that “it is impossible
to start building with NPR 50,000 as masons’ and
carpenters’ charges are 500-800 Rupees per day.” Beg
Bahadur Gurung had heard of the government plan to
provide interest free loans. He said “he hopes it will be
provided soon for people who do not have their own
resources to put into reconstruction.” As previously
reported in IRM 2 from Okhaldhunga, expensive
building materials in remote VDCs of Baruneshwor
and Katunje were still a concern.
Delays in receiving reconstruction support
were also prominent given many people are
still in temporary shelters.
At least 12 out of 36 wards visited had earthquake
victims living in temporary (tarpaulins) or transi-
tional (wood, bamboo, CGI sheets) shelters causing
frustration over the delayed government response in
providing reconstruction support. These households
include those displaced and still living on public or
27


Aid Delivery and Effectiveness
rented land, some of which are prone to landslides
in Baruwa VDC of Sindhupalchowk, Barpak VDC
in Gorkha, and Prapcha VDC in Okhaldhunga. The
exact number of households living in temporary or
transitional shelters is difficult to determine from the
ward or VDC sources but the numbers are high. For
example, 40 (out of 128 households) in Ward 2 of Bar-
pak, Gorkha, and 121 (out of 128 households) in Ward
8 of Baruwa, Sindhupalchowk, were in such shelters.
The CBS assessment
There was widespread dissatisfaction with
the CBS assessment in the areas where it was
conducted. Frustrations about the assessment
process led to the program being disrupted in
9 0/24 wards.
The main cause for protests, which often lead to ob-
struction of the cash grant agreement process, was the
reduction in the number of beneficiaries compared to
earlier lists (used for temporary shelters and winter
relief cash grant). Citizens demanded that those who
were deemed eligible for earlier government assis-
tance should be included in the CBS beneficiary list.
In addition, local perceptions of what makes someone
an earthquake victim, exacerbated by a lack of public
knowledge of assessment criteria, led to a feeling of
injustice among many who were not included in the
beneficiary list.
Most of the above mentioned protests were peaceful
in the form of local residents sending delegations to
the Chief District Officer (CDO) and/or Local Devel-
opment Officer (LDO). Local residents, especially
those who were not included in the CBS beneficiary
list, with the help of political parties and even enlisted
beneficiaries, obstructed the work of the cash grant
agreement team led by the VDC secretary in Katunje
VDC, Okhaldhunga, and Baruwa, Sindhupalchowk.
The cash grant agreement process only resumed after
two months in Katunje and after three months in Ba-
ruwa following assurances from district level officials
(the CDO and LDO) that “the government has created
a grievance mechanism and genuine complaints will
be given due attention.”
Locals in Katunje protested against the exclusion
of previously enlisted beneficiaries in the new CBS
beneficiary list. The VDC Secretary in Katunje told
observers that local residents showed up with sticks/
batons and made threats, demanding that the process
be stopped. In Baruwa in Sindhupalchowk, those who
were not included in the beneficiary list because they
allegedly owned houses in Kathmandu and other plac-
es, making them ineligible for the house reconstruc-
tion grant according to NRA guidelines, demanded
that the government sign cash grant agreements with
them on the second day of agreement process. The
protest was allegedly supported by Nepali Congress
(NC) although local NC representatives maintained
that this was not an official party decision. However,
the NC representative shared the widespread percep-
tion that the Social Mobilizer of Baruwa is biased in
favor ofCPN-UML.
Other disturbances were observed in Doramba VDC,
Ramechhap district, where the cash grant agreement
process was obstructed for 22 days as locals with
apparent cross-party support demanded the inclusion
of households deemed eligible in earlier assessments
but who were not included in the CBS beneficiary list.
In Dhuwakot, Gorkha, and Ramechhap municpality,
Ramechhap, the cash grant agreement process was
halted but resumed after a few hours as citizens and
political party representatives were convinced by Local
Development Officer and other government officials
that grievances would be collected in tandem with the
cash grant agreement process.
Frustration, discontent and confusion was
high among citizens and officials in districts
where the CBS assessment was not conducted
and hence where reconstruction was particu-
larly slow.
Citizens and officials in Solukhumbu and Syangja criti-
cized and expressed frustration over the government’s
decision to exclude these districts from first round of
the CBS assessment delaying the cash grant agreement
process. District officials complained that Solukhumbu
had been wrongly categorized as ‘hit with heavy losses’
instead of ‘crisis hit’ due to lobbying by the tourism
industry. Moreover, the categorization of impact by
district was considered inadequate as seven VDCs in
Solukhumbu registered damages as high as VDCs in
severely hit districts.
Officials in both in Syangja and Solukhumbu expressed
frustration over the government’s inability to inform
them if and when cash grants will be provided to
earthquake-affected households in these districts. As
a result, reconstruction activities in VDCs visited in
Solukhumbu and Syangja, with the exception of Nele
in Solukhumbu where private donors are active, is very
low. Unlike during the research for IRM-1 and IRM-2,
researchers did not observe any temporary shelters
in VDCs and wards visited in Solukhumbu. Citizens
in Solukhumbu reported doing minor repairs to their
house before moving back in rather than rebuilding. In
Syangja, only nine out of over 350 fully and partially
damaged houses in Arukharka VDC had been rebuilt.
28


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Cash grant agreement process
Once disputes were resolved, the cash grant
agreement process in all 12 VDCs where it was
conducted was well managed, coordinated,
and completed without any major problems.
A majority of citizens spoke positively of the cash grant
agreement process, including those not listed as ben-
eficiaries. Cash grants agreements were conducted at
the VDC office in the VDC center and covered wards
one by one. The process took on average five to ten
days in wards, depending on wards’ size and popula-
tion. The cash grant agreement process was led by the
VDC Secretary in all of the VDCs with the involvement
of local party representatives, WCF coordinators, So-
cial Mobilizers, and other facilitators.
There were some amendments to the NRA’s guidelines
for the cash grant agreement process after problems
arose in the field. For example, beneficiaries had to
be present in person at VDC offices for enrollment
according to the previous guidelines. However, this was
later amended since many people on the beneficiary
list were out of the country and a new provision was
introduced so that people on the beneficiary list could
give power of attorney to their relatives to undertake
the agreement on behalf of them.
Those eligible to sign cash grant agreements
following the CBS assessment were generally
positive about the overall cash grant pro-
gram, which they said was insufficient yet
nonetheless important support.
Ward citizens and stakeholders in the districts where
cash grant agreements were being signed following
the CBS assessment spoke positively of the cash grant
program. Citizens who were able to sign cash grant
agreements were happy about finally being guaranteed
government assistance. A citizen in Bamtibhandar
VDC in Ramechhap district said, “it is better to have
something than nothing.” Also in Ramechhap district,
citizens participating in a FGD conducted in Doramba
VDC said they, “appreciate the government’s initiative
of providing cash for temporary shelter, winter relief,
and house reconstruction.”
Information about the location and time
and necessary documents required for the
cash grant agreement process were mainly
disseminated by WCF Coordinators.
WCF Coordinators were informed by the VDC office
about the date, time, location and required documents
that citizens had to bring. They passed this information
on to the people in their wards.. Citizens and officials
in Syaule VDC, Sindhupalchowk, and Dhuwakot and
Tanglichok VDCs in Gorkha district unanimously said
that all VDC-level decisions, including earthquake-
related information, are disseminated through Ward
Citizen Forums.
Dissemination of information through the WCF Co-
ordinators was regarded as problematic in Katunje
VDC in Okhaldhunga and Ramechhap municipality,
Ramechhap. In Katunje 4, citizens complained of WCF
activities being inadequate to ensure that information
was provided in a timely manner. However, the WCF
Coordinator claimed that citizens were regularly in-
vited to the WCF meetings and informed of VDC deci-
sions. In Ramechhap municipality, WCF coordinators
and party representatives voiced concern that citizen
voices were not represented at the municipality level.
“WCF coordinators are not invited to municipality
meetings”, said a CPN-UML ward representative. In
any case, WCF Coordinators’ role was limited to dis-
seminating information and facilitating the agreement
process as volunteers. WCF coordinators were rarely
asked to identify and communicate ward level needs
to the VDC and district level.
I/NGO involvement in the cash grant agree-
ment process was substantial in all of the
VDCs visited (except Tanglichowk, Gorkha).
Several national and international non-governmental
organizations reportedly provided assistance during
cash grant agreement process. I/NGO assistance
were mainly crucial in documentation, logistical
support (scan, photocopies, taking photos), and the
filing of grievances. Organizations like MEDEP Nepal
and CSRC in Ramechhap, Care and HERD Nepal
in Gorkha, and UNOPS in most places provided
volunteers, stationary, and equipment to provide
services. A WCF Coordinator appreciated the support
saying they, “would have had to go to Chautara (the
district headquarters) to photocopy documents and
photographs taken if they were not managed in the
VDC.” Some organizations (UNOPS, JICA) also
provided technical assistance/information along with
engineers in places where DUDBC engineers were not
yet available.
In Ramechhap and Gorkha districts, engi-
neers were present during the cash grant
agreement process to brief citizens about
building codes and government criteria for
house reconstruction.
Political party representatives and WCF Coordinators
in Bamti and Doramba VDC confirmed the district
level report that engineers were present during the
cash grant agreement process to brief citizens on the
17 prescribed models of earthquake-resistant hous-
ing. The WCF Coordinator of Bamti 1 said, “During
the agreement process, engineers briefed us about 17
different models of houses. Engineers demonstrated
29


Aid Delivery and Effectiveness
the 17 models and asked us to construct houses
accordingly. In addition to that, they also provided
some helpful ‘practical aspects’ (cost savings).”
Access to cash grant and rebuilding
While the agreement process went relative-
ly smoothly, after initial problems were
addressed, people were less satisfied with
accessing cash.
At the time of the research, the first installment of the
cash grant had been distributed into beneficiaries’
bank accounts in only six out of the 24 wards where
the CBS assessment had been conducted. Citizens
complained that delays in the distribution of the cash
grant led to uncertainty on whether to start building
houses. As discussed in Chapter 2, there has been
much progress since then in disbursing the first
installment into bank accounts. However, people also
said they had problems accessing the money, even
when it was in their account.
This was particularly problematic for people who were
out of the country. A District Development Commit-
tee (DDC) staff member from Ramechhap said that
although they had asked the NRA to ease the access
of earthquake victims who were unable to visit banks
in person to withdraw the reconstruction grant, the
Dolakha sub-regional NRA office had not yet replied.
In Okhaldhunga, a bank manager expressed that NRA
instructions and guidelines were not clear sometimes.
When the branch managers in the district collectively
proposed to ease the process of distribution to earth-
quake victims, and to distribute cash to the victims in
the village, the NRA was not as cooperative as they
claimed.
Mistakes while entering beneficiary details
in cash grant agreement led to problems in
opening bank accounts and accessing the first
installment.
Twenty-three out of 286 beneficiaries could not
open bank accounts in Ramechhap 2 due to mistakes
in their names in the cash grant agreements they
signed. Beneficiaries who had reserved a bus from
their ward, and had to pay NPR180 each to get to the
municipality center, were later told by the bank that
their identification details did not match with those
provided by the DDC. Similar problems were reported
by citizens of Barpak 2, Gorkha, who were not able to
withdraw the first installment due to mistakes in their
citizenship number, household numbers, and names.
Citizens raised concern over the timing of the
cash grant distribution in Gorkha.
Timing for the distribution of first installment of the
cash grant was thought to have been inappropriate
in Barpak, Gorkha, as cash grants were distributed
during the monsoon and right before dashain/tihar
festivals. One citizen in a Dalit community displaced
due to landslide risks said he did not withdraw the
money despite having been able to open a bank
account. He said he did not want to build a house
before a land assessment was conducted and feared
that the money would be spent on ‘festivities’. In
Barpak 2, some citizens mentioned that they had not
yet withdrawn the money because of the monsoon.
They said they would not be able to build a house as
it was not possible to transport construction materials
in the monsoon.
Delays in distributing cash after the cash
grant agreements were signed also meant
that the deployment of engineers was not
effective.
Engineers were deployed in the VDCs during the
agreement process. They remained but had little to
do because people had not yet received their first
installment and had not started rebuilding. The
engineers were therefore left without work. A school
headmaster in Dhuwakot VDC in Gorkha said, “The
engineers’ deployment timing was bad. They were
deployed in June and that was not the right time for
building a house. The state has wasted its money in
recruitment but the staff couldn’t do well. The houses
are undergoing reconstruction these days but there’s
no engineer. They were supposed to stay in their office
here but they are not.”
Delays in the program meant that some
people started to rebuild but usually they did
not use earthquake-safe measures.
Although exact figures could not be determined,
observers reported that some had constructed private
houses in all of the districts visited. However, only
residents of Nele VDC, Solukhumbu, and Baruneshwor
VDC, Okhaldhunga, said they had followed earthquake
safe construction procedures.
30


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal

Chapter 4. i â– ,
Politics and Leadership"!


I
â– â– f
*
Photo: Alok Pokharel
Roles and activities of political parties
• The formal role of political parties in recovery
efforts reduced with the beginning of the
reconstruction phase, increasing dissatisfaction
among political leaders. The formation of District
Coordination Committees (DCCs) in May-June
2016 in earthquake-impacted districts did not
clarify or increase the role of political parties
in the reconstruction process at the local level.
However, their informal involvement in the
recovery process continued.
• Political dynamics and activities at the local level
have remained largely unchanged since before the
earthquakes. As during IRM-2, local decision-
making was shaped by preexisting local dynamics
and, in the absence of local elections, government
officials continued to consult with and rely on
political parties for decisions on local governance.
• Political parties were conducting few programs
specifically related to the earthquakes at the local
level, nor did they make comprehensive efforts to
mobilize victims to gain their support.
• Only isolated incidents of politicization of aid and
of political party interference in reconstruction
efforts were reported but political parties were
involved in obstructions of the cash grant
agreement process.
Political party involvement in the cash
grant agreement process
concerns and demands of those excluded from
the beneficiary lists and were instrumental in
negotiating the resumption of the process by
seeking assurances from government officials that
grievances would be addressed.
• Political parties were also informally assisting in
the cash grant agreement process. They played
crucial roles in facilitating communication
between government offices and local communities
and assisting individual earthquake victims
during the signing of cash grant agreements and
the distribution of the first installment of cash.
Emergence of new leadership
• The technical and bureaucratic approach of the
reconstruction process in general, and the cash
grant agreement process in particular, left little
room for the emergence of new leadership.
Support for political parties and local
leaders
• Dissatisfaction with political parties in general
was high amongst citizens, mainly due to their
lack of formal involvement in earthquake related
activities rather than any real or perceived
politicization of relief or recovery work. But
communities were more satisfied with local
leaders and continued to look to them for
assistance and information.
Political parties were involved in obstructions
of the cash grant agreement process to raise the
31


Politics and Leadership
Box 4.1: IRM-1 (June 2015) and IRM-2 (February-March 2016)
findings on politics and leadership
The impact of the earthquakes on local
political dynamics and leadership was
limited; no significant changes to the
roles of or levels of support for, political
parties and local leaders were reported.
The second round of research found that Ward
Citizen Forum (WCF) coordinators, local
philanthropists, and teachers, who had already
been active during the early relief phase, were
gradually becoming more aware of their own
leadership roles, but this did not challenge
existing leadership and political dynamics.
Preexisting local governance and po-
litical dynamics affected local deci-
sion-making processes after the earth-
quakes, with government officials,
especially VDC Secretaries, continuing
to consult political parties on local gov-
ernance issues and relying on them to
conduct their work. Local communities con-
tinued to turn to their leaders for information
and assistance. This influence of political par-
ties resulted only in isolated incidents of conflict
between parties or of politicization of relief.
However, political parties’ involvement in the
first two rounds of damage assessments became
controversial, as community members believed
that political parties were asserting pressure on
the process and influence assessments.
Political parties had largely returned
to their normal activities by early 2016.
Few local leaders conducted activities
specifically related to the earthquake.
Political party differences over reconstruc-
tion were rarely seen at the local level despite
prominent disagreements at the national level.
In IRM-1, political parties were still heavily
involved in relief distribution committees at
the district and VDC levels and in some places
were found to have conducted their own relief
and reconstruction efforts. During the early
relief phase, local government officials gener-
ally relied on political parties to collectively
take decisions and address conflicts related to
relief distribution - through meetings which
functioned in a similar way to the All Party
Mechanism. In IRM-2, however, the involve-
ment of political parties in relief and recovery
activities had declined, largely due to the fact
that local mechanisms exerted less influence
over decisions related to recovery after the end
of the relief phase.
4.1 Roles and activities of political parties
Formal role of political parties in reconstruction
Theformal engagement of political parties in
recovery efforts reduced with the beginning
of the reconstruction phase. There is no clear
definition of their roles and responsibilities.
However, their informal roles in recovery
processes continue.
The role of political parties and their representatives
in local decision-making was somewhat formalized in
the early months after the earthquakes when political
parties were engaged in relief distribution through
the District Disaster Relief Committees (DDRCs) and
Relief Distribution Committees (RDCs) with political
parties playing key roles in both. As these bodies
became less influential in coordinating earthquake-
related activities with the decline in emergency relief,
the formal influence of political parties over the
coordination of assistance also reduced significantly
- a trend that could already be observed in early
2016.91 Since then, the engagement of political parties
has declined further with the increased focus on
reconstruction.
The NRA’s technical and bureaucratic approach to
reconstruction did not allow for a formal role for
political parties in the Central Bureau of Statistics
(CBS) damage assessment, cash grant agreement
91 See Chapter 3 for more information on the reduced roles of RDCs
and DDRCs. See also, The Asia Foundation and Democracy
Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earth-
quake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring
Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (February and March
2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation
32


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
and distribution processes, and various mechanisms
established to collect complaints about the assessment
and beneficiary lists. New policies and guidelines,
issued after the establishment of the NRA, either
do not outline or outright prohibit political party
involvement in reconstruction at the local level.
The government issued four procedures, rules, and
guidelines on the reconstruction of structures and
private houses damaged by the earthquakes, none of
which describe official roles for political parties and
their representatives.92 As a result, local leaders and
political party affiliates were not formally involved
in the identification of beneficiaries, the conclusion
of cash grant agreements, or in complaints handling
and management mechanisms. This was found to
have significantly reduced overall political party
engagement in earthquake-related activities compared
to IRM-1 and IRM-2. Informally or individually,
however, local political party representatives were
involved in the cash grant process and other recovery
efforts, for example by sharing information, assisting
individual earthquake victims with procedures,
and coordinating with local government offices (see
Chapter 4.2).
The formation of District Coordination
Committees (DCCs) in earthquake-impacted
districts did not clarify or increase the role of
political parties in the reconstruction process
at the local level.
The formation of DCCs to coordinate and monitor
reconstruction in earthquake-affected districts, under
the leadership of a Member of Parliament (MP) from
the same district, did not lead to the more direct
involvement of political party leaders and members
in the reconstruction process.93 On the contrary,
the formal role of political parties in the local level
reconstruction process was limited by the formation of
DCCs. This was largely due to the fact that DCCs were
found to be either dysfunctional or ceremonial in the
districts visited, with most of the DCCs’ work being
done by subcommittees led by district government
officials such as the Chief District Officer (CDO) or
Local Development Officer (LDO) (see Chapter 3).94
As such, DCCs in general have had little influence over
reconstruction and the coordination of aid and the
cash grant process at the district level and Members
of Parliament had little impact on the functioning
of the DDCs. District-level political representatives
raised the issue that MPs, who are generally based in
Kathmandu, have not been able to regularly attend
DCC meetings nor have they remained informed on
the specific needs and challenges of reconstruction in
their districts. A high level CPN-UML representative
in Gorkha, for example, said: “From a political point of
view, it makes sense to ensure MPs’ representation in
every aspect of the reconstruction process. However,
the tight schedule of MPs, and their limited efforts
to engage in the reconstruction process, has meant
that although there is a lot of room for political
representation there have been limited results.”
District-level leaders across districts visited reported
that they were not invited to DCC meetings or the
meetings of subcommittees—in contrast to DDRC
meetings in which they are included regularly—nor
to meetings of the sub-regional NRA offices. Many
district and local political party leaders, who had
been engaged in the relief process and represented
in DDRCs and RDCs, now did not have any formal
representation in DCCs or formal role in the district-
level reconstruction process in general. Leaders
commonly complained about this in districts where
DCCs had been formed: Ramechhap, Gorkha,
Okhaldhunga, and Sindhupalchowk. Overall, there
was a growing feeling among district and local
political party representatives that the DCC itself was
preventing the effective engagement of political parties
in the recovery and reconstruction process due to the
limited influence of MPs and the exclusion of local
political party leaders, coupled with the limited ability
in practice of DCCs to coordinate reconstruction work
in the districts.
NRA guidelines on the mobilization of volun-
teers from non-governmental organizations
and political parties to coordinate recovery
efforts did not translate into greater engage-
ment of political parties.
92 The reconstruction process is governed by the Procedure for
the Reconstruction Grant Distribution for Private Houses
Damaged by Earthquake 2016 (http://nra.gov.np/uploads/
docs/EunALRqKz4i6o52Oo626o2.pdf); Reconstruction of
Structure Damaged by Earthquake Rules 2016 (available at:
http://nra.gov.np/uploads/docs/ccy9p7aMe716o4241o2o5o.
pdf); The Procedures Relating to Grievances Management with
Regard to Reconstruction and Restitution 2016 (available at:
http://nra.gov.np/download/details/132) and Procedure for
the Technical Supervision of the Reconstruction of Private
Houses 2016 (available at: http://nra.gov.np/uploads/docs/
KSddafxXzp161111065308.pdf).
93 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, p. 32.
94 The DCCs did not meet regularly as MPs from the districts
were primarily based in Kathmandu. In the absence of MPs,
subcommittees led by district officials who are permanently
stationed in the districts took over the work of the DCC.
33


Politics and Leadership
The NRA’s Volunteer Mobilization Guidelines provide
that organizations and political parties can register
volunteers who are permanent residents of the VDC/
municipality at the VDC/municipality office to assist
the cash grant agreement process, filing of complaints,
and the construction of temporary shelters.95 * * 95 How-
ever, researchers did not find evidence that political
parties had registered their cadres as volunteers in
the VDCs. Where NGO volunteers and political party
representatives assisted community members with
the conclusion of cash grant agreements, their efforts
did not seem to be conducted as formally registered
volunteers as per said guidelines.
Local political leaders’ dissatisfaction rose
as they were increasingly sidelined from
the reconstruction process at the local level,
reducing their capacity to assist earthquake
victims.
Across districts and VDCs visited, local political party
leaders expressed dissatisfaction about their reduced
formal roles in decision-making and the coordination
of recovery efforts. In the more severely hit districts
where the DCC was formed, the CBS assessment
had been completed, and the cash grant agreement
process had started, discontent was particularly
high. In Gorkha, Ramechhap, Sindhupalchowk, and
Okhaldhunga, leaders were quick to highlight their
dissatisfaction with the CBS assessment and the iden-
tification of beneficiaries as well as with the cash grant
agreement, distribution, and complaints processes.
While this does highlight leaders’ unhappiness over
being sidelined, it also reflects generally high levels of
dissatisfaction with these processes in earthquake-af-
fected districts and the many concerns local residents
have brought to their leaders (see Chapter 3). Further,
leaders’ discontent relates to their own difficulties in
trying to address local concerns and assist earthquake
victims.
Many local party representatives who were eager
to help locals in their recovery were frustrated by
national-level political disagreements and changes in
reconstruction policies, which delayed reconstruction
and caused uncertainty at the local level (see Chapter 2).
Their exclusion from district-level decision-making
only increased their frustrations and as it reduced
their ability to address the concerns of earthquake
victims. Several local leaders complained that they
were given little information on the government’s
reconstruction efforts, meaning they were unable
to inform their communities adequately when
approached with questions. This was particularly so
in Syangja and Solukhumbu, where leaders reported
feeling ‘awkward’ because they could not give clear
answers to locals who wanted to know what types of
assistance they could expect and when the cash grant
agreement process would begin. Local political party
representatives in the other districts considered the
newly formed local NRA offices and DCCs less suited
to understanding local contexts and political dynamics
than the DDRCs. They also felt that these new bodies
could not adequately represent the concerns of
community members as they were led by ‘outsiders’
such as government officials temporarily stationed in
the districts or by MPs based in Kathmandu. Perhaps
not surprisingly then, political party representatives
in these more severely hit districts would like to see
more responsibility returned to the DDRCs.
Political party activities and local political dynamics
Across the districts visited during the field
research, there was a sense of pre-earthquake
normalcy to political party activities.
Political parties were generally focusing on ‘politics
as usual’ rather than earthquake-related work. This
normalization of political party activities was already
reported in IRM-2.96 In Solukhumbu and Syangja,
where the reconstruction process had not yet begun,
political parties fully resumed their normal activities,
such as internal meetings, membership distribution,
or discussions on local governance issues, and
were not found to have carried out any earthquake-
specific programs. In other districts, too, political
parties did not have comprehensive plans to assist
recovery and conducted few reconstruction-related
95 The Guidelines on Volunteer Mobilization During the Recon-
struction of Private Houses Damaged by the Earthquake and
Cash Grant Distribution Process 2016 (available at: http://nra.
gov.np/uploads/docs/rewtqME99yi6o8i6o7O93i.pdf). The
IRM-2 report predicted that these guidelines may allow for the
increased involvement of political party cadres in reconstruction,
but this was not found to be the case in IRM-3. The Asia Foun-
dation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and
Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and
Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring
(February and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia
Foundation, p. 32.
96 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 31-34.
34


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
activities (see below). Notably, in all districts, parties
were engaged in debates and discussions on the
formation of local bodies in their respective areas.
In VDCs in Okhaldhunga, for example, political
parties were focused more on lobbying for certain
areas to be included in the new administrative unit
than on earthquake- or reconstruction-related issues
according to the former VDC Chairman of Prapcha
VDC. In Barpak VDC in Gorkha, too, local leaders
were found to be participating in intense debates
on, and political gatherings related to, local body
restructuring.
At the VDC level, dynamics between polit-
ical parties and government officials have
remained largely unchanged with officials
continuing to consult political party repre-
sentative for decisions on local governance.
The roles and importance of political parties in local
governance have remained largely unchanged. Na-
tional-level political disagreements and changes in,
or uncertainties over, reconstruction policies have not
significantly altered local political dynamics and rela-
tions between local political party leaders. Similarly,
ongoing discussions on local bodies restructuring have
not significantly altered political dynamics at the local
level. Political parties continued to enjoy de facto lead-
ership status in the VDCs.97 98 * 97 Apart from the decline in
their role in the recovery and reconstruction process,
political party representatives continue to exert the
same influence as they have traditionally enjoyed in
local governance at both the district and VDC levels.98
Local government officials, including VDC Secretaries,
continued to actively seek the consent of political
party representatives before making decisions in the
absence of locally elected leaders.
There was no evidence to suggest a significant change
in political dynamics at the local level even after po-
litical infighting and the change of government at the
center in mid-2016 (see Chapter 2). In the districts and
VDCs visited, relations between political parties were
reported to have remained similar to pre-earthquake
times, with leaders from different parties both coop-
erating and policing each other through their involve-
ment in informal All Party Mechanisms (APMs).99 In
most VDCs visited, no single political party was seen
to dominate affairs, with major parties collectively
exerting influence over local governance. In one VDC
in Okhaldhunga, and three VDCs in Solukhumbu, one
political party was found to be dominant but other po-
litical parties did not directly challenge this dominance
and seemed resigned to the fact that the traditionally
dominant party would yield more influence in the
community. There were no indications, however, that
dominant political parties exerted disproportionate
influence over the reconstruction process. Perhaps due
to the absence of formal, elected local governments,
the dominance of a political party at the VDC or ward
level has had limited impact on local governance or the
reconstruction process as VDC officials have regularly
consulted all major political parties.
Relations between VDC officials and political parties
were generally cooperative. VDC secretaries continued
to carry out their responsibilities with the support and
cooperation of political party representatives - with
the exception of Dhuwakot VDC in Gorkha district,
where there have been tensions between political
party representatives and the VDC Secretary, even-
tually leading to the transfer of the Secretary (see
Case Study 4.1). Given the heavy workload of VDC sec-
retaries in the absence of elected local governments,
their lack of familiarity with local contexts in many
cases, and the fact that they often reside outside their
assigned VDCs, Secretaries generally had no choice
other than to rely on local leaders to carry out their
responsibilities100 In IRM-2, it was reported that in
14 out of 18 VDCs and municipalities visited by re-
searchers, the VDC Secretary did not live in the VDC.
In IRM-3, the number was 12 out of 18 Secretaries.
97 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 34-36.
98 Local elections have not been held in Nepal since 1997. As a result,
local political representatives have not been formally represent-
ed in the districts, VDCs, and wards. However, political parties
continue to influence the local governance process in an informal
capacity and VDC officials also seek political consensus in local
decision-making. Before the earthquake, political parties would
normally focus on their internal activities and work with VDC sec-
retaries on issues concerning local governance. See also, The Asia
Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid
and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring
(February and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia
Foundation, pp. 31-38.
99 In 2007, after the end of the Maoist insurgency, the All Party
Mechanism was instituted to promote political consensus at
the local level and to formally assist local officials to carry out
their responsibilities. However, after widespread allegations of
corruption, and a recommendation from the Commission on
the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA), APMs were
dissolved in January 2012.
100 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independ-
ent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase 1 - Quali-
tative Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu and Bangkok:
The Asia Foundation, pp. 32-36.
35


Politics and Leadership
Case Study 4.1: A local government official struggling to work without
the support of local residents and political party representatives
Political dynamics and local dissatisfaction has
affected the work of a local government officer
in a VDC in Gorkha. The tense relationship
between the VDC Secretary and local citizens
and other political parties eventually resulted
in the transfer of the Secretary. People in the
VDC were dissatisfied with the Secretary due
to her residing in the district headquarters
instead of the VDC. They also accused her of
charging extra money to process documents at
the office. Political party representatives, on the
other hand, accused her of being close to one
party and not sufficiently including parties in
meetings and decision-making.
Relations between the VDC Secretary and res-
idents worsened when local party representa-
tives from CPN-UML and CPN-MC proposed
to invite Hitraj Pandey, a CPN(MC) Member
of Parliament (now MoFALD Minister) to a
council meeting, which was refused by the
VDC Secretary who wanted to avoid political
interference in the VDC council. Political par-
ties and people in the VDC felt that earthquake
victims had been tricked and deceived by the
CBS assessment and it was high time that their
complaints and grievances were heard and
addressed. It was for this reason that they felt
that the inclusion of a MP in the council meeting
would help pressure district government of-
ficers to address their concerns.
This incident caused debates and tensions in
the VDC, especially among political parties.
Party leaders from CPN-UML and CPN(MC)
submitted a letter requesting the concerned
district office to transfer the Secretary. The
VDC Secretary admitted that since the council
meeting her adverse relations with parties in the
VDC affected her work but said that she herself
had asked for the transfer. According to her,
“When a leader from a particular party comes
as chief guest, other parties feel uncomfortable.
This is why I was against the proposal. But they
did not like me for it and there was no harmony
as before. And I asked for a transfer.”
This incident reveals that local government of-
ficials face difficulties in carrying out their work
without the support of local political parties
who try to influence local governance and de-
cision-making processes. While local residents
generally seemed to support the transfer of the
Secretary, this may not necessarily have been in
their best interests given the heavy workload of
VDC offices during the cash grant distribution
process and the collection of complaints.
Political parties were conducting feiv pro-
grams specifically related to the earthquakes
at the local level, nor did they make compre-
hensive efforts to mobilize victims to gain
their support.
There were no comprehensive efforts by political
parties in the districts visited to form platforms to
address issues related to recovery and reconstruction
nor did they plan broader programs related to the
earthquakes. In early 2016, at the time of IRM-2,
it seemed that political party involvement might
increase once reconstruction fully began.101 However,
given the absence of formal roles for political parties
during reconstruction at the local level, and their
preoccupation with regular activities, political parties
did not take ownership of the reconstruction process
and conducted few earthquake-related activities
of their own. As described above, local political
leaders were frustrated about the limited roles for
political parties. Local leaders’ informal assistance
to victims (see Chapter 4.2) and their motivation to
be more involved, however, reveal some potential for
increasing political party mobilization of and efforts on
behalf of earthquake victims in the future, in particular
those excluded from the beneficiary lists.
In Solukhumbu and Syangja, political parties showed
particularly little initiative to engage in the recovery
or reconstruction process as the cash grant agreement
process had not yet begun in these districts, nor had
101 While in early 2016 too, political parties conducted few programs
related to the earthquakes, it appeared that they might get more
involved during reconstruction. See, The Asia Foundation and
Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in
Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery
Monitoring Nepal Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring
(February-March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia
Foundation, p.32.
36


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
the CBS assessment been conducted to identify ben-
eficiaries. In Syangja, however, CPN-MC and Nepali
Congress (NC) submitted two separate communiques
in July 2016 to the Chief District Officer (CDO) de-
manding that the cash grant agreement process begin.
The communiques were intended to highlight the lack
of reconstruction activities in the district and were
seen as an effort by political parties to act on behalf
of earthquake victims in the district. Yet, these com-
muniques could also have been the result of the then
ongoing central level political disagreement between
CPN-UML, then the ruling party, and the CPN-MC
and Nepali Congress (NC), who introduced a vote of
no confidence motion against the government (see
Chapter 2).
Informally, local political party leaders were
involved in recovery activities and some were
providing aid individually.
Individually, some political party leaders were
involved in the reconstruction process. A local
entrepreneur in Solukhumbu, who is also affiliated
to NC, was building houses in a VDC in the district
for people who lost their houses in the earthquakes.
However, there was no evidence to suggest that his
actions were motivated by political objectives or
were part of NC’s official programs in the district.
The entrepreneur himself downplayed the political
significance of his work. Similarly, Sher Bahadur
Tamang, a CPN-UML Member of Parliament from
Sindhupalchowk district, provided funds to rebuild a
school through the Constituency Development Fund
available to each MP.
Local level leaders were also found to be informally
involved in recovery activities, mainly by sharing
information and assisting locals during the cash grant
agreement and distribution processes. However,
district and national level political leaders did not
engage themselves in the reconstruction process as
much as local, VDC-level political representatives.
The role of district level political representatives was
largely limited to negotiating the resumption of the
cash grant agreement process after the process was
obstructed by local residents with support from their
leaders in the VDCs (see Chapter 4.2).
Political party interference
Only isolated incidents of politicization of
aid and of political party interference in
reconstruction efforts were reported — with
the exception of political party involvement
in obstructions of the cash grant agreement
process.
Political party interference in post-earthquake relief
and recovery efforts has decreased since the end of
the relief phase when direct aid distribution declined
significantly. In IRM-1 and IRM-2, frequent com-
plaints about political parties influencing the outcome
of damage assessments were reported.102 Political
parties, being directly involved in official as well as
unofficial local relief distribution mechanisms, were
also occasionally accused of politicizing relief distri-
bution. For example, it was reported that political
parties were accused of distributing relief materials
to their cadres, or were able to divert relief materials
to areas where their support base was. Between IRM-
102 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Inde-
pendent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase 1
- Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 48-54; The Asia Foundation
and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery
in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery
Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (February
and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Founda-
tion, pp. 36-37.
2 and IRM-3, however, political party influence over
post-earthquake aid and recovery efforts decreased
as political parties were increasingly sidelined from
local decision-making on aid distribution and recon-
struction (see above). Due to political parties’ lack of
involvement in the CBS assessment, complaints and
accusations related to political interference in the
beneficiary lists also decreased. Undue interference
likely also reduced given political parties’ preoccupa-
tion with other matters after their return to ‘politics
as usual’ when the emergency phase came to an end.
While the diminished role and influence of political
parties in reconstruction maybe positive, this was not
necessarily welcomed by earthquake victims who were
looking to their leaders for support (see Chapter 4.4).
Only isolated instances of political parties seeking to
directly interfere in the relief and recovery process
were reported, besides political party involvement in
obstruction of the cash grant agreement process (see
Chapter 4.2). In Tanglichok VDC in Gorkha district,
political parties reportedly pressurized the VDC Sec-
retary to change the beneficiary list. Political parties,
however, did not insist on the change when the VDC
Secretary did not give in to their demand. It is likely
that political parties were simply trying to appease
those excluded from the beneficiary list after the CBS
assessment. More severe was interference in Syaule
VDC in Sindhupalchowk where CPN-MC activists
obstructed relief distribution by an NGO in May 2016.
Alleging political bias and poor quality of the relief
37


Politics and Leadership
materials, party activists reportedly threw away the
relief materials brought by the NGO to distribute in
the VDC. After this incident, the NGO halted its work
without completing their relief distribution. The lack
of clear dominance of one political party over others
in most VDCs likely also contributed to the fact that
there were few conflicts between political parties and
only isolated incidents of direct interference and po-
liticization of relief.
Few instances of physical obstructions of relief distri-
bution and reconstruction efforts were reported and
the main political parties were not found to have been
involved in violent attacks in the VDCs visited. Yet,
there have been other reports of attacks on I/NGOs.
In Nuwakot and Sindhupalchowk, the CPN-Maoist
factions led by Netrabikram Chand (also known as
Biplav) attacked World Vision International and Save
the Children offices.103 Although, researchers did not
come across reports of similar attacks, rising dissat-
isfaction with and the increasingly negative portrayal
in local and national media of I/NGOs in general (see
Chapter 3) may lead to more incidents of violence in
the future.
4.2 Political party involvement in
the cash grant agreement process
Political party representatives supported
obstructions of the cash grant agreement
process, which were common and caused
delays in most VDCs.
Protests and obstructions delayed the cash grant
agreement process, and ultimately the disbursement of
the grants, in eight VDCs out of the 12 visited in Gorkha,
Okhaldhunga, Ramechhap, and Sindhupalchowk -
districts where the process had begun at the time of
research. Protests took place both at the district and
VDC level and were common across these districts. As
already reported in the IRM thematic study on cash
grants, those protesting were largely people who had
earlier been listed as eligible and received early relief,
emergency cash grants, as well as winter relief, but
who were then excluded from new beneficiary lists
after the CBS assessment. This group, sometimes with
the support of local political parties, delayed the cash
grant agreement process in many locations.104 In at
least one place in Ramechhap municipality, protests
were also joined by community members who were
included in the beneficiary list but could not conclude
cash grant agreements because they did not have the
necessary documents.
Obstructions and protests often took the form of com-
munity members and local political party representa-
tives and, in some cases, VDC officials visiting district
government offices to demand assurances that griev-
ances would be addressed before the process moved
ahead (see Chapter 3). In five of the eight VDCs where
there were protests, the cash grant agreement process
resumed after such meetings between protesters and
district officials. Delays in the cash grant agreement
process were common, however, even without strong
direct protests or violence and were not restricted to
VDCs where there had been protests or from where
delegations had gone to meet district officials. On rare
occasions, the ‘padlocking’ of local government offices
and open confrontations were reported. Of the VDCs
visited, only in Baruneshwor VDC in Okhaldhunga
were there signs that the protest against the cash grant
agreement process had the potential to turn violent.
People protesting against the exclusion of individu-
als from the beneficiary list threatened to physically
assault VDC officials. This resulted in the immediate
suspension of the cash grant agreement process in the
VDC and, as a result, the protest did not escalate any
further. Actual physical violence related to the cash
grant agreement process was not reported in any of
the VDCs visited.
Political parties were generally instrumental in sup-
porting such obstructions and advocating on behalf
of earthquake victims with grievances during the cash
103 ‘Biplav Maoist cadres attack Save the Children Office in
Chautara’, 7 June 2016, http://english.onlinekhabar.com
/2016/06/07/378917 ‘Petrol bomb hurled at Save the Children
office in Sindhupalchok’, 7 June 2016, http://kathmandupost.
ekantipur.com/news/2016-06-07/chand-ma0ists-attack-
chautara-save-the-children-office.html ‘Keshav Paudel’, AIN
Challenges & Opportunities, Vol: 09, No. 23, 24 June 2016
(available at: http://www.spotlightnepal.com/News/Article/
AIN-Challenge-Opportunities-Nepal).
104 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Nepal Government Distribution of Earthquake Re-
construction Cash Grants for Private Houses - Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Thematic Study. Kathmandu
and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
38


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
grant agreement process. Political party activists both
asked VDC officials to halt the process, and took up
the case of people who had been excluded from the
new beneficiary lists with district officials. According
to the VDC Secretary of Katunje in Okhaldhunga,
political parties also called for community members
not to participate in the cash grant agreement process
and this also led to delays. The field data does not
suggest, however, that political party representatives
were involved in attempts to assault VDC secretaries
or other government officials in relation to the cash
grant agreement process.
Various factors may have motivated political parties to
facilitate protests and obstructions. Given that genuine
grievances were common in VDCs visited, it seemed
that political party representatives generally acted
on behalf of earthquake victims. Communities also
seemed to want their leaders to get more involved in
reconstruction and therefore asked party represent-
atives to help them voice discontent and concerns
relating to the new beneficiary lists and the cash
grant distribution process (see Chapter 4.4). Further,
this could be seen as an early attempt to reach out to
and mobilize earthquake victims who were excluded
from the cash grant process. Yet, given that political
parties did not conduct their own earthquake-related
programs and often worked together in raising local
concerns and obstructing the cash grant agreement
process, it cannot be seen as a systematic political
mobilization of victims in order to gain party political
support. The sidelining of political parties from the
CBS assessment and the cash grant agreement process,
as well as from local level decision-making on recon-
struction in general, certainly also played an important
role. Obstructions could likely have been prevented
had there been prior involvement of political parties in
the planning and decision-making related to the cash
grant agreement process at the district and VDC levels.
Politicalparties were also active in negotiating
the resumption of the cash grant agreement
process.
Interestingly, after assisting people to protest against
the CBS assessment and obstruct the cash grant
agreement process, political party representatives
also facilitated agreements between protestors and
district government offices. Political parties actively
negotiated agreements with district officials on behalf
of those who protested against their exclusion from
the new beneficiary lists, and helped ensure that the
cash grant agreement process could resume. Political
parties then informed victims that agreements had
been made to address their concerns and adjust
beneficiary lists based on grievance forms submitted
to government offices. After this, protests were called
off and the cash grant process was allowed to move
ahead. Political party representatives, especially at the
VDC level, then played important roles in facilitating
the process.
Political parties played crucial roles in in-
formally assisting the cash grant agreement
process by helping individual earthquake
victims navigate the process and facilitating
communication between government offices
and local communities.
In 10 out of the 12 VDCs visited where the cash grant
agreement process was underway, political parties
provided assistance during the process.105 Political
parties informally helped VDC officials plan and
coordinate the process, informed people about the
timing, procedures, and requirements for signing cash
grant agreements, and provided logistical support
such as helping victims fill in various forms, submit
grievance forms, and keep the required documents
in order. Political parties’ informal facilitation was
not seen as controversial and was generally received
positively by the people and local government offi-
cials. “Political parties know about the suffering of the
people and carried out their moral obligation towards
people by assisting them,” said the VDC Secretary
of Prapcha in Okhaldhunga. The VDC Secretary of
Bamti Bhandar in Ramechhap also praised political
parties’ assistance during the agreement process and
felt that their assistance was crucial for the conclusion
of cash grant agreements in the VDC. In Lisankhu
VDC in Sindhupalchowk, political parties went to the
district headquarters and brought the VDC Secretary
to Lisankhu to begin the process. Across the research
areas, representatives from different political parties
were involved in assisting the cash grant agreement
process, with none of the parties being more active.
Political parties were actively engaged in communi-
cation between the government offices and people in
the villages on policies, rules, and procedures of the
grant agreement process and the disbursement of the
grant as well as building requirements. Political parties
communicated decisions of the VDC, such as the date
and place for reconstruction cash grant agreements,
essential documents required to conclude the agree-
ment process and other relevant information.
Local residents in six of the 12 VDCs where the agree-
ment process had begun told researchers that political
parties helped share information between government
offices and local communities as well as between VDC
105 The two VDCs where political parties were less involved were
Barpak and Dhuwakot VDCs in Gorkha district. In Gorkha, there
was a higher presence of I/NGOs but this was not the reason why
political parties were less involved. In fact, in Dhuwakot VDC,
I/NGOs were reportedly not assisting the agreement process. In
Barpak, VDC level political parties were still represented in the
Village Grievance Management Committee.
39


Politics and Leadership
offices and the district headquarters.106 Political par-
ties were able to communicate peoples’ concerns and
needs to the district and VDC officials as community
members frequently share their concerns and needs
with them seeing them as the appropriate authority
who could act on their behalf. Further, local leaders
were generally more approachable than VDC secre-
taries who are either only temporarily stationed in the
VDC or reside in the district headquarters and thus
lack the local understanding and rapport with people
that political party representatives have. The role of
political parties in acting as communication channels
between community members and local government
was already highlighted in IRM-2. But the significance
of this role had increased greatly by September 2016
in light of the large volume of information on the
cash grant agreement and distribution processes and
reconstruction guidelines.
Political parties were generally excluded from
VDC-level grievance mechanisms despite being
instrumental in assisting people with the submission
of complaints. In seven VDCs out of the 12 where the
grant agreement process had begun, political parties
either helped fill up and collect grievance forms or
generally tried to understand people’s grievances
which they then communicated to VDC and district
officials - as they did during obstructions of the
grant agreement process. Only in one VDC, Barpak in
Gorkha, were political parties included in the official
Village Grievance Management Committee despite the
fact that the NRA guidelines do not have a provision
for the inclusion of political representatives in such
committees.107 The reason for the exception of Barpak
was unclear.
4.3 Emergence of new leadership
There was no indication of the emergence
of new forms of leadership in the VDCs and
wards visited; on the contrary, the technical
and bureaucratic approach to reconstruction
reduced the potential for new leadership.
In the first year after the earthquakes, some young
political leaders or activists, Ward Citizen Forum
(WCF) members and coordinators, philanthropists,
and local business people were active in providing
or coordinating aid and taking on limited leadership
roles.108 By September 2016, however, such initiatives
were rare as these potential new leaders became less
relevant. After the end of the relief phase, the technical
and bureaucratic nature of the reconstruction process
left little room for those who had demonstrated
leadership potential to continue to be engaged and
exert their influence in the longer term.
NRA guidelines required that the CBS assessment was
carried out by technical experts deputed by the NRA
and the cash grant agreement and grant distribution
processes were led by the VDC office without allowing
for the involvement of local leadership figures and
community members. Further, the slow and central-
ized approval process for recovery and reconstruction
projects restricted the ability of those trying to act
locally.109 Some tried to bypass NRA guidelines in
their reconstruction efforts to assist communities
more quickly. For example, an influential individual
in Solukhumbu has made the reconstruction of hous-
es possible for people in one of the district’s VDCs.
However, lacking proper approval from the NRA
due to the difficult approval process, the individual
has chosen to avoid the limelight and leadership that
is generally expected with such work. Additionally,
locals are generally aware that influential people in
their communities are formally or informally linked
to political parties. It is therefore not always possible
to conclude whether people active and leading during
the reconstruction phase are acting on behalf of their
political party or are creating new leadership roles for
themselves.
106 In some areas (six out of 36 wards), political parties had only
little to no organized presence and there was limited political
activity even before the earthquakes. Six wards had lower levels
of political party activities due to a lack of ward representatives
but political parties were nevertheless active at the VDC level in
all VDCs. The six wards with lower levels of political activity were
in Barpak VDC (Gorkha), and in Baruwa and Lisankhu VDCs
(Sindhupalchowk).
107 The Procedures Relating to Grievances Management with Regard
to Reconstruction and Restitution 2016 (available at: http://nra.
gov.np / download/ details/132).
108 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independ-
ent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative
Field Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 36-37.
109 See The National Reconstruction Authority: Procedure for the
Mobilization of Non-Governmental Organization for the purpose
of Recovery and Reconstruction (available at: http://nra.gov.np/
uploads/docs/zSE4qx4BWji6o4i7O92i56.pdf)
40


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
4.4 Support for political parties and local leaders
Dissatisfaction with political parties was high
but did not lead to changes in which political
party people were supporting.
In 16 of the 36 wards visited, local residents expressed
dissatisfaction with political parties in general rather
than any one party in particular. Only in six wards did
people say they were satisfied with political parties. In
the remaining 14 wards, people’s opinions on political
parties were neutral. However, people commonly
blamed political parties for the outcomes of damage
assessments, procedural hurdles to the conclusion
of cash grant agreements, what they perceived as
inadequate assistance, and even the unsatisfactory
state of reconstruction. In 23 out of 36 wards visited,
locals blamed political parties and their representatives
for the slow pace of reconstruction.110 Yet, people rarely
held specific local leaders accountable. Community
members may simply consider political parties to be
responsible for the state of local governance in their
community, including reconstruction. Dissatisfaction
with political parties is generally common in Nepal.111
High levels of dissatisfaction, however, did not seem
to lead to changes in which party people supported.
There was no indication in any of the wards visited
that people were changing or thinking of changing who
they would support. This may be at least in part due
to the fact that no new leadership has emerged that
is challenging existing political parties and no single
political party has been able to distinguish itself in the
post-earthquake relief and reconstruction processes.
With political parties enjoying de facto leadership
status at the local level, and with the absence of
alternatives, people have no option but to continue
working with the traditional political parties in their
communities.
Over 40 percent of community members felt that
local elections would improve the recovery and
reconstruction process. This reiterates the significance
community members attach to the role of political
parties in their VDCs and wards. It likely also reflects
on the importance people attach to holding local
leaders accountable. Only 25 percent of community
members thought that local elections would be
unlikely to affect reconstruction. The remaining 35
percent were indifferent or unsure about the impact
of local elections.112 * *
High levels of dissatisfaction with political
parties were linked to their lack of involvement
in the reconstruction process rather than
interference.
As in IRM-2, community members did not necessarily
view the involvement of political parties as undesira-
ble. In fact, those who blamed political parties for the
unsatisfactory state of reconstruction referred to their
lack of engagement rather than political interference
or bias as reasons. The informal assistance provided
during the cash grant agreement process was wel-
comed by many but was not seen as sufficient. Rather,
community members across the wards visited in the
field research shared the impression that political
parties have not done enough. As Om Prasad Dahal
of Baruneshwor VDC in Okhaldunga said, “People are
unhappy with the role of political parties because they
didn’t play an active role after the earthquake.” People
expected political parties to be more engaged in the
recovery and reconstruction process. As political par-
ties failed to meet these expectations, dissatisfaction
increased. It is likely of course that some of those who
benefited from earlier generous damage assessments
influenced by political parties may have liked similar
interference from political parties to continue.113 In
this sense, the absence of political involvement in
the reconstruction process, and particularly in the
CBS assessment, is encouraging. Yet, the practical
assistance and crucial communication channels pro-
110 Out of the 36 wards visited, six had limited political activity
and organized presence of political parties even before the
earthquakes.
111 The Carter Center, Local Governance in Nepal: Public Per-
ceptions and Participation, February 2014 (available at:
https: / / www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/news/pr/nepal-
o22814-local-governance.pdf).
112 In addition to key informant interviews, focus group discussions,
and informal conversations and observation, a minimum of 10
citizens were formally interviewed in each ward visited to directly
collect the perspectives of community members on the themes
of the research. Citizen interviews were done on the basis of
a questionnaire with 20 questions covering the five themes of
IRM research.
113 Interference in damage assessments was common in IRM-1
and IRM-2. See, The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource
Center Nepal (2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake
Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Nepal
Phase 1 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu
and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 48-54; The Asia
Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2015). Aid
and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 36-37.
41


Politics and Leadership
vided by political party representatives also reveal
the potential for local leaders to be more involved in
reconstruction processes.
Support for local leaders was strong with
communities turning to them for information,
assistance, and guidance. As such, there is a
potential for local leaders to play a positive
role during reconstruction.
Despite high levels of dissatisfaction with political
parties, many community members tended to see local
political leaders as their legitimate representatives
who are primarily responsible for and capable of
addressing or mediating their needs and concerns
regarding their recovery. People therefore continued
to support their local leaders and look to them
for information and assistance in particular with
navigating government policies and programs. In
many areas without the permanent presence of a
VDC Secretary, party representatives are often the
only people who locals can approach with questions
and complaints. But elsewhere, too, local leaders
were found to play an important role in facilitating
communication between earthquake victims in
villages and government offices - as during the cash
grants agreement process.
With many relying on the support of local leaders,
and with parties continuing their customary influence
over decision making at the VDC and district levels,
it did not seem possible to completely exclude
them from decision-making on and coordination of
reconstruction at the local level nor did this seem
to be desired by earthquake victims. Instead, the
traditional influence of parties in villages could be
useful in managing the recovery and reconstruction
process more efficiently if frameworks for the inclusion
and accountability of political parties are developed.
Political parties can also bring customary legitimacy to
the process thereby decreasing the chances of protest
and dissatisfaction among community members.
42


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
kr k'7
i »'Chapter 5
Social
Photo: Alok Pokharel
Social cohesion and tensions
• Social cohesion has generally been strong since
the earthquakes and social relations remained
unchanged between IRM-2 and IRM-3 in most
of the wards visited. In nearly half of the wards
where tensions were reported in IRM-2, these
had since disappeared.
• Conflicts and tensions continued in some places
where local disagreements over displacement and
resettlement were not addressed. Caste-based
discrimination often shaped the nature of these
conflicts. Water scarcity seemed to aggravate
such tensions.
• As the volume and coverage of aid declined, com-
plaints about uneven access to aid and perceived
discrimination in distribution also decreased.
• There were no reports of overt conflict between
those excluded from beneficiary lists and those
qualifying for reconstruction cash grants.
Violence, crime, and security
• No increase in crime was observed and people
generally felt safe.
• Disputes related to gender-based violence and
alcohol consumption were relatively common in
some areas but it is difficult ascertain direct links
to the earthquakes.
Social networks and recovery
• Strong social cohesion enabled community mem-
bers to assist each other during the recovery pro-
cess and helped speed rebuilding. Social networks
beyond the immediate community facilitated
access to financial and material resources for
rebuilding as well as information.
• Marginalized groups were less likely to access
and benefit from extended networks but fami-
lies were sometimes helping each other within
communities.
Potential sources of conflict
• Conflicts related to resettlement, water sources,
and caste-based discrimination may escalate if
these issues remain unresolved.
• Frustrations of earthquake victims over the slow
pace of reconstruction can be expected to rise if
assistance is delayed further. Such frustrations
and dissatisfaction with the government and non-
governmental organizations may lead to protests
or new conflicts.
43


Social Relations and Conflict
Box 5.1: Findings from IRM-1 (June 2015) and IRM-2
(February-March 2016) on social relations and conflict
In most areas, social relations have not
been majorly impacted by the disaster
and mere observed to be good. Social
relations in most wards remained unchanged
and were cordial. In IRM-2, 27 out of 36 wards
studied reported consistent or improved social
relations within their communities since the
earthquakes.
Social cohesion and solidarity mere
particularly strong in the immediate
aftermath of the earthquakes. Solidarity
was strengthened in the first weeks after the
earthquakes. Some shared temporary shelters
with other caste or ethnic groups. Pre-existing
modes of cooperation and the even distribution
of relief materials were highlighted as contrib-
uting to community solidarity in June 2015.
Crime and violence did not increase
noticeably after the earthquakes. No
significant incidents of violence relating to
the earthquakes or the recovery process were
observed and crimes were not reported to
have increased during the first monsoon or
winter following the disaster. Conflicts and
disagreements generally remained limited to
verbal confrontations or resentment.
Where social relations declined and
tensions were observed, this was often
linked to unclear resettlement plans for
the displaced, mater scarcity, perceived
or actual discrimination in aid distribu-
tion, and contention over damage as-
sessments. The lack of clarity on and consist-
ency of damage assessments and resettlement
procedures, and their impact on reconstruction,
was often raised. Various rounds of damage
assessments conducted after the earthquakes
were contentious and increased resentments
and the likelihood of tensions at the local level.
Displacement and resettlement was the issue
that caused the most tension, but there were
both examples of communities and local offi-
cials who handled this process well, as well as
places where it was not effectively managed.
Caste and ethnicity remained important
factors that shaped the nature of ten-
sions and resentments. Resentment over
perceived and actual discrimination relating to
caste and ethnicity were often voiced, revealing
that these categories and issues of structural
discrimination continue to affect social rela-
tions and aid distribution. Aid distribution
was most contentious when it was targeted at
certain segments of the population, especially
when others in the locality had also suffered
significant impact from the earthquakes.
Where conflicts were observed, for example
between local and displaced groups, these also
sometimes occurred along caste or ethnic lines.
This indicated the potential for increased so-
cial tension in the future. Generally, however,
frustrations with relief distribution and reset-
tlement were directed at decision-makers, and
less frequently at neighbors.
5.1 Social cohesion and tensions
Social cohesion has generally been strong
since the earthquakes and social relations
remained largely unchanged betmeen IRM-2
and IRM-3 in the majority of mar ds visited.
As was the case in the first year after the earthquakes,
social cohesion has remained strong in most wards,
even with the slow speed of reconstruction and
significant declines in amounts of relief and direct
aid distributed. People in general have maintained
good relations with other people in their ward and
have helped each other when they could. For example,
local communities worked together to construct
temporary shelters in the immediate aftermath of
the earthquakes and continued to use shared labor
practices to rebuild houses or local infrastructure 18
months on (see Chapter 7.5). Since the earthquakes,
families have also commonly offered their land to
others in the community who could not use their own
land for temporary shelters. As in previous rounds of
research, positive relations and mutual support were
observed to cross caste and ethnic boundaries in most
of the locations visited.
44


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
In IRM-3, there were so no significant problems with
social relations in 31 out of the 36 wards studied. No
new tensions emerged in the 27 wards where social
cohesion was reported to have remained intact or
had strengthened in IRM-2. Among the nine wards
where some tensions or conflicts were reported in
IRM-2, the situation had not improved in five wards
while in four wards local tensions disappeared. A
slight improvement in social relations was therefore
observed in IRM-3 compared to IRM-2. Where social
cohesion was poor, this was attributed to tensions
between local and resettled communities and caste-
based discrimination and related conflicts.
Conflicts and tensions continued where local
disagreements over displacement and reset-
tlement had not been addressed.
Previous rounds of research reported cases of conflict
or tensions around displacement and resettlement
in three locations: Prapcha VDC in Okhaldhunga,
Syaule VDC in Sindhupalchowk, and Barpak VDC
in Gorkha. These conflicts persisted as there was no
progress in finding long-term resettlement solutions
for the displaced.
In Prapcha VDC in Okhaldhunga, several Dalit house-
holds faced discrimination and tensions with locals
when they had to relocate to a new area because the
land they used to live on was damaged and at risk of
landslides.114 After the earthquakes, the Dalit families
from wards 8 and 9 moved to an arranged communal
shelter on public land in Deurali Daanda, ward 3.
Displaced Brahmin households from the same wards
were also offered the opportunity to relocate to the
communal shelter but refused to share it with Dalits.
The local community in Deurali Daanda, which is
predominantly upper caste, complained about Dalits
occupying the space and, by early 2016, most Dalit
households had moved away to stay in cowsheds they
built on rented land in ward 5. They expressed a desire
to move back during the monsoon season.115 * * * Howev-
er, in September 2016, toward the end of monsoon,
the communal shelter had been damaged and the
displaced households were either living back in their
original settlement despite the risks or were still on
rented land in ward 5. Tensions between displaced
Dalits and upper castes continued in the VDC, center-
ing on drinking water (Case Study 5.1) and the grazing
of cattle and goats belonging to Dalits on the land of
Brahmins. While such discrimination is likely to have
occurred before, the earthquakes aggravated tensions.
Dalit respondents pointed out that displacement and
damage to the land in the area made finding land for
grazing more difficult. Brahmins, on the other hand,
expressed dissatisfaction over what they perceived
to be the unfair targeting of Dalits for additional aid.
With the latest official assessment in Prapcha advising
Dalits and Brahmins from the affected settlements
in wards 8 and 9 to continue staying elsewhere due
to the high risk of landslides, especially during mon-
soon, such tensions are likely to remain and new ones
may surface as resettlement solutions become more
long term.
In Syaule VDC in Sindhupalchowk, 19 households had
to relocate as their settlement, Dadagaun, had become
landslide-prone. They moved to Kerabari where they
occupied land along the main road and community
forest. As reported in IRM-2, their presence in Kera-
bari caused tensions with the local community.116 They
continued to face animosity in IRM-3 with their new
neighbors often complaining about their presence and
accusing them of occupying valuable commercial land
and using forestland to plant vegetables. Further, the
residents of Kerabari demanded that the displaced
helped build a new road in the ward, which led to
tensions when they refused. “Locals do not want us to
stay here but they want us to work (for them) here,”
said Dil Bahadur Khatri, a 77-year-old man living in a
temporary shelter. No measures had been taken in the
VDC to address the issue and to resettle the displaced
households. Nor had a geographical assessment been
done. The displaced therefore continued to be uncer-
tain as to whether or not it was safe to return to their
land and where to settle in the longer term.
In Barpak VDC in Gorkha, social relations were now
generally good although tensions around resettlement
remained as concerns over displaced Dalits occupying
public land designated for a health post, already voiced
in IRM-2, continued to be raised. Locals remained
dissatisfied with the fact that Dalits were given gov-
ernment land for resettlement while other displaced
114 Tensions between displaced Dalits and local communities in the
resettlement area in Prapcha VDC have been observed since IRM-
1. See, The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center
Nepal (2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal:
Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase
1 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
115 See details in The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource
Center Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake
Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Nepal
Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (February-March 2016).
Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, p. 44.
116 See details of the conflict reported in IRM-2 in The Asia Foun-
dation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and
Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and
Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Moni-
toring (February-March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The
Asia Foundation, p. 44.
45


Social Relations and Conflict
Photo: Binu Sharma
households had to pay rent. Some were also resentful
that Dalits received more aid than other groups. In
Barpak, more direct aid continued to be distributed in
IRM-3 than in most other VDCs visited. The tensions
that emerged in the VDC, a result of the combination
of discrimination and resettlement, could still be ob-
served in IRM-3, even though overall social relations
were good in the VDC.
Discrimination against Dalits was common
and a major factor leading to the emergence
or continuation of social tensions. Water
scarcity seemed to aggravate caste-based
discrimination.
Besides tensions related to resettlement, which were
often shaped by caste, caste-based discrimination
and related tensions over access to water were also
observed. Water shortages seemed to aggravate the
situation. Dalits who are traditionally denied access
to communal water sources due to the notion of un-
touchability were particularly vulnerable to discrimi-
nation. Water sources are often the site where purity
and related notions of sanitation and hygiene, used
to mark discrimination based on caste boundaries,
are reinforced.
Dalits in Prapcha VDC, Okhaldhunga, have faced
various challenges. They were displaced and living
in uncertain conditions in shelters (see above) but
also facing the burden of living in a society that tries
to push them to the margins by routine acts of social
discrimination, structural inequality, and sometimes
physical acts of violence. In Prapcha, where drinking
water was scarce, caste-based discrimination led to
a fight that eventually had to be settled by the police
(see Case Study 5.1).
46


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Case Study 5.1: Water, caste, and conflict
Drinking water has been a major source of con-
flict between upper castes and Dalits in Prapcha
VDC, Okhaldhunga, where tensions around the
resettlement of Dalits from a landslide-prone
area have been observed since IRM-1.
The children of displaced Dalits in the VDC are
often abused when collecting water from the
public water tap and are sometimes prevent-
ed from filling their water vessels. To avoid
conflict and abusive remarks, Dalit families
started collecting water early in the morning,
before anyone else. Upper caste families said
that they did not want Dalits to collect water
because of water shortages rather than because
of the practice of untouchability. Yet, many were
unhappy about the presence of displaced Dalits
in their settlement and considered them to be
‘dirty’. “The majority of villagers do not want the
Dalits to live here,” explained a local teacher,
adding, “They live in a dirty environment, quite
unhygienic, they defecate in the open, they have
pigs, and so it is a matter of hygiene.”
While these tensions often remain under the
surface, they erupted in direct conflict when
the vessel of an upper caste family was removed
from the tap and the Dalit community was
blamed. Dhak Bahardur Sarki, a 30-year-old
Dalit farmer who had been living in a temporary
shelter in the village, recounted the situation:
“There is conflict between the traditional upper-
caste Brahmins and us Dalits here over the issue
of drinking water. One Katwal [upper caste]
man had filled his water vessel in the public tap
and went away. Somebody removed that vessel
to fill water. He then accused a Dalit man of
stealing it. The dispute escalated and there was
a physical fight.” The police had to be called in
to mediate the conflict.
While everyday discrimination because of the
notion of untouchability has become subtler
since it became a punishable offence, as local
residents pointed out, it can still be observed
in Prapcha and is likely to continue to cause
tensions in the future. Resettlement on their
original land will likely not be possible for the
displaced Dalit families as their land was de-
termined to be unsafe by an assessment team.
In Lisankhu VDC in Sindhupalchowk, drinking water
scarcity due to the drying of water sources after the
earthquakes led to frequent verbal fights between
women collecting water (reported in IRM-2). By IRM-
3, drinking water facilities had been repaired and the
number of community water pipes had increased from
9 to 23, solving some of the previous tensions. How-
ever, the newly installed water sources did not evenly
benefit every group in the ward. Dalits complained
that they did not have enough drinking water in their
settlement and that they were not allowed to collect
water from the pipes in the other groups’ settlement.
This discrimination occurred despite the fact that dis-
placed Dalits have been living on the land belonging
to Tamang households for free.
Although outright physical conflict was only observed
in one of the wards visited, discrimination against
Dalits was common and even considered normal de-
spite general claims of‘good’ social relations. Pre-ex-
isting structural inequalities and practices of social
exclusion shape social relations in most villages and
Dalits are particularly vulnerable as they face addi-
tional difficulties in their efforts to recover from the
earthquakes (see Chapter 6). Dalits continued to feel
that they were excluded from decision-making on aid,
received less information, and were treated differently
by officials and local leaders. Dalits also had more
difficulties accessing credit from moneylenders who
are traditionally upper caste (see Chapter 7.5). As aid
distribution had reduced by IRM-3, especially direct
and targeted aid, resentment related to the perceived
uneven distribution also decreased (see below). How-
ever, caste-based tensions and resentment persisted.
In Katunje VDC in Okhaldhunga, where there has
long been tension between Dalits and upper castes
and where both groups have previously complained
that they have received less aid than the other, Dalits
continued to hold the view that local leaders did not
respond to their needs because of their caste. Some
also complained about derogative comments from
upper caste moneylenders when they tried to take
loans. Moneylenders are the most feasible source of
lending for the poor and lower castes as these groups
often lack the assets and social networks needed to
access bank loans. In Arukharka VDC in Syangja,
Dalits similarly complained about discrimination
47


Social Relations and Conflict
by the VDC office. Dipendra Sunar expressed his
discontent: “The VDC Secretary does not count us as
humans, maybe because we are uneducated Dalits.”117
In some areas, caste- or ethnicity-based discrimina-
tion had reduced to some extent in the immediate
aftermath of the earthquakes when communities stuck
together; but discrimination was observed as having
resumed by IRM-3.118 * * * * In Baruwa VDC, Sindhupalcho-
wk, Maili Nepali, a Dalit woman, claimed that, “Dis-
crimination [against Dalits] decreased soon after the
earthquake but now the social relations have turned
back to normal.” Her son recalled how he helped
the Tamangs in the village dig out dead bodies but
feels that although discrimination reduced after the
earthquakes, previous attitudes towards Dalits were
resurfacing. Even where communities were able to
temporarily overcome traditional boundaries of caste
and class after the earthquake, the structural causes of
inequality and discrimination continued to affect how
communities related to and viewed each other, with
caste being a major factor.
As the volume and coverage of aid declined,
complaints about uneven access to aid and
perceived discrimination in aid distribution
also decreased.
Several cases of social tensions around relief distribu-
tion that were reported in IRM-2 had disappeared in
IRM-3, generally because the frequency and volumes
of aid had declined significantly.119 The first was in
Dhuwakot VDC in Gorkha where Dalits previously
reported discrimination during relief distribution and
where conflict erupted that had to be mediated by the
police to avoid violence. Dalits thought that upper
caste households living closer to the distribution venue
had received more aid. In IRM-3, however, there was
no evidence that resentment had persisted and social
relations in the ward were observed to be more cordial.
The second conflict was in Ratna Jyoti Bazar, Bamti
Bhandar VDC in Ramechhap. Shopkeepers in this area
were from other VDCs or districts and did not receive
relief as locals thought only long-term residents should
receive post-earthquake aid. This had previously
caused tensions between the shopkeepers and locals
but had been resolved by IRM-3 when no more relief
was being distributed. Further, shopkeepers had
received beneficiary cards as residents of this VDC
following the CBS assessment.
The third case of previously reported tensions was in
Tanglichowk VDC in Gorkha where Janajati groups,
mostly Gurung and Magar, resented that the local
Chepang community had received targeted aid. The
Janajatis continued to hold the opinion that every
group should receive the same amount of aid. But
since Chepangs had shared aid with others, and in
the absence of relief and targeted aid distribution,
relations returned to being amicable.
There was no report of overt conflict between
those excludedfrom beneficiary lists following
the CBS assessment and those included and
able to sign cash grant agreements.
No overt tensions between those included in benefi-
ciary lists and those excluded were observed. On the
contrary, the former often supported local protests by
those who were excluded from the cash grant agree-
ment process. Further, there were many examples
of beneficiaries helping those who were excluded fill
out grievance forms. Some resentment was reported
in Ramechhap and Okhaldhunga districts. However,
strong social cohesion after the earthquakes, and the
opening of the process of collecting grievances and
complaints to correct beneficiary lists, meant that
relations between beneficiaries and those not listed
did not deteriorate and no conflicts between the two
groups were observed.
117 In Arukharka VDC in Syangja district, earthquake-affected peo-
ple not only faced uncertainty about financial aid for rebuilding
their damaged houses, but also resented not having received
winter relief. The resentment towards the VDC Secretary for his
perceived discrimination and lack of response to grievances was
observed to be very high. Most of those affected and needing
government aid were poor Dalit households. See, The Asia Foun-
dation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and
Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and
Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring
(February and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The
Asia Foundation.
118 The shared traumatic experience of living in temporary shelters
and helping each other as communities faced the enduring af-
tershocks had brought them together. Inter-caste cooperation
was observed and praised in the aftermath. For example, at
the epicenter of the first earthquake in Barpak VDC in Gorkha,
Dalits and Gurungs shared shelters and kitchens. See, The Asia
Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2015).
Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 1 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia
Foundation, p. 65.
119 IRM-2 reported that while social cohesion overall remained good,
ward residents often complained about unequal aid distribution.
Remarks included perceptions that those closer to the locations
where relief materials were dropped got more aid or that there
was some political appropriation or interventions diverting aid
to particular groups. The most common complaints were about
other ethnic and caste groups receiving more aid. However,
frustrations were more likely to be directed at decision-makers
and government offices than at other groups. Only in a few cas-
es did they turn into tensions within the wards. See, The Asia
Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid
and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Nepal Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February-March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok:
The Asia Foundation, p. 48.
48


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Photo: Anurag Devkota
People commonly identified the ethnic mix of
communities as determining whether social
relations were good or bad. But there is little
correlation between ethnic mix and the exist-
ence of problems.
In seven wards, ethnic homogeneity or the presence of
one dominant ethnic group was seen by respondents
as being an important factor that contributed to
strong social relations. For example, in Barkpak VDC
in Gorkha, most households are Gurungs while a
few are Ghale. Although separation between the two
communities remains, with inter-marriage still rare,
similar economic conditions enable strong and positive
social relations. In six of the seven wards identifying
homogenous ethnicity as a factor contributing to good
social relations, the dominant ethnic group was from
Janajati groups such as Tamang, Magar, or Gurung.
Only in Shrikrishna Gandaki VDC, Syangja, was the
dominant ethnic group Brahmin.
On the other hand, heterogeneity of the local com-
munity, with different ethnic groups mixing due to
people migrating from elsewhere, was considered to
be positive for social relations in three wards. This was
particularly the case in bazaar (market) areas. People
from different occupational and ethnic groups tend to
settle in bazaar areas where they interact frequently.
Yet ethnic mix alone does not determine whether or
not social relations are good with conflict or tensions
observed both in homogenous and heterogeneous
wards. For example, in Tanglichok VDC in Gorkha, the
majority of the local population is Chepang yet there
were tensions between the Chepangs and Gurungs and
Magars over relief distribution.120 In Bamtibhandar
VDC in Ramechhap, a bazaar area where ethnic and
caste groups mix, there was conflict between migrant
shopkeepers and the local community.
Some also thought that ethnic and caste groups
‘keeping to themselves’ allowed for cordial social
relations. In two wards in Baruneswar VDC and
one ward Katunje VDC, in Okhaldhunga, residents
reported that everyone had gone back to their pre-
earthquake routines and that different groups were
again keeping to themselves after briefly interacting
more and helping each other immediately after the
earthquakes. The separation, they thought, had helped
maintain social relations and prevent conflict. The
majority of residents in these three wards are Brahmin-
Chettris and Dalits. The continued segregation of the
Dalit communities in these wards highlights that
even where social relations are considered to be good
or unchanged, problems related to inequality and
discrimination may exist.
120 As reported in IRM-2. The Asia Foundation and Democracy
Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earth-
quake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring
Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (February and March
2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, p. 47.
49


Social Relations and Conflict
No increase in crime was observed andpeople
in wards visited generally felt safe.
As in the first two rounds of IRM, the security situation
has generally remained stable. In all 36 wards
visited, no increase in crimes was observed and key
informants at the district and VDC levels reported that
in other areas crime rates have also remained largely
unchanged. Only isolated cases of crime were reported
in some of the districts.
Most people in the wards visited also reported feeling
safe. Although in almost all wards visited some people
continued to live in temporary shelters, residents in
34 out of 36 wards said they felt safe. In one ward of
Prapcha VDC in Okhaldhunga district, some residents
said they felt unsafe because they still lived in damaged
houses with only minor repairs, because of the trauma
of living through the earthquakes, and because they
feared landslides. In Sindhupalchowk, some women
felt unsafe as they feared gender-based violence (see
below).
Disputes related to gender-based violence and
alcohol consumption were common in some
areas but it is difficult ascertain direct links
to the earthquakes.
Gender-based and domestic violence is one of the
main reasons women, especially those in temporary
shelters, have been feeling vulnerable in some areas
5.2 Violence, crime, and security
since the earthquakes; cases of violence are often
linked to alcohol abuse (see Chapter 6). Other disputes
have also been linked to overconsumption of alcohol.
In Dhuwakot VDC in Gorkha, for example, a dispute
between Dalits and other groups was reported and
blamed on the Dalits consuming large amounts of
alcohol.
It was difficult, however, to determine whether al-
cohol consumption and gender-based violence have
increased since the earthquakes and how they are
changing over time. Both have long been reported in
the research areas and local residents often highlight-
ed that these were not new problems. In Sindhupal-
chowk, there was a slight increase in reported cases
of gender-based violence with 150 cases registered at
the District Women and Children Office in the district
headquarters since March 2016. Yet, Rewati Raman
Nepal, the Information Officer at this office, was care-
ful not to link the slight rise in reported cases to the
earthquakes and said this was more likely related to
increasing awareness among people that led to them
being more likely to report incidents. In some areas,
such as Syaule VDC in Sindhupalchowk and Barpal
VDC in Gorkha—both high impact areas in severely
hit districts—increases in alcohol consumption after
the earthquakes could be observed and were related to
psychological stress and trauma (see Chapter 6). Yet,
minor disputes and offenses related to alcohol, such as
drunk driving, were reported in all districts and seem
to be unrelated to the earthquakes.
Strong social networks and social cohesion
facilitate recovery.
Findings from three research rounds for IRM high-
light that strong social cohesion can help recovery by
enabling collective action and mutual support. Fur-
ther, extended social networks beyond the immediate
community or locality have also facilitated recovery
after the earthquakes as these are often necessary to
effectively access financial and physical resources as
well as information. Existing inequalities and social
discrimination within communities, however, espe-
cially along caste and class lines, mean that such net-
works and community support do not equally benefit
all residents.
5.3 Social networks and recovery
Practices of labor sharing have been observed in sev-
eral wards since IRM-1. Immediately after the earth-
quakes in June 2015, communities in Dolakha and
Okhaldhunga districts that have traditional practices
of labor sharing, known as parma, were observed to
be helping each other salvage goods from destroyed
houses and collectively building temporary shelters.
In IRM-3, labor sharing was observed in three of
the 36 wards visited and in several other locations,
communities raised money at their own initiative to
repair local infrastructure (see Chapter 7.5). Where
labor sharing practices were used, people mostly did
so to help each other repair damaged homes or rebuild
(see Case Studies 5.2 and 7.9). Yet, some also worked
together to recover sources of livelihoods. For exam-
ple, the Dalit community in Barpak, Gorkha, used
their strong communal ties to rebuild a blacksmith
50


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
workshop with financial assistance and training from
CARE and was planning to also jointly rebuild homes
(see Chapters 7.4 and 7.5).
Access to credit, government offices, and aid was
often shaped by connections to wider social networks
beyond the immediate community. As reported in
Chapter 7.5, borrowing was common and most bor-
rowed from informal sources such as moneylenders.
Yet, Dalits were facing greater difficulties accessing
loans especially from formal sources but also from
moneylenders who tend to be high caste and to dis-
criminate and insult Dalits. While there were examples
of targeted aid, Dalits, other marginalized groups, and
those in very remote areas were generally finding it
harder to access information and resources from for-
mal sources of lending as well as government offices
and other distributors of aid. This has implications
for the vulnerability and long-term recovery of these
groups (see Chapter 6).
Case Study 5.2: Community support for rebuilding
Lorke Tamang from Syaule VDC in Sindhu-
palchowk was able to repair his house with the
help of others in his community. The Tamang
community in his village used the traditional
labor sharing practice known as parma to assist
each other during reconstruction. They formed
groups of five to work on houses on a rotational
basis - though most used the repaired houses
only to store food and grains and continued to
live in their temporary shelters.
Construction costs were minimized by this prac-
tice of labor sharing but Lorke Tamang still had
to sell his buffalo and some gold to raise around
NPR 150,000 for his house. “We still sleep in
the temporary shelter we have built and use
the house for storage and a shop. My wife has
already opened a small shop in the new house in
the hope of earning some money,” he explained.
Tamang is glad about the help he received
from his neighbors, which allowed him to store
harvests, food, and goods safely and enabled
his wife to run her shop. He said he felt more
positive about the future after rebuilding part
of his old house and looked forward to getting
back to normal life and farming his land as he
had done before the earthquakes.
Conflicts related to resettlement, water sourc-
es, and caste-based discrimination may esca-
late if these issues remain unresolved.
With many displaced people still living in temporary
shelters, and some clashes with local communities
observed since IRM-1, local tensions between local
and displaced communities continue to be a source
of potential conflict, especially in the absence of clear
long-term resettlement plans. Displaced Dalits have
been most likely to face discrimination and conflicts
with local residents and this may be a cause for esca-
lating caste-based conflicts. Delays in relocation and
geological assessments of the land of the displaced
increases the chances of such conflicts. Further,
discontent and conflicts often centered on the use of
resources such as water, land, and community forests.
Research for IRM-3 was conducted at the end of the
monsoon season when water was plentiful. However,
5.4 Potential sources of conflict
during the dry winter season, water scarcity may also
intensify conflicts within and between communities.
Frustrations of earthquake victims over the
slow pace of reconstruction andpolicy chang-
es are expected to rise if assistance is delayed
further. Suchfrustrations and dissatisfaction
with the government and non-governmental
organizations may lead to new conflicts or
protests and violence.
As described in Chapter 3, discontent over the slow
pace of recovery and rebuilding was high in most ar-
eas visited and has led to conflicts with government
officials in some cases. While the cash grant agree-
ment process was being conducted and some were
beginning to receive the first instalment of the cash
grant, many remained unsure whether and when they
would receive assistance, especially in Solukhumbu
51


Social Relations and Conflict
and Syangja where the cash grant agreement process
had not yet begun in September 2016. Further, many
were dissatisfied with the assessment and agreement
processes and many official complaints were collected
in most districts. Possible logistical delays in address-
ing grievances may also lead to tensions and protests
in the districts.
While those excluded from beneficiary lists remain
uncertain about the government’s response to their
complaints, those who have already repaired or rebuilt
their houses were also unsure whether the houses
they have rebuilt would qualify retrospectively for the
reconstruction cash grant or future instalments of the
grant. As a political leader from Gorkha explained, “In
one VDC about 70 percent of people have rebuilt their
houses but they may not have necessarily used earth-
quake-resistant techniques. The NRA provisions state
that rebuilt houses that are certified by engineers as
having followed the right techniques will also qualify
for the cash grant. But if the engineers do not certify
these houses, the people may beat and chase them out
of their villages.” The uncertainty and delay in devel-
oping timely policy responses to such concerns and
communicating these clearly to the local level point
to the possibility of such issues giving rise to conflict
in the future.
52


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Photo: Binu Sharma
Vulnerable groups and the challenges
they face
• The displaced and those in temporary shelters
remain among the most vulnerable. Malnutrition
among children was observed by respondents
to have increased among those in temporary
shelters.
• Those returning to damaged houses or at-risk
land are particularly vulnerable. More people
were moving back to damaged houses by Sep-
tember 2016, often after only minor or no repairs,
and to geologically risky land from which they had
been displaced.
• People in remote areas continued to be more vul-
nerable as they faced greater obstacles accessing
aid and rebuilding houses.
• Women, children, and the elderly continue to be
seen as particularly vulnerable groups by many
respondents. Women face risks of gender-based
violence and trafficking. Women’s voices were
rarely considered as they continue to be un-
derrepresented in local government and other
decision-making bodies.
• Overall, it is becoming clearer how structural
inequalities and prevalent forms of exclusion
and discrimination are negatively affecting the
recovery of groups that were marginalized before
the earthquakes.
Dalits
• Dalits stand out as a highly vulnerable group in
IRM-3, facing economic, social, and structural
obstacles to recovery. Discrimination against
Dalits was common.
Addressing the needs of vulnerable
groups
• Communities were more likely to agree that vul-
nerable groups need extra assistance than during
previous research rounds.
• Engagement with communities and local stake-
holders is crucial to ensuring the successful im-
plementation of targeted aid programs.
• A better understanding of vulnerability and
specific needs, as well as targeted assistance,
is becoming more important as structural dis-
crimination and marginalization is increasingly
shaping households’ ability to recover. Currently,
the government’s approach to reconstruction
is doing little to facilitate special assistance for
particularly vulnerable groups in broader recon-
struction efforts.
53


Protection and Vulnerability
Box 6.1: Findings from IRM-1 (June 2015) and IRM-2
(February-March 2016) on protection and vulnerability
Displacement, staying in temporary
shelters, and inadequate needs and
damage assessments were major factors
increasing vulnerability. Exposure to
monsoon weather, absence of geographic as-
sessments and long-term resettlement plans,
and feelings of insecurity while residing in
temporary shelters were cited as exacerbating
the vulnerability of displaced persons in IRM-1.
Further, the haphazard implementation of
damage assessments created a situation where
many were left out of beneficiary lists, impact-
ing groups such as those who rented rooms in
urban areas and producing uneven relief distri-
bution. In IRM-2, those in temporary shelters
and of lower economic status remained more
vulnerable to illness, physical hardship, and
psychological distress.
Women, children, and the elderly were
considered to be the most vulnerable
populations. These groups were identified as
vulnerable due to higher incidences of illnesses
and distress in IRM-1 and IRM-2. Women often
felt insecure due to gender-based violence in
public and domestic spheres.
Psychological distress was common and
affecting recovery, especially in severely
hit areas. Distress and fear was common six to
eight weeks after the earthquakes (IRM-1) in all
research areas. Trauma, stress, and other signs
of psychological distress continued to impact
recovery in more severely hit areas in IRM-2.
However, no sustained counselling programs
were reported in any of the wards visited.
Some had returned to damaged and at-
risk land by IRM-2 because of the need
to use agricultural and grazing land to
continue livelihoods, exposing people to
potential harmfrom landslides.
It was predicted that structural inequal-
ities and exclusion would increasingly
affect recovery in the longer term. Struc-
tural inequalities and direct discrimination
against marginalized groups were less prom-
inent in IRM-1 but there were already signs
that this would negatively affect the recovery
of already-vulnerable groups in the future as
access to state institutions and additional re-
sources would become increasingly important
during reconstruction.
Photo: Anu rag Devkota
54


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
6.1 Vulnerable groups and the challenges they face
In 23 of the 36 wards visited, respondents identified
at least one group as being vulnerable in the local
context. The main groups identified as vulnerable
in these wards are summarized in Figure 6.1. The
responses point to many of the main groups who are
vulnerable although some others, such as persons with
disability, were not identified by ward residents.121 122
Figure 6.1: Vulnerable groups identified by local communities in wards visited122
Number of wards
The displaced and those in temporary shelters
The displaced and those living in temporary
shelters remain among the most vulnerable
groups.
Destruction of houses and damage to land, including
fissures and landslide risks, have been highlighted in
the previous rounds of IRM as the main issues expos-
ing people to vulnerable environments.123 In IRM-3,
the displaced and those living in temporary shelters
were identified as vulnerable groups by respondents in
only 8 of the 36 wards visited. However, observations
in the field, as well as the survey evidence, suggest that
many people continue to live in shelters in all districts
visited and are exposed to some levels of risk and vul-
nerability.124 People living in shelters face a multitude
of problems: from exposure to harsh weather condi-
121 One of the most vulnerable groups consistently not identified by
local key informants and ward residents in this and earlier rounds
of IRM is persons with disabilities. This only highlights the ex-
treme vulnerability of this group as their special needs remain
unacknowledged. The IRM quantitative survey contains disaggre-
gated data for those with and without disabilities, allowing for a
deeper investigation of the special challenges they face. See, The
Asia Foundation and Interdisciplinary Analysts (2017). Aid and
Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and
Recovery Monitoring Phase 3 - Quantitative Survey (September
2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation. For more
detailed information on persons with disability, refer to the report
produced by UNDP/Social Science Baha: Lord, A., Sijapati, B.,
Baniya, J., Chand, O., & Ghale, T. (2016). Disaster, Disability, &
Difference: A Study of the Challenges Faced by Persons with Dis-
abilities in Post-Earthquake Nepal. Kathmandu: Social Science
Baha and the United Nations Development Programme in Nepal.
122 Many wards identified multiple groups.
123 Most of the people displaced from their land and house were
living in temporary shelters on public or rented land. People
were observed to generally stay close to their original homes.
However, where entire settlements were affected by damage to
land or high risks of landslides, local communities had to settle
elsewhere in the VDC or even beyond.
124 The latest DTM update by IOM confirms the finding that the
displaced population is decreasing, although they remain one
of the most vulnerable groups. However, it should be noted
that by IOM’s definition, IDPs are those living in ‘camps’ of
20 or more. So although camp living may have decreased,
people living in shelters, by themselves or in smaller groups
(less than 20), continue to be observed in all districts. IOM,
Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 8: Nepal Earthquake
2015. Available online at: https://drive.google.eom/file/d/
oB6owQSRCTIGYQjItRXdac3BXR2M/view
55


Protection and Vulnerability
tions and, in the case of the displaced, tensions with
the local communities in their new settlements (see
Chapter 5.1). In IRM-3, a new trend was increasing
vulnerability for these groups: many were returning
to damaged houses or landslide-prone land without
repairs or land assessments having been conducted
(see below).
As in previous rounds of research, various health prob-
lems associated with living in shelters were observed
in IRM-3. Respiratory diseases, such as asthma among
the elderly and pneumonia among children, as well as
diarrhea and dysentery due to poor sanitary condi-
tions, continued to be common in temporary shelters.
Muliwa Nu Chhiri, a local activist and entrepreneur
from Dudhkunda municipality in Solukhumbu, said:
“Those people who can afford to are rebuilding their
houses, but the majority of the families whose houses
were destroyed are living in temporary shelters. The
weather conditions are very harsh, we have had many
cases of asthma and pneumonia. People have died of
this in our region, but it is not noticed.”
Psychological impacts and an increase in alcohol
consumption after the earthquakes continued to be
observed in many of the wards visited, especially in
severely hit wards, but were less prevalent than before.
Psychological distress from seeing one’s homes and
belongings destroyed and losing family members has
made some turn to alcohol. Beg Bahadur Gurung from
Barpak VDC in Gorkha said, “Alcohol consumption
is too high after earthquake, some people have lost
their lives already because of the excessive consump-
tion of alcohol.” In districts where cash grants were
being disbursed to beneficiaries, there were some
unconfirmed reports of people using the money for
drinking, especially as the Dashain festival season
was about to begin.
Case Study 6.1: Distress and alcohol consumption
Padam Kumari Shrestha, from Syaule VDC in
Sindhupalchowk, had been working as an air-
port cleaner in Malaysia when the earthquake
destroyed her house. She returned back after al-
most a year to rebuild her house with the money
she was able to save. Her husband, who was also
abroad, was included in the beneficiary list and
she was able to sign the cash grant agreement
on his behalf, but she does not know how and
through which bank to receive the grant. She
described the situation as follows: “Alcohol
drinking has increased in village. When I re-
turned from Malaysia I saw the earthquake
had destroyed my home, so I started drinking.
I could not sleep without drinking alcohol. My
mind revolves around how to rebuild my house.
I get restless and start drinking again.”
Malnutrition among children was observed
by respondents to have increased slightly.
Malnutrition among children was reportedly increasing
in Okhaldhunga—a district where aid distribution was
much lower than others in previous rounds—and also
in some wards in Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha. Any
direct linkage to the earthquake and its aftermath
is difficult to find, but some respondents said the
increase in cases was due to changing food habits in
temporary shelters and lowered harvests after the
earthquakes. Sovita Dahal, an Assistant Nurse and
Midwife (ANM), from Prapcha VDC in Okhaldhunga
stated: “Malnutrition has slightly increased after
the earthquake [...]. Across the VDC, two children
are suffering from hard malnutrition and eight are
suffering from mild malnutrition. There was only one
such case before the earthquake. After the earthquake,
parents are not able to follow the feeding schedule
for their children. As a result, children are not getting
enough nutrition.” Leela Maya Shrestha, another ANM
in Katunje VDC in Okhaldhunga, also observed that
the earthquake had changed people’s eating habits.
Returning to damaged houses and at-risk land
More people were moving back to damaged landfrom where they had been displaced. This
houses by September 2016, often after only increased vulnerability as the houses and
minor or no repairs, and to geologically risky land remained unsafe.
56


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Two monsoons and a winter after the earthquake, the
patience of people living in shelters in the earthquake-
affected districts was wearing thin. Uncertainties
over resettlement plans for the displaced and delays
in receiving government assistance for rebuilding
led to people moving back to damaged houses and to
damaged or risk-prone land.125 This further exposed
already vulnerable households to additional risks such
as the collapsing of damaged houses or landslides.
In 20 out of 36 wards visited researchers observed
people moving back to damaged houses after minor
repairs, and in 10 wards people moved back without
any repairs. Some had continued to live in their
houses after the earthquakes as they found only minor
cracks. However, exposure to winter and monsoon
rains have further decreased their instability and
led to the collapse of some of those houses. Fatta
Bahadur Rapacha, from Katunje VDC in Okhaldhunga,
explained: “Some of those houses that only had minor
cracks due to the earthquake also collapsed during the
monsoon. Recently there was one incident in ward
number two where a partially affected house collapsed,
badly injuring the single woman living there.” Across
districts, some of those who had returned to damaged
houses later moved out again into shelters because
of the risks and weather conditions, a pattern also
reported in IRM-2.126 Yet, it is likely that the trend of
moving back to damaged houses will increase over
time as more and more people will find it difficult to
cope with harsh weather conditions, discomfort, and
uncertainty in the temporary shelters.
Moving back to damaged houses was observed to be
particularly common in Solukhumbu and Syangja
districts, where the CBS assessment had not yet been
conducted and where there was no clarity on whether
and when people would receive assistance from the
government. Maya BK, a 55-year-old housewife in
Dudhkunda municipality in Solukhumbu, expressed
her fears as follows: “Repaired houses seem good
from the outside if painted but they are risky from
the inside. One can see cracks from the inside and
we feel fear living in these houses.” In the urban and
touristic area of Dudhkunda, many residents resorted
to superficially ‘repairing’ their houses and hotels by
themselves, so that they could get their businesses
running again. Rinji Sherpa, a 55-year-old hotel
entrepreneur from the same ward, also described that
she had only filled the cracks of her hotel with mud
or painted over them. “I waited for the government’s
information and assistance for reconstruction until
February 2016 [...] then I repaired my hotel at my own
cost by investing NPR 50,000,” she claimed.
In Syangja, many of those living in shelters were found
to have moved back into their houses without repairs,
especially those from economically disadvantaged
groups, including Dalits. In a settlement in Waling
municipality in the district, nine Magar families
moved back into five fully or partially damaged houses
after living in temporary shelters for many months
after the earthquakes. Maya Magar, a 6o-year-old
woman in Waling, said: “Brahmin families in Sirbare
[a nearby village] have all rebuilt their houses and
are living there. They were able to take loans as they
have regular sources of income. But we Magars do
not have any fixed source of income and cannot take
any loans.” Hum Maya Magar one of Man Maya’s
neighbours added, “We need money as promised by
the government so that we can construct a new house.
Living in the damaged houses never gives us peace, we
are always in fear.”
Some of those displaced from their land due to
geological risks were moving back or planning to
move back, despite significant dangers, mostly due
to uncertainty over long-term settlement solutions
and discomfort in temporary settlements. Tensions
with local communities was also an important factor
which particularly affected Dalits (see Chapter 5.1).
In Barpak VDC in Gorkha, displaced Dalit families
who had been living on public land were thinking of
moving back as a health post was planned to be built
where they had temporarily settled. “We are displaced
from our original place since our house collapsed and
there were big fissure seen in the land. So we came
here since this is public land. But people did not want
us staying here. So we are thinking of going back to
our old place after the Dashain festival,” said Kumari
Sunar, a 55-year-old woman in Barpak. In Prapcha
VDC in Okhaldhunga, the discrimination faced by
displaced Dalit families in their temporary settlement
has already led to some moving back to their original
settlement despite landslide risks.
125 The government has a policy on resettlement of those affected by
disasters, the Disaster Victim Relocation Operational Guidelines
2014. However, the law is rarely implemented. In the case of the
2013 floods in the mid-western plains and lower hills, the affected
population are still to be completely resettled although additional
specific directives for the affected were adopted a couple of years
after the floods. This highlights a sometimes lack of political will
and ability in the leadership as well as the bureaucracy to address
resettlement issues after disasters.
126 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center
Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal:
Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 -
Qualitative Field Monitoring (February and March 2016).
Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation. See also the
IRM-3 survey report which provides quantitative analysis of
this trend.
57


Protection and Vulnerability
Remote areas
People in remote areas continued to be more
vulnerable facing greater obstacles to access-
ing aid and rebuilding their houses.
In IRM-1, remoteness was perceived as a basis for
discrimination in relief distribution, with some of
those in remote settlements receiving less than those
closer to roads. In IRM-3 very little direct aid was
being distributed in areas visited, both in remote and
more accessible areas. Yet, people in remote places
remained more vulnerable. They found it difficult to
access cash grants, due to longer travel time and higher
costs to reach locations where the required documents
are issued and the cash grants are disbursed via banks
(see Chapter 3). Costs for transporting construction
materials were also higher in remote areas (see
Chapter 7.2). Yet, not all remote areas were equally
disadvantaged. Areas in Solukhumbu, for example,
have received more attention and assistance than
remote parts of Okhaldhunga, as already pointed out
in IRM-2.
Subba Giri from Kerabari village in Syaule VDC in
Sindhupalchowk was displaced from his home and
land after the earthquake destroyed his house and
the land was deemed unsafe for settlement. Living
in temporary shelters was difficult for Giri and his
neighbors. Yet, little progress was made in rebuilding
as their village is not connected to any road. Road
construction had begun but was later halted after a
reported case of corruption, reducing any hopes of
assuring easy transportation of construction materials
and access to health care services for the local people.
In the words of a local resident, “[Without the road]
we can manage to eat and live, but we may die before
time as we cannot reach the hospital on time in case
of emergencies. They say that road is included in the
VDC planning and budget but the amount is too little
so nothing can be done.”
Marginalized groups and the economically disadvantaged
Inequality and prevalent forms of exclusion
and discrimination negatively affect the
recovery of marginalized groups.
Earthquake impacts observed across affected districts
are not experienced equally by all segments of society.
As time passes, it is becoming clearer how structural
inequalities and prevalent forms of exclusion and
discrimination negatively affect the recovery of
marginalized groups. This was predicted by the IRM-
1 report and the second round of research began to
observe the implications of this. At the time of IRM-3,
ethnic and class-based differences continued to render
some groups more vulnerable. Respondents in 13 of
the wards visited identified Dalits and marginalized
ethnic groups as the most vulnerable and in 11
wards, the poor, landless, and other economically
disadvantaged groups were identified as vulnerable
(see Figure 6.1). Lower and more unstable incomes,
fewer assets, limited access to formal sources of credit,
and owning little land or living with precarious land
arrangements were reported as drivers of the higher
level of vulnerability of marginalized groups. Dalits
were observed to be most vulnerable (see Chapter 6.2
and Chapters 5 and 7).
The landless and those living on public or guthi
land (trust land, a form of community-owned land)
faced particular obstacles and delays in receiving
cash assistance as they could not sign cash grant
agreements at the time of research due to their lack
of land ownership certificates (see Case Study 6.2).127
There were examples of landless people, and those who
do not have legal rights to their land of residence, in all
districts visited, but these cases were reported as being
more common in Ramechhap district. In Dorambha
VDC, and VDCs near the Tamakoshi river, there were
many examples of people on the beneficiary list not
being able to sign cash grant agreements due to a lack
of land registration papers. The NRA focal person for
Ramechhap explained that they were already aware of
the issue, which was in the process of being addressed.
“The NRA has recently issued a public notice for such
cases to apply for registration of the land within 30
days in the concerned land revenue or local body
offices. We have also circulated information to all VDC
and municipality offices, published public notices and
advertised in the media.” In December 2016, persons
living on public or guthi land became officially eligible
to receive reconstruction cash grants through special
provisions - a significant step toward reducing the
vulnerability of these groups.128
127 Special provisions have since been made to make it possible for
these groups to receive reconstruction cash assistance. See, The
Procedure for the Reconstruction Grant Distribution for Private
Houses Damaged by Earthquake 2073 (2016) http://nra.gov.np/
download/ details/187
128 The Procedure for the Reconstruction Grant Distribution for
Private Houses Damaged by Earthquake 2073 (2016) http://
nra.gov.np/download/details/187
58


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Case Study 6.2: Challenges of rebuilding on guthi land
In Doramba VDC in Ramechhap, only 212
of 394 listed beneficiaries had signed cash
grant agreements by September 2016. Of the
remaining 184 households, 175 were residing
on guthi (trust) land without land ownership
certificates.
In Palate village, which is over an hour’s walk
from the VDC center, only six of the 60 houses
damaged during the earthquake received a
Red Card, which villagers referred to as being
necessary to receive government assistance.
“Although we too were in the beneficiary list,
we were not able to sign cash grant agreements
as the land we are living on since the time of
our ancestors is guthi land,” said Man Bahadur
Pahari. “Those who converted the guthi land
to raikar [private land] and took the land
ownership certificate were provided with a Red
Card but we did not know about converting the
land. The VDC Secretary said that our problem
would be solved after the Dashain festival. Let’s
see where our fate leads us,” he added.
Bishnu Kumari Pahari, an 83-year-old widow,
was living alone in a small shed in front of her
damaged house said: “I went to the VDC office
to receive the Red Card, but they denied me the
card. I do not know why but the villagers said
that it is because the land I am living on is guthi
land.” She added, “My son has not come home
for 14 years. I have heard that he lives with his
wife in Kathmandu, but I have no contact with
him. My son-in-law has made this shelter for me
and if I get the cash grant I will request him to
build a house for me.” After searching for some
paper she came back with the receipt of royalty
paid to guthi and said, “I gave the Secretary this
paper but he said this was not enough.”
Women, children, and the elderly
Women, children and the elderly continued
to be seen as particularly vulnerable groups
in most wards.
In 26 of the 36 wards visited, women, children, and the
elderly were considered to be vulnerable. They were
seen as being more vulnerable to health and safety
threats, especially in shelters. Children were also
reportedly more prone to malnutrition (see above).
Further, psychological trauma among these groups
was considered to be higher. Children, in particular,
continued to be scared and have difficulties sleeping
or concentrating.
Women faced risks of gender-based violence
and trafficking.
Violence against women and girls was reported to
have increased after the earthquake in some districts,
as highlighted in previous research rounds, although
no precise data is available and it is difficult to link
this to the earthquakes as gender-based violence
is generally common yet often under-reported (see
Chapter 5.2). Reports of gender-based violence and
increased risk of trafficking were more commonly
recorded in Sindhupalchowk. Sancha Maya Syangbo,
founder of Mahila Atma Nirbhar Kendra in Melamchi,
Sindhupalchowk, said: “Gender-based violence has
increased [...]. I have found people being frustrated
after the death of relatives, and also women facing
problems in temporary shelters. The data is difficult
to trace as victims have to struggle a lot to file a
complaint. They lack the knowledge about the
procedures that need to be followed.”
The number of women making passports was also
reported to have increased after the earthquakes,
most noticeably in Sindhupalchowk. Gurans Gurung,
a counselor at the District Administration Office
said, “Most women [who make passports] were
unaware of the country they wanted to go to nor did
they have any particular skills. People that come to
the desk are mostly uneducated who cannot even
answer basic questions I ask.” Although migration is
common and many said they planned to migrate for
work if they needed more money for reconstruction
(see Chapter 7.5), district-level respondents in
Sindhupalchowk thought that this might increase the
risk of trafficking, as these women seemed desperate
to go abroad to earn a living without knowledge of
the risks.
Women’s voices were rarely considered as they
continue to be underrepresented in local gov-
ernment and other decision-making bodies.
Women were rarely participating meaningfully in de-
cisions related to aid distribution and reconstruction
59


Protection and Vulnerability
Photo: Nayan Pokharel
more broadly. This can be seen as a reflection of the
absence of women’s voices in local government. The
representation of women, where present, was often
pro-forma rather than leading to meaningful engage-
ment. Durga Magar, a woman farmer in Prapcha
VDC in Okhaldhunga, said, “Regarding women’s
representation in decision-making, there is very weak
participation. Nobody is there to listen to women’s
voices, forget about the ability to influence decisions.
We have raised issues related to water, development
plans, but no one considers our concerns worthwhile.”
Om Bahadur Ghale, the social mobilizer for Barpak
VDC in Gorkha, claimed that illiterate women are
often put in positions as a “paper requirement” but
are not present to shape decisions in actual meetings.
6.2 Dalits
Dalits stood out as a highly vulnerable
group in IRM-3, facing economic, social, and
structural obstacles to recovery.
While in IRM-1, Dalits were generally not found to
be discriminated against during relief distribution,
receiving similar amounts to other groups,
discrimination against Dalits resurfaced in IRM-3,
becoming even more prominent than during pre-
earthquake times in some areas (see Chapter 5.1).
Dalits also faced greater obstacles to recovering their
livelihoods, generally relying on unstable sources
of income, and on finding additional financial and
other resources for rebuilding, including accessing
loans (see Chapters 7.3 and 7.5). In addition, most
Dalits have smaller landholdings and are often not
allowed to use community and public lands, which
further limits their access to resources. The historical
structural marginalization of Dalits from state and
financial institutions is compounding the problem
(see Chapter 6.3 below). While I/NGOs and others
have provided special assistance to Dalits in many
areas, no comprehensive efforts exist to counter the
marginalization and vulnerability of Dalits through
earthquake-related recovery schemes.
Dalits were observed to be having difficulties recover-
ing in areas with Dalit households in all six districts
visited. Displaced Dalit households faced additional
burdens of tensions with other communities in re-
settlement areas (see Chapter 5). In Okhaldhunga,
a district that generally received little assistance, the
difficulties faced by Dalits were most prominent. In
Baruneswor VDC, Dalits were observed to be the slow-
est group to recover as they did not receive much aid
and lacked assets. This was echoed in Katunje VDC,
where Dalits have less land and lack other economic
opportunities. Dalits in Prapcha VDC were displaced
and unable to find suitable long-term resettlement
solutions due to discrimination and tensions with local
communities and a lack of resources to rent adequate
land (see Case Studies 5.1 and 7.3).
Researchers observed one case of Dalits who were
unable to cope with their situation. In Dudhkunda
municipality in Solukhumbu, a Dalit couple committed
60


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
suicide due to severe financial stress, leaving their four
children orphans and destitute. Although their debts
were only partially related to the earthquake, it was
reported that the lack of assets, including land, and
income sources increased the couple’s debt burden.
Indra Bahadur BK, a resident in the same municipality
who works as a temporary clerk for Goma Airlines,
described the situation of Dalit families as follows:
“Most of the Dalits in this ward are extremely poor
and largely depend on unpredictable daily wage labor
activities for survival. They have very small to no land
holdings, the yield from which is, on average, enough
to feed the families for only about three months [a
year]. Most of the Dalit houses are on a steep slope,
including my own. Last year a landslide occurred just
next to my house which damaged the toilet but luckily
my house was safe.”
BK’s situation is common throughout the country
with Dalits often living on the outskirts of the town
on poor quality and risky land. Similar to women and
other marginalized groups, Dalits also face barriers to
effective participation in decision-making processes.
“No one listens to Dalits’ real concerns. Even the few
Dalits in decision-making bodies are used as tokens by
the political parties to serve their own interests. Even
at the local level, our voices are not acknowledged and
we have no decision-making power,” said BK.
6.3 Addressing the needs of vulnerable groups
Communities were more likely to agree that
vulnerable groups need extra assistance than
during previous research rounds.
In previous rounds of fieldwork, opposition to tar-
geted assistance was common. Several conflicts in
communities related to attempts by non-governmen-
tal organizations to target certain groups or areas. In
IRM-3, people at the local level were more likely to
agree that groups identified as vulnerable needed extra
assistance. Of the 23 wards where some groups were
identified as being vulnerable, residents in 19 wards
mostly agreed that they deserved special assistance. In
three of the four wards where residents generally did
not agree that the identified vulnerable groups were
deserving of targeted assistance, researchers observed
that vulnerable groups were not considered as such by
others in the community. This suggests that vulnerable
groups are more likely to be seen as deserving targeted
assistance when others in the community recognize
their vulnerability.
Nevertheless, opposition to and tensions around
targeted assistance persisted. In Tanglichowk VDC
in Gorkha, an NGO had planned to assist the local
Chepang community, a particularly marginalized
group, with small cash grants. Yet, Gurung and Magar
households in the ward were dissatisfied and some
Chepangs themselves said that targeted assistance
made them uncomfortable. A Chepang man from the
ward expressed his discomfort as follows: “We are
dissatisfied with the division made on the basis of
caste/ethnicity for the distribution of relief. The relief
was only targeted at Chepangs, so we split the relief
with Gurung and Magars.” This blanket distribution,
similar to equal relief distribution through the
one-door mechanisms active immediately after the
earthquakes, appeased most people in the ward. The
VDC Secretary, however, thought that, “instead of
covering the entire ward, it would have been better if
they had focused on the real needy and disadvantaged
groups. They should have coordinated with us if
they had trouble finding these groups. It is true that
Chepangs are disadvantaged but there are Dalit
households who are even more vulnerable.”
Engagement with communities and local
stakeholders is needed to ensure successful
implementation of targeted aid programs.
Observations from three rounds of IRM research
suggest that engagement and coordination with local
government and community members in identifying
beneficiaries and distributing assistance is important
factor in ensuring people are satisfied with the
targeted assistance. As discussed above, as the most
vulnerable and marginalized groups are in general
further removed from the government structures,
some coordinated effort with non-governmental
bodies may play a role in helping central and local
level government bodies better plan and implement
interventions targeted at vulnerable groups. However,
the long bureaucratic process involved in getting
approval for I/NGOs programs may mean that
the immediate and urgent needs of the vulnerable
population may not get addressed in the near future.
A better understanding of vulnerability and
specific needs, as well as targeted assistance,
is becoming more important as structural dis-
crimination and marginalization is increas-
ingly shaping households’ ability to recover.
The socio-economic, historical, and institutional
structures that discriminate against some groups,
making them more vulnerable, also shape the ability
61


Protection and Vulnerability
of these groups to recover and to make use of the
reconstruction assistance to rebuild their houses. The
IRM research revealed that poor and marginalized
groups were struggling more than others to access
cash and credit to rebuild and recover livelihoods (see
Chapter 7). Pre-existing differences and inequality
arising from unequal development of some of the
earthquake-affected areas compared to other parts
of the country, and caste, class, and gender-based
discrimination in communities, suggests a need for
recovery programs to take drivers of vulnerability
into account.
The government’s response, however, has done
little to identify and address the specific needs of
vulnerable groups. This is further compounding the
challenges they face in rebuilding and recovering from
the impact of the earthquakes. The government’s
flagship program, the Rural Housing Reconstruction
Program (RHRP), focuses on promoting disaster-
resilient housing structures (see Chapter 3). As such,
it aims at reducing vulnerability in the narrow sense
of improving the physical environment. Social and
economic factors, such as the historical discrimination
faced by many of the groups that were observed to
be most vulnerable after the earthquakes, are not
directly taken into account. As such, it seems that the
RHRP is a necessary but perhaps not sufficient step to
integrate vulnerability reduction as important aspect
of reconstruction.
The RHRP is implemented largely through existing
government offices and institutions such as banks.
While the NRA coordinates the program through
central and regional offices, the signing of agreements
with beneficiaries and collection of complaints is
led by local government offices at the district and
VDC levels.129 Traditionally, however, the needs and
concerns of marginalized and vulnerable groups
are less likely to be recognized and addressed by
the government. The lack of representation and
meaningful participation of marginalized groups,
including women, in local government institutions
was observed to continue being a reality in areas
visited. Problems of representation in and access to
local government are further compounded as local
government bodies and local leaders themselves are
often excluded from central-level decision-making
regarding the implementation of the RHRP (see
Chapters 3 and 4).
With local government offices soon returning to a de-
velopment-as-usual approach after the earthquakes,
rather than focusing on the humanitarian response
(see Chapter 4), local government offices had not been
directed to identify the needs and concerns of affected
households in general and vulnerable groups in par-
ticular at the time of the IRM-3 research. During field
visits, none of the 18 VDCs reported having any formal
recovery plan, and officials pointed out that their main
responsibility with regards to the disaster response
was to facilitate the central government’s housing
reconstruction program. Only in six of the 18 VDC
visited were local officials able to identify the needs
of the VDC/municipality, but none had communicat-
ed these with the district level or non-governmental
organizations.
Local government offices have been provided limited
additional resources for the recovery process and
to address the specific local needs of the affected
and vulnerable population.130 Hasta Moktan Lama,
a CPN-UML representative in Lisankhu VDC in
Sindhupalchowk, described the situation as follows:
“There is no special program or scheme on recov-
ery and reconstruction in VDCs. Usually a budget
of around 12-13 lakh is allocated to the VDC. After
deducting administrative costs, budgets for specific
target groups and so on, only around 4-5 lakh remains
for development work. When it is divided among nine
wards of the VDC, nothing can be done.” The lack of
funds to rebuild local infrastructure has meant that
communities have sometimes had to take rebuilding
into their own hands (see Chapter 7.5). Since local
government bodies have only limited resources and
formal responsibilities to identify and address local
needs, an effective response from the government may
not be possible even where vulnerable groups have
limited access to state institutions.
129 In early 2017, guidelines were issued to form local committees
in VDCs/municipalities led by communities to raise concerns
of affected households related to the RHRP and to facilitate
the grant distribution process. At the time of research, no such
committees existed.
130 The global evidence on whether supporting existing local struc-
tures or creating a new central agency leads to more effective
implementation post-disaster reconstruction and recovery
programs remains inconclusive. For example, Lewis observes
that supplanting indigenous administrative units may result in
reduced, “local capacity to identify, assess and to adjust those
structural weaknesses that exacerbate vulnerability” (p. 159). See,
Lewis, James (1999). Development in Disaster-Prone Places:
Studies of Vulnerability. London: Intermediate Technology
Publications. On the other hand, research on more recent dis-
aster events, particularly in developing countries, has found that
the establishment of coordinating reconstruction and recovery
agencies has helped facilitate the recovery process and has
increased communication and coordination among the many
actors involved in reconstruction after large-scale disasters, for
example the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR)
in Aceh, Indonesia after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Fen-
gler, Wolfgang, Ahya Ishan, and Kai Kaiser (2008). Managing
Post-Disaster Reconstruction Finance: International Experience
in Public Financial Management. Policy Research Working
Paper 4475. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.
62


Photo: Binu Sharma
The context for the recovery of livelihoods
• Livelihoods have been recovering and very few
households have changed primary occupation but
the long-term impacts of the earthquake could
still be observed in September 2016.
• Pre-existing conditions of poverty have shaped
differing patterns of recovery. Trends predating
the earthquake, such as the move away from agri-
culture, urbanization, and reliance on remittanc-
es from migrant labor, are likely to be reinforced.
• Dalits have been slower to recover their livelihoods
and to rebuild their houses, largely due to a pre-
existing lack of assets, alternative income sources,
and access to credit.
Impacts on local economies
• Markets were fully operating in areas visited.
• Good rainfall during the 2016 monsoon had a po-
sitive impact on recovery of the agricultural sector
but negatively affected transportation and travel.
• Prices for construction materials and transpor-
tation were significantly higher than before the
earthquakes as well as in earlier rounds of IRM,
increasing the costs of rebuilding. Higher wages
for laborers and water shortages also raised con-
struction costs.
The recovery of livelihoods
• Farmers were the most strongly affected group,
in terms of numbers of affected households as
well as the nature of ongoing difficulties. Despite
returning to cultivating their land quickly after
the earthquakes, farmers are facing significant
challenges and continue to be in need of assis-
tance. Water shortages due to insufficient rain-
fall, the drying of water sources, and damaged
irrigation systems affected agriculture in many
areas. Livestock farming continued to be affected
and the resulting shortage of manure also had
implications for agriculture.
• Businesses were recovering, with the exception
of some small businesses that lost everything and
where owners had no alternative income sources.
The tourism sector was beginning to recover
after long-term disruptions. It was expected that
tourism would resume during the upcoming
tourist season in late 2016.
• Demand for wage labor, especially in construc-
tion, increased further.
• Dalits only marginally benefitted from gains in
the labor sector despite commonly depending on
wage labor as income source.
Livelihoods support and needs
• Livelihoods support was sporadic and unevenly
distributed but widely cited as important need,
especially for farmers.
Strategies for coping with financial stress
• Borrowing was very common across areas
visited even before the earthquakes but did not
increase significantly between IRM-2 and IRM-3.
Where it did increase, it was for house recon-
63


Economy and Livelihoods
struction, especially in Solukhumbu and Syangja,
where the cash grant agreement process had not
begun. Many said they would have to borrow
more to rebuild but hoped for improved access
to low interest loans. Borrowing from informal
sources was much more common than borrowing
from banks even although interest rates were
higher from these sources. Informal sources of
lending were seen to be more accessible and
flexible and some preferred them despite higher
interest rates. For marginalized groups such as
Dalits, accessing credit was particularly difficult.
Rising debts were a worry for many households
and the risks of debt traps were observed to be
increasing.
• Labor migration is common and has generally
continued at similar levels as those before the
earthquakes. Migration rates are likely to increase
if households struggle to finance the reconstruc-
tion of their houses and to pay back loans.
• The majority of households did not have to adjust
consumption and sale of assets was minimal,
mostly limited to livestock. There were isolated
cases of households that sold assets to finance
reconstruction and more tried to sell but were
unsuccessful.
• Communities have taken initiative to rebuild
houses and infrastructure themselves to limit
impacts on their livelihoods.
Box 7.1: Findings from IRM-1 (June 2015) and IRM-2
(February-March 2016) on economy and livelihoods
The earthquakes most strongly affected
farmers. Almost all households in the districts
visited are involved in agriculture. Most did not
continue farming as usual in the early weeks
after the earthquakes due to fears of aftershocks
and landslides and because communities shifted
their focus to the construction of temporary
shelters. Agriculture was also affected because
some farmers were displaced while others had
to use agricultural land for shelters or had lost
seeds, draft animals, or storage facilities.
Those in agriculture were most in need
of livelihoods support. Most farmers re-
sumed agricultural activities after the 2015
monsoon, in some cases earlier. Yet, farmers
were less likely than others to see recovery of
their livelihoods by March 2016. Many of the
common hardships faced by farmers in rural
Nepal were exacerbated by the earthquakes:
the drying of water sources, poor irrigation
facilities, changes in rainfall patterns, and poor
access to agriculture technology, seeds, fertiliz-
ers, and transportation facilities. Insufficient
rainfall in 2015 negatively affected harvests.
Most earthquake-affected households
were relying on multiple income sourc-
es, which has facilitated livelihoods
recovery. Farming households are commonly
engaged in multiple occupations with many re-
lying on additional income from small business-
es, wage labor, or remittances. Thus, very few
have faced a complete loss of incomes. Only a
small number of households have had to change
primary occupation after the earthquakes.
The impacts on wage labor have been
positive. 2016 saw a rise in demand with
the beginning of reconstruction and resulting
increases in wages for laborers.
Businesses were hit hard in the initial
months after the earthquakes but were
recovering by early 2016 — with the ex-
ception of tourism. Some small business
owners, however, were unable to recover as no
compensation was provided for lost stocks or
significant damages to structures or equipment.
Tourism businesses struggled more and did not
recover within the first year after the earthquakes
due to damages to tourism infrastructure and
a significant drop in the number of visitors.
Markets resumed quickly across districts
visited. During the second round of research in
early 2016, markets were functioning normally.
In many places, markets had reopened within
weeks of the earthquakes. A blockade along the
Nepal-India border and political protests during
the second half of 2015 and early 2016, however,
hampered aid delivery and raised costs for basic
goods and construction materials.
Borrowing increased in the first year
after the earthquakes, most commonly
from informal sources and at high in-
terest rates, revealing the risks of debt
64


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
traps. Access to cash and credit were widely
cited as priority needs and the rate and volume
of borrowing continuously increased after the
2015 monsoon. Many more said they planned
to borrow in the future if assistance for recon-
struction was delayed further.
Migration, already a common phenom-
enon across districts visited, did not
show any discernible changes, nor did
remittances. Both were expected to increase,
however, to pay for reconstruction or to repay
loans.
7.1 The context for livelihoods recovery
The livelihoods of earthquake victims contin-
ued to recover between March and September
2016 but challenges remain.
While the initial impact of the earthquakes on live-
lihoods was major and widespread, only a limited
number of households faced a complete loss of their
livelihood. Several factors helped livelihoods recover
in the first year after the earthquakes. First, markets
reopened within the first few months after the earth-
quakes and businesses—with the exception of the
tourism sector—were able to resume operating, at least
to some extent. Second, farming, the most common
livelihood in the earthquake affected districts, gener-
ally resumed after the 2015 monsoon. And, third, the
diversification of incomes commonly practiced by the
majority of affected households meant that only very
few households lost all of their income sources.131
However, challenges remain and most households
are still feeling some long-term impacts from the
earthquakes as explored below. It is important to note
that the resumption of livelihoods does not necessarily
mean that people’s incomes are at pre-earthquake
levels and many households have simply returned to
their occupations because they had no other choice.
Certain trends predating the earthquake—growing
disenchantment with agriculture and increasing rates
of rural-to-urban migration as well as labor migration
to India and other countries, mainly Malaysia and the
Gulf countries—may accelerate further during the
reconstruction phase.
Pre-existing conditions of poverty in earth-
quake-affected areas set the context for peo-
ple’s recovery.
Many of those households who have been able to work
again since the earthquakes have found themselves
continuing to live in poverty. While families have
no choice other than to be resilient and to cope with
the impacts of the earthquake by working hard,
poverty is making full recovery hard for many. Most
people in four of the districts studied are living in
poverty. In Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Gorkha, and
Sindhupalchowk, daily per capita incomes are between
USD 2.60 and USD 3.00. In Syangja, the average per
capita income is USD 3.30 and in Solukhumbu it is
USD 5.10.132 The World Bank considers anyone living
on less than USD 3.10 a day as being in poverty.133
Poverty is disparate within districts, but the poverty
incidence is between 5i.4%-82.2% in parts of Gorkha,
Syangja, Okhaldhunga, Ramechhap, and Solukhumbu,
and half of Sindhupalchowk has a poverty incidence
between 42.9%-5i.4%.134
The 2015 earthquakes thus exacerbated hardships
people were already suffering. “I was already poor, the
earthquake pushed me further into poverty,” said an
old Dalit woman in Katunje VDC in Okhaldhunga - a
sentiment echoed by many across the districts visited.
Not only did the earthquakes force victims to resettle
in inadequate shelters, sometimes far from their lands,
and affect people’s livelihoods, but debt and the risk of
poverty traps, not uncommon even before the earth-
quake, greatly increased for many (see Chapter 7.5).
131 In the districts visited, households have long relied on multiple
income sources in addition to small-scale agricultural production
or subsistence farming. The Asia Foundation and Democracy
Resource Center Nepal (2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earth-
quake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring
Phase 1 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu
and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 85-93.
132 UNDP Human Development Index 2014: Nepal Human Devel-
opment Report, 2014. UNDP/NPC.
133 Revised in 2015, the World Bank categorizes anyone living under
USD 1.90 pzer day as living in ‘extreme poverty’ and those living
with USD 3.10 a day as living in ‘poverty’ https://ourworldindata.
org/ world-poverty/
134 http://www.un.org.np/node/1o125
65


Economy and Livelihoods
Photo: Nayan Pokharel
Very few households changed primary occu-
pation after the earthquakes.
There were only isolated examples of households
changing their primary occupation despite challenges.
Farming, the most common primary livelihood in the
research areas, generally resumed after temporary
disruptions following the earthquakes. Most house-
holds were therefore able to continue subsistence
farming—although many farmers were found to be
struggling—while also generating additional income
from secondary livelihoods such as small businesses,
labor, or remittances - as before the earthquakes.
Wage labor, however, seemed to become more com-
mon with increasing opportunities in the construction
sector and those few households who changed primary
occupation often came to rely on income from labor
(see Chapter 7.3).
Dalits were slower to recover their livelihoods
and rebuild houses, largely due to a lack of
assets and alternative income sources.
As discussed in Chapter 6, Dalits have been particularly
vulnerable, unsurprising given that this group is both
economically disadvantaged and bearing the burden of
structural and social discrimination. Dalit households,
unlike other groups, are generally landless and
depend on a single, often unreliable, income source
such as wage labor. This meant that Dalits whose
livelihood were destroyed during the earthquakes,
often lost everything. Without being able to fall back
on subsistence farming for their daily food supply,
Dalits were also more vulnerable to food insecurity.
Further, Dalits are often excluded from access to
community forests or water sources. Challenges are
even bigger for displaced Dalits. Given the additional
difficulties and financial burden for Dalits, many were
found to have recovered more slowly than others in
the areas visited. In several locations, Dalits received
targeted aid but in the absence of comprehensive
livelihoods assistance, and with Dalits and other
marginalized groups facing greater obstacles accessing
the reconstruction cash grants (see Chapter 3), Dalits
remained disproportionately affected.
Much-needed livelihoods support was sporadic
likely due to the focus on reconstruction cash
grants and soft forms of assistance.
As described in Chapter 3, the bulk of government and
donor attention has been focused on the distribution
of cash grants for the reconstruction of private houses,
seemingly to the detriment of other forms of technical
and livelihoods assistance. I/NGOs who could have
filled this gap were focusing on so-called ‘software’
programs such as trainings, awareness raising, or ed-
ucation (as opposed to ‘hardware’ programs involving
building infrastructure), increasing dissatisfaction
with and resentment against I/NGOs. Comprehensive,
widespread schemes to assist livelihoods recovery
were found to be missing in the districts visited. Where
I/NGOs did provide livelihoods support or other direct
aid to assist recovery, this was limited to certain wards
or VDCs - and often to a small number of households
(see Chapter 7.4).
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Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
7.2 The recovery of local economies
Markets iverefully operating after the end of
the blockade in early 2016.
Between mid-2015 and early 2016, the local economy
was affected in some areas by the impact of political
protests and an economic blockade along the Ne-
pal-India border and the resulting fuel crisis. Prices
for goods and transportation generally rose while
some goods became entirely unavailable.135 In Sep-
tember 2016, when IRM-3 was conducted, however,
markets across districts visited were reportedly fully
functional and shops and bazaars in the rural villages
and urban centers visited by the research teams had
generally resumed business as normal. Some markets
even continued to see an increase in business after the
earthquakes due to the high presence of relief workers
and the activities of organizations delivering aid, es-
pecially in bazaars or district headquarters in Gorkha
and Sindhupalchowk. The impact of the earthquake on
markets, exacerbated in the second half of 2015 and in
early 2016 by the blockade, was thus only temporary.
Good rainfall during the 2016 monsoon
had a positive impact on the recovery of the
agricultural sector but raised transportation
and travel costs.
In 2015, insufficient monsoon rains affected har-
vests. During IRM-2, farmers frequently highlighted
problems of drying water sources and the need for
better irrigation facilities. These issues continued to
be raised during IRM-3 but were less prominent as
the 2016 rains were good (it is important to note here
that IRM-2 research was conducted in the dry season
while IRM-3 research was conducted at the end of
a good monsoon). Given better rains, more farmers
were able to resume planting crops at pre-earthquake
levels during the 2016 monsoon. Many of those who
had been struggling in the early months after the
earthquake, and even in February-March 2016, were
found to have fully resumed farming by September
2016 (see Chapter 7.3).
Heavy monsoon rains, however, also meant that the
transportation of goods and people became more
difficult and more expensive. During IRM-3, rainfall
or monsoon-related landslides had rendered many
roads inaccessible or only partially accessible across
districts visited. This increased the costs of goods,
especially construction materials as trucks and other
larger transporters could not pass and goods often had
to be carried by porters (see below). Further, those
having to travel to access aid, especially the housing
reconstruction cash grants, faced greater difficulties
reaching their destinations both because of the lack of
availability of transportation as well as increased costs
(see Chapter 3). Therefore, the positive impact of the
easing of the blockade along the Nepal-India border
on the economy and reconstruction was somewhat
offset by the 2016 monsoon.
Case Study 7.1: High transportation costs
during the monsoon affect reconstruction
The house of Pranay Rai from Nele VDC, which
was made from mud, stone, and wood, was
damaged during the second major earthquake
of 12 May 2015. He decided to build a semi-
concrete, earthquake-resistant house before
the 2016 monsoon. “It looked like I would have
to wait for years to receive anything from the
government, and living in a half-damaged house
was risky and also hampering my [electronics]
business,” he said. “So I arranged for some loans
from local saving organizations, and some from
my friends and family, to add to my savings and
started building the house in June.”
135 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independ-
ent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative
Field Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, p.10. For more information on
the impact of the blockade on markets and recovery see also,
The Asia Foundation and Interdisciplinary Analysts (2016). Aid
and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Quantitative Survey (Feb-
ruary and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia
Foundation.
67


Economy and Livelihoods
The timing for the construction of his new
house meant that transportation costs for
construction materials were unusually high,
having increased drastically during the mon-
soon. Nele VDC, although an important market
center about 18 kilometers east of the district
headquarters, is only connected by a dirt road,
which is frequently affected during the rainy
season. Only tractors can occasionally drive on
the road during the monsoon. As a result, the
costs of transporting goods to the VDC from
outside increases during the monsoon months.
“We transport cement from Okhaldhunga Ba-
zaar [about 65 kilometers from Solukhumbu’s
district headquarters] at two Rupees per kg
during the dry season when the transportation
is normal and uninterrupted, but now we pay
seven Rupees per kg,” Rai said. This means an
additional 100 to 250 Rupees per 50 kilogram
sack of cement - an increase of 150 percent. The
transportation cost of other materials like tin
sheets, iron rods, and metals were also dispro-
portionately high in Nele during the monsoon.
“I will have spent over one lakh extra only in
transportation costs by the time I complete the
house,” Rai complained. “What use is the two
lakhs that the government is throwing at us?”
Rai can afford the higher transportation costs
due to a regular income from his electronics
business. But many other households in the
VDC have fewer resources.
Tilak BK from Nele VDC said, “Everything has
become extremely expensive - from wages
for masons and construction workers to wood
and stones, and transportation. I have to look
after a family of five and, I don’t have a regular
source of income as I depend on daily wage
labor for half of the year. If the government
does not provide us assistance, I will have to
bear the burden of the loan for years.” He said
this despite having received two lakhs in cash
assistance from an individual donor who sup-
ported the rebuilding of many of the damaged
houses in Nele. “We got two lakhs but ended
up spending three more lakhs which we had
to borrow from money lenders and savings
groups,” he explained.
Construction costs were significantly higher,
increasing the financial burden on earth-
quake victims; the reasonsfor increased costs
were transportation issues, rising wages for
laborers, higher demand for materials, and
water shortages, as well as new technical and
material requirements imposed by building
codes for earthquake-resilient houses.
Access to construction materials directly affects home-
owners’ ability to recover and rebuild (see Case Studies
7.1 and 7.2). As such, the functioning of markets is a
positive factor. High costs for raw materials, however,
made recovery more difficult and expensive for many
and access to credit even more urgent than during
IRM-2.136 Across districts visited, people highlighted
that construction costs had increased compared to
pre-earthquake times, in many remote places dras-
tically higher. Monsoon-related transportation diffi-
culties, as well as the high demand for construction
materials, increased costs by September 2016. High
wages for laborers also raised overall costs for house
reconstruction (see Chapter 7.3).
Materials that are often not locally available in rural
Nepal, such as cement, bricks, iron rods, corrugated
iron, or sand, were particularly expensive largely due
to increased transportation costs. It is these mate-
rials, however, that are required to rebuild houses
according to the official guidelines for earthquake-re-
silient buildings. The guidelines have to be followed
if homeowners want to receive further installments
of the reconstruction cash grant for private houses.137
To illustrate, each truck or tractor transporting sand
from Manthali, Ramechhap’s district headquarters,
to Bamti Bhandar VDC cost NPR 10,000. The first in-
stallment of the cash grant—NPR 50,000—is therefore
insufficient to construct even one pillar. One person
in Bamti Bhandar VDC, Ramechhap stated: “There
has been a price hike for construction materials, for
136 The Asia Foundation (2016). Independent Impacts and Recovery
Monitoring Nepal Phase 2 (February and March 2016) - Syn-
thesis Report. Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
137 Grant Distribution Guideline for Completely Destroyed Private
Houses by Earthquakes 2073 (January 2017)’. http://hrrpnepal.
org/resources-documents / government-documents / grant-
disbursement-procedures-for-private-houses-2073-unofficial-
translation/
68


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Case Study 7.2: Community forests and the use of
local resources for reconstruction
The Urgen Cholleng community forest of Bamti
Bhandar VDC in Ramechhap is the major
source of timber for people in the VDC. Yet,
the District Forest Office (DFO) suspended
access to the community forest for a period of
two years in June 2015. People reconstructing
their houses have since been compelled to buy
wood. “The wood crisis is the problem of the
entire VDC. Our community forest has been
suspended [...] and we cannot get wood from
anywhere else, we have to buy it,” said a local
farmer. Perna Nori Sherpa, chairman of the
community forest user’s group, explained:
“Our policy allows us to cut 10,384 square feet
of wood from the community forest each year.
Had we been able to cut down trees, more than
350 households would have benefited from it
for the reconstruction of their houses.”
The decision of the DFO to suspend access to
the community forest was considered unfair by
the local community who felt they were being
punished for the concentrated felling of trees
rather than cutting too many trees. Felling
was concentrated due to fears of aftershocks
rather than as a deliberate violation of the rules.
After the earthquake, people were too scared
to go deep into the forest amid continuous
aftershocks and decided to cut trees nearer to
the road. However, when a government official
noticed this, the CDO and DFO were informed,
an investigation made, and access to the forest
was temporarily suspended.
The District Forest Officer, Kedar Nath
Poudel, confirmed that “Their mistake was of
concentrated felling only; they did not extract
more than the annually allowed amount.”
He pointed out, however, that his office was
lenient with the forest user group because of
the earthquakes. Normally, the group would
have faced a punishment more severe than a
two-year suspension and an order to plant 25
times as many trees as had been felled. But
locals and their leaders were of a different
opinion, highlighting that the state could
improve coordination between government
offices to allow exceptions that would help
victims recover. “We have already forested that
amount of the trees but they have not released
our suspension yet,” complained Perna Nori
Sherpa. “The District Forest Office should have
understood the situation and warned the user
group but they directly suspended the user
group for two years. It is not fair for the people
of the VDC,” said Chuda Mani Shrestha, VDC
Acting Chairman of Nepali Congress. Another
local leader, Surendra Basnet, VDC President of
CPN-UML, agreed: “They should immediately
revoke their decision. For the simple mistake
of people due to fear of earthquakes, the DFO
is now punishing the entire VDC.”
example increases in the prices of cement, sand, and
zinc sheets. It’s also very difficult to bring these con-
struction materials to the ward because of the lack of
proper roads.” In Barpak in Gorkha district, too, many
complained about the fact that construction materials
have to be transported from the district headquarters,
posing challenges during the monsoon months when
there is no road access and costs for porters are ex-
tremely high. One resident in Barpak remarked that,
“The amount [of the first installment] is not enough
given that there is a rise in the price of stone, sand,
and transportation costs.”
The quality of roads determined whether transpor-
tation was more difficult during the monsoon and
therefore more expensive. In Solukhumbu, for exam-
ple, where cash grants had not yet been distributed,
rising transportation costs for construction materials
and other goods affected all wards visited, including
remote wards of Salieri, the district headquarters and
Solukhumbu’s only municipality (see Case Study 7.1).
A permanent road connects Salieri to Okhaldhunga
district. All other roads in the district, however, are
temporary and are often damaged during the mon-
soon months. With some of the earthquake-affected
villages more than a three-day walk from the district
headquarters, transportation of aid and construction
materials has been one of the major reconstruction-re-
lated difficulties in the district. “It is Solukhumbu’s
biggest challenge. We realized how extremely difficult
it was for us to distribute relief after the earthquake,”
said the Assistant CDO. “We had to use extra money
from the DDC for the transportation of relief.”
Water shortages are also increasing costs for recon-
struction. Water is needed in large amounts for the
69


Economy and Livelihoods
construction of cement houses. Yet, water shortages
were common in the research areas (see Chapter 7.3).
As a result, some households have had to buy water
for the construction of their houses. For example, in
Ramechhap municipality, where availability of water is
a major issue, one resident had to spend NPR 65,000
to buy water to construct his house. Given that water
shortages were common across VDCs visited, it is
likely that many more will have to pay for water for
the construction of their houses.
In several areas, even locally available materials such
as wood or bamboo had become more expensive due
to high demand and restricted access to community
forests.138 In Dudhkunda municipality in Solukhumbu
district, Dalit respondents have been excluded from
the community forest user group since before the
earthquake. They said that since they cannot use the
wood from the community forest, they would have to
purchase wood, increasing their financial burden and
rendering recovery more difficult. The availability of
wood and other local construction materials is also
a concern for other communities. In Doramba VDC,
Ramechhap district, people were concerned that the
community forest will not allow people to collect or
buy wood, which they need for the reconstruction of
their houses. Out of 11 citizens interviewed in ward 3 of
Doramba VDC, seven said that access to construction
materials was an urgent need. In Bamti Bhandar VDC
in Ramechhap district, access to the only community
forest has been suspended and the 350 households in
the VDC are now forced to buy wood from outside at a
higher cost while 49,000 square feet of wood remains
unused in the forest. Similarly, the availability of wood
is also a major concern of the Hayu community living
in a lower ward of Ramechhap municipality. Although
they are members of the community forest, the District
Forest Office has not given them permission to cut
trees for house reconstruction.
7.3 The recovery of livelihoods
Farming
Farming was only temporarily disrupted.
Disruptions to farming caused by the earth-
quakes were short- to medium-term in the
majority of wards.
With the vast majority of households in the districts
visited involved in agriculture—95 percent in se-
verely hit districts—farming experienced the most
widespread impact in the initial months after the
earthquakes. Farming was only temporarily disrupt-
ed, however, and farmers resumed their livelihood
faster than other occupational groups. Most returned
to farming during the 2015 monsoon or even earlier
with the exception of those who were displaced, or
who had lost a family member or draft animals. These
groups found it more difficult to fully resume farming,
especially in more severely hit areas (see below).139 The
resumption of farming did not, however, equate to full
recovery and many farmers have been struggling since
the earthquakes for a variety of reasons (see below).
Of the 36 wards visited, long-term disruptions (over
nine months) to farming were observed in only four
wards, and medium-term disruptions (three-nine
months) were observed in seven wards. In the other 25
wards, farming was either only affected in the short-
term (for less than three months) or not affected at all
(11 wards) (see Figure 7.1). Yet, in many wards where
farming in general was continuing after only brief
disruptions, there were still individual households that
continued to struggle to resume farming to pre-earth-
quake levels (see below).
Nearly all of the wards where farming was disrupted in
the medium or long-term are in severely hit districts:
Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha, and Ramechhap. In one
ward in Okhaldhunga, farming was affected for over
nine months due to damages to the land and, in par-
ticular, the displacement of farmers. And in one ward
in Solukhumbu, farming was disrupted beyond the
first three months after the earthquake due to damages
138 This is despite government guidelines on access to wood
for earthquake victims, http://www.hrrpnepal.org/media/
126088/17011I—directives-for-the-harvesting-supply-and-
management-of-wood-2o72-2o16-_unofficial-translation.pdf
139 The IRM-1 and IRM-2 reports provide more details on the re-
covery of farmers and the observed advantages of mixed income
strategies of agricultural households. See, The Asia Foundation
and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2015). Aid and Recovery
in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery
Monitoring Phase 1 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015).
Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation. And The Asia
Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016). Aid
and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts
and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field Monitor-
ing (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The
Asia Foundation.
70


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
to the land. In Syangja, where the impact of the earth-
quakes was limited, farming was not disrupted.
Figure 7.1: Percentage of wards where
farming was disrupted in the long, medium
or short-term, or not affected
39%
Long term impact
Medium term impact
I Short-term impact
Long term impact
Households whose land was damaged and
those who were displaced or lost family
members were generally unable to fully
resume farming even 18 months after the
earthquakes.
While farming had recovered in most VDCs, some
households had more difficulty recovering. The
geological impacts of the earthquakes on agricultural
land and the displacement of farmers continued to
affect some agricultural households in more severely
hit areas in all districts visited except Syangja by
September 2016. Damages to land were affecting
some farmers in wards in Solukhumbu, Ramechhap,
Solukhumbu, Sindhupalchowk, and Okhaldhunga.
For example, in a ward in Bamti Bhandar VDC
in Ramechhap, cracks in the fields caused by the
earthquakes, in combination with water shortages,
reportedly led to a decrease in agricultural harvests of
30-40 percent. Previously affected households in this
VDC had been able to earn money from selling their
agricultural products while after the earthquakes they
only harvested enough for household consumption. In
Baruwa VDC in Sindhupalchowk, around 80 house-
holds displaced across the VDC reported difficulties
storing harvests due to a lack of storage space.
In Prapcha VDC in Okhaldhunga, several households
were displaced due to fissures and cracks in the land
caused by the earthquakes and the resulting risk of
landslides. Most of those whose agricultural land
was destroyed by landslides started renting land to
cultivate. But at least one displaced household had
completely abandoned farming, shifting to wage labor
instead. A displaced Dalit whose land was destroyed
said he used to grow enough on his land to feed his
family for at least three months a year but now had
to purchase food for the entire year. Another resident
of the VDC said, “The earthquake is still affecting our
lives. We used to harvest enough to eat for six months
but now it is only enough for three months.” All
displaced households from the affected settlement in
Prapcha initially lived in a community shelter far away
from their land. They have since moved closer, but
the distance to their farmland is still far. As a result,
farming continued to be difficult even for those whose
agricultural land had not been completely destroyed;
they have also had to rent land closer to their farmland
(see Case Study 7.3).
Farming households that lost members during the
earthquakes were still struggling in September 2016,
particularly in severely hit districts, due to the lack
of manpower as well as psychological impacts. In the
initial weeks after the earthquakes, fears and stress
prevented farming as usual in nearly all earthquake-
affected areas in addition to other factors such as
farmers being preoccupied with building temporary
shelters.140 While most farmers soon overcame their
fears and returned to their fields, families that suffered
losses reported still feeling Terror’, ‘sadness’, and
‘joylessness’ and being unable to fully resume farming
due to the lasting impacts of their trauma. In two
wards in Sindhupalchowk, many households that
were only partially engaged in agriculture in mid-2016
reported that the loss of loved ones was preventing a
return to life and work as usual. A resident in Baruwa
VDC said: “Only 50 percent of farming is done this
year. All people are sad as the earthquake killed our
dear ones, destroyed our houses. Life has changed,
everyone is sad.” Many others in Baruwa and Syaule
VDC in Sindhupalchowk reported that only part of
their land was cultivated, and agricultural production
reduced, because of the trauma of the earthquakes and
continuing fears of aftershocks and landslides.
In addition to psychological factors, the loss of labor
also reduced families’ ability to fully resume farming.
In three wards in the severely hit districts the loss of
140 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independ-
ent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 1 - Qualitative
Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu and Bangkok: The
Asia Foundation, pp. 88-93.
71


Economy and Livelihoods
labor due to deaths from the earthquake was cited as
a factor affecting farming in the long term (one ward
in Barpak VDC, the epicenter of the earthquake, one
in Ramechhap and one in Sindhupalchowk). One
resident of Baruwa VDC said: “I lost my wife so I
have to look after my children. My wife had taken the
responsibility of farming and housework before so I
could freely work in the carpet industry. This year I
have cultivated only the land near my house; other
cultivable land has remained barren.”
Other factors directly related to the earthquakes
that continue to affect farming are the construction
of temporary shelters on cultivable land, damage to
agricultural land and landslides risks, displacement
and long commutes from shelters to the fields, a lack of
space to store harvests, and the option to earn higher
wages from construction work. The drying up of water
sources and damages to, or the absence of, irrigation
were also commonly cited but could not always be
directly attributed to the earthquakes (see below and
Figure 7.2).
Case Study 7.3: A displaced Dalit is struggling to resume farming
Prem Bahadur Sarki’s house was fully damaged
during the earthquakes and his agricultural
land was damaged by cracks and is at a high
risk of landslides. He was displaced along
with another 40 households (20 of them Dalit
families) from his settlement in Prapcha VDC,
Okhaldhunga. The Dalit households were reset-
tled by the government in temporary shelters
far away from their settlement. This introduced
some tensions with the local community nearby
and also made farming difficult due to the lack
of shelters for seeds, harvests and livestock and
the long distance to their land.141
Prem Bahadur said he faced problems manag-
ing his livestock and fields from the temporary
shelter: “I was living in one place and my live-
stock were in another place. [...] I want to go
back to my own place but I cannot because the
area is prone to landslides.” To be closer to his
land and have more space for his cattle, Prem
Bahadur left the temporary shelter provided by
the government and moved to an upper caste
settlement closer to his land. There, he rented a
small plot of land to construct a new temporary
shelter for his family and a shed for his buffalo.
But this land was small and Prem Bahadur had
to rent yet another piece of land to collect grass
for his buffalo and firewood for cooking, further
adding to the financial burden imposed by the
destruction of his house and land.
Prem Bahadur continued to farm his own
land despite risks and being scared. “If I don’t
cultivate my land, I don’t have enough to eat. If
I cultivate, I risk my life because of landslides,”
he said. Indeed, during the heavy monsoon
rains, a landslide swept away whatever land
he had left. He pointed to the hill on the other
side and showed a small patch of land. “I had
planted maize with difficulty on my land but the
landslide swept away everything,” he explained.
Prem Bahadur is concerned that even with the
cash assistance provided by the government, he
may not be able to rebuild as he no longer has any
land. He said, “Where will I build my house even
if I receive money and will I be able to receive
money if I don’t build a foundation?” Referring
to his debts of over NPR 50,000 he exclaimed,
“I am in a state of despair, will the government
understand the plight of people like us?”
Many farmers were struggling and in need of
support despite returning to cultivating their
land after the earthquakes.
Farming was only temporarily disrupted in most
places and farmers’ ability to cope in the aftermath of
the earthquakes was enhanced by the fact that most
also relied on other sources of income such as small
businesses, daily wage labor, or migration. Never-
theless, over the longer term it has become clear that
even without the complete loss of incomes, farmers
are facing significant difficulties that may prevent full
141 See Case Study ‘Resettlement and caste - different responses of
displaced communities in Okhaldhunga’, The Asia Foundation
and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2015). Aid and Recovery
in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery
Monitoring Phase 1 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015).
Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, p. 69.
72


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
recovery. As reported in IRM-2, general hardships
faced by farmers in rural Nepal were exacerbated by
the earthquakes.142 143 Pre-existing conditions of poverty
(see Chapter 7.1), and other factors such as water
shortages and a lack of irrigation, have become more
significant since the earthquakes, making it even
harder for farmers to overcome the consequences
of the quakes and other obstacles. It is therefore un-
surprising that farmers in the wards visited said that
yields have decreased, sometimes up to 30 percent,
but that they were often unable to distinguish whether
this was because of the impact of the earthquakes or
due to other unrelated difficulties.
Farmers commonly cited a variety of issues that are
affecting farming, many of them not caused by the
earthquakes (see Figure 7.2). Water related difficulties
were most common, but other factors also significantly
lowered agricultural production. Crop depredation
was reported in VDCs in Sindhupalchowk and in
Doromba VDC in Ramechhap. In Sindhupalchowk,
this was due to monkeys and boars eating the maize
farmers had planted. Some attributed this to the fact
that much of the land had been left barren and others
due to the proximity to the Langtang National Park,
where preying animals cannot be killed. Fortunately,
an invasive insect, fauji kira, that affected agriculture
in one VDC in Solukhumbu and one in Okhaldhunga
during IRM-2 had been eliminated. Impacts on
livestock and the resulting lack of manure and
fertilizers were also reported (see below). In severely
hit districts, farmers often struggled to store harvests
as sheds and houses were destroyed, especially in
Sindhupalchowk (see Case Study 7.9).
Figure 7.2: Factors affecting farming after the earthquakes (at any point between June 2015
and September 2016) by number of wards in which they were reported143
142 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independ-
ent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative
Field Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 63-64.
143 Some of these factors existed even prior to the earthquakes. Some
wards listed several factors.
73


Economy and Livelihoods
Water shortages due to insufficient rainfall,
the drying of water sources, or damaged
irrigation systems affected agriculture in
many areas.
Aside from the cases where the earthquakes damaged
irrigation infrastructure (in six wards), it is difficult to
directly attribute water shortages to the earthquakes.
Yet, the lack of water and irrigation systems also has
an impact on farmers’ ability to recover from the dis-
aster. As the 2015 monsoon was unusually dry, farmers
frequently mentioned a ‘water crisis’ in IRM-2, which,
in combination with the disruption caused by the
earthquakes, had led to lower than usual harvests.144
In mid-2016, however, rain was plentiful if a little de-
layed, and rain-fed agriculture flourished compared to
the previous year. Two-thirds of Nepal’s agricultural
production is rain-fed and, without irrigation infra-
structure, agriculture depends on the annual monsoon
rainfall and some winter rainfall.145
In many areas, water shortages had already affected
farming before the earthquakes, especially in the dry
season, and have continued to do so since. In 22 of
the 36 wards visited, shortage of water and the drying
of water sources were given as a factor that affected
agricultural production even after the plentiful mon-
soon of 2016, most notably in 11 wards where farming
was not affected by the earthquakes. In Syaule VDC in
Sindupalchowk, the drying of water sources lowered
harvests in addition to crop depredation. Lack of irri-
gation and low rainfall in 2015 also led to poor agri-
cultural production in Dhuwakot VDC in Gorkha. Sim-
ilarly, in Tanglichowk in Gorkha, farmers found that
their vegetables dried in the fields in 2015. Farmers
there said they are interested in vegetable farming but
the lack of a reliable source of irrigation is preventing
success. Yields were also reported to have decreased
by 20-30 percent in Doramba VDC, Ramechhap, due
to water shortages and in Ramechhap municipality,
two different drinking water sources for over 70 house-
holds—the Dharti Muhan and Kalapani—had dried up.
In Baruneshwor VDC in Okhaldhunga, around 400
households have been affected by interrupted irriga-
tion. A new water source had emerged but dried up in
the summer of 2016, affecting irrigation and farming.
The emergence of new water sources also caused
problems in isolated cases. In a ward of Nele VDC
144 The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal
(2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independ-
ent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative
Field Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation.
145 Water Resources Strategy, Ministry of Education, Government
of Nepal, http: //www.moir.gov.np/pdf_files/water_resources—
strategy.pdf, accessed 1 December, 2016.
in Solukhumbu, a new water source emerged in the
middle of the fields and caused some land to sink.
While this only happened during the 2016 monsoon,
residents attributed it to the earthquakes as it had
never occurred before. The damaged plots of land be-
long to the marginalized Dalit settlement in the VDC.
Earthquake impacts continued to affect live-
stockfarming and the reduced availability of
manure has had implications for agriculture.
Most households involved in agriculture are also
engaged in animal husbandry, which continued to
experience the impacts of the earthquakes due to
losses of livestock, collapsing of sheds, limited space in
temporary settlements, and limited water and fodder
for the remaining animals. In four of the wards visited,
animal husbandry was significantly affected, especially
in Gorkha. Across the districts, several farmers’ ability
to raise livestock was reduced by the earthquakes,
especially for displaced farmers and those whose
houses and sheds were destroyed (see Case Study 7.3).
For example, in Barpak VDC, Gorkha, those rearing
goats were affected as their sheds collapsed and many
goats died. As many moved to their land for shelter,
they did not have enough space for animal sheds. In
some cases, people even had to set free their animals,
for example in Baruwa VDC in Sindhupalchowk. Water
scarcity further affected livestock as it led to poor
quality grass. In Tanglichowk VDC in Gorkha, and
Baruneswor VDC in Okhaldhunga, animal husbandry
was affected due to a lack of grass.
Farming was indirectly affected by these impacts on
livestock not only because draft animals were killed
but also because there was less manure available.
One farmer in Barpak VDC, Gorkha, stated, “Since
my cattle died in the earthquake, I cannot cultivate
my land as I have no fertilizer and I have given up
cultivating.” He focused instead on collecting stones
to rebuild his house. Other farmers in the same VDC
echoed this with two other respondents saying they
gave up faming due to the death of livestock and
insufficient manure. “We used to rear cattle and goats.
But they were trapped and died in the earthquake and
now we have no dung to use in agriculture, so we gave
up farming,” explained an old woman in Barpak. In
Baruwa in Sindhupalchowk, a lack of manure was
attributed to the fact that some livestock died during
the earthquake and some were since set free.
There were isolated examples of livestock businesses
being affected by the earthquakes. For example, in
Waling municipality, Syangja, a Magar family used
to rear pigs until the sty was destroyed in the earth-
quakes. In Arukharka VDC in Syangja, Jay Narayan
Poudel ended his poultry business after the earthquake
as his house was damaged so badly that the family had
to move to the cottage where the chicken had previ-
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Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
ously been raised. Renuka Chepang in Tanglichowk
VDC, Gorkha, on the other hand, started a poultry
business after the earthquakes. At the time of IRM-2,
she had turned her uninhabitable house into a poul-
try cage, while living in a temporary shelter herself.
Unfortunately, the poultry was not very profitable
and Renuka’s family’s tin shelter (‘tunnel house’) was
inadequate for the hot season. So the family discon-
tinued the poultry business and temporarily moved
back into the remains of their house until they are
able to rebuild it. Others were able to begin livestock
farming businesses after the earthquakes but often
only by taking loans (see Case Study 7.4).
Case Study 7.4: A migrant laborer returns home to start a poultry business
Rajan Bahadur BK, a young resident of Barune-
shwor VDC, Okhaldhunga, dreamt of starting
a business in Nepal after spending eight years
working aboard. He had nearly finished build-
ing a shed for raising poultry when the first
earthquake struck. But he did not lose hope and
began his poultry business with 250 chickens,
later expanding to 650 chickens and 20 pigs.
But Rajan had to borrow NPR 800,000 from
village moneylenders at high interest rates.
His request for a loan from the Agricultural
Development Bank was rejected because he had
no collateral. His own house, which had cost
him NPR 600,000 to build, was destroyed dur-
ing the earthquake. He was able to make some
repairs but said, “I am facing the challenge of
managing the house and my family and at the
same time continuing my business. I am hoping
that I can do something [...] Let’s see. I want to
struggle and expand my business here. But if
I am unsuccessful, I may have to choose to go
abroad again.”
A limited number of farmers have replaced
agriculture as their primary source of liveli-
hood, as most have a lack of other options, but
some have diversified their income sources
since the earthquakes.
Across areas visited, a growing disenchantment with
agriculture was reported. Many farmers said they were
not opposed to changing livelihoods, even prior to the
earthquakes, but that they had no alternatives. Several
pointed out that it is not easy to change profession in
the village, where there are no options to earn money
other than through agriculture, especially in remote
areas. It is for this reason that they had to return to
farming after the earthquakes. As Sitamaya Tamang
from Katunje VDC, Okhaldhunga, said: “Even if
the earthquake damaged my house, I don’t have a
choice but to farm my land. I was farming before the
earthquake and I am farming now.” Another resident
from the same VDC speculated: “People might change
occupation if they have other options but the VDC does
not offer any alternative economic activity, so people
are compelled to go back to agriculture and livestock
farming because of the lack of choices.” Many farmers
therefore returned to subsistence farming after a
temporary disruption.
In none of the 36 wards visited were significant
changes in primary livelihood reported. Some farm-
ing households, however, have added income sources
after the earthquakes. Where possible, agricultural
households have opened small businesses, such as
small shops. Lorke Tamang’s wife in Syaule VDC in
Sindhupalchowk, for example, started a small shop
in early 2016. Lokte Syangbo, Samjhana Tamang,
and Aaite Syangbo Tamang have started new shops in
Baruwa VDC in Sindhupalchowk. Radhika Pokharel
from the same district opened a small restaurant after
being displaced. Previously, she was only involved in
agriculture. Research teams found only isolated ex-
amples of households who stopped farming altogether
after the earthquakes. As discussed above, the main
reasons for stopping farming were displacement or the
loss of family members and farm animals.
Businesses
Businesses have almost fully recovered, but
some smaller business owners who had lost
everything had difficulties recovering.
Markets were fully operating again in September 2016
(see Chapter 7.2) and businesses were continuing to
recover. Previous rounds of IRM found that businesses
75


Economy and Livelihoods
were hit hard by the earthquakes but most were only
temporarily affected and were fast to recover. In 2015,
markets and local businesses were further affected
by the blockade along the Nepal-India border and
the ensuing inadequate transportation facilities and
increase in the prices of goods. However, the easing
of the blockade in early 2016 helped businesses to
resume their normal activities. Some even opened
new businesses in earthquake-affected districts (see
Case Studies 7.4 and 7.8) For example in Nele VDC in
Solukhumbu, local businesses were closed for around
one month after the earthquakes and later struggled
due to the blockade but had fully recovered by mid-
2016. In VDCs in Gorkha—a severely hit district—there
were only minor impacts on businesses. In Barpak
VDC, the epicenter of the earthquake, small hotels
and restaurants have even benefitted from increasing
numbers of visitors from aid organizations since the
earthquakes, although Barpak has an exceptionally
high number of aid organizations assisting the VDC.
Similarly, in VDCs in Sindhupalchowk there were
examples of businesses being well along the path
of recovery. In Baruwa VDC, a local carpet weaving
business had resumed operations. This business
provides important opportunities for locals to earn
cash, employing 64 weavers, most of them women.
According to the owner, around 60 percent of those
who had been employed before the earthquake
returned to work by mid-2016.
Some small business owners continued to struggle
even as their businesses were gradually recovering
(see Case Study 7.5). For example, Kabita Thapa
Magar’s cosmetic store in Dudhkunda municipality
in Solukhumbu was damaged in the earthquake and
she subsequently also lost her goods when she stored
them under tarps as she was living in a temporary
shelter. Without supplies, and with her shop closed,
Kabita struggled to pay interest on the loans she
had taken from a moneylender and a cooperative to
start the business as well as to pay the rent for her
shop. She reopened her shop four months after the
earthquake and, although business was slow in the
beginning, it was recovering well by September 2016.
Similarly, Yubaraj Rai’s electronics shop in the same
VDC was also damaged during the earthquakes. He
too had borrowed money, around NPR 600,000, that
he still had to repay. He was able to move his shop
to a different building, but was finding it difficult to
pay rent as well as the interest on his loans due to the
damage to his goods and the short-term interruption
of his business after the earthquakes.
Several handicrafts businesses were also found
to be struggling for various reasons, not all of
them connected to the earthquakes. Most notably,
blacksmiths, traditionally a Dalit profession,
had difficulties making a living from their craft.
Dalit households in Dudhkunda municipality in
Solukhumbu involved in traditional blacksmithing
said that after the earthquakes, Buddhist monasteries
and individuals stopped ordering pots and decorative
metal items, procuring wrought iron and coal became
increasing difficult and expensive, and with the easy
availability of readymade tools in the market, they
could no longer sell even the basic farming tools that
they made. The households involved in blacksmithing
in this VDC therefore moved to farming and daily wage
labor after the earthquakes. Dalit blacksmiths were
also struggling in other areas, for example Barpak
VDC in Gorkha. In Lisankhu VDC in Sindhupalchowk,
many households used to earn an extra income from
woodcarving but it was found to be increasingly less
profitable. Buddharaj Yonjan, who used to carve
masks, said that as there was no profit in it anymore he
was looking for a better job. The decline in traditional
crafts is a long-term trend but the earthquakes may
have accelerated it in some cases.
There were examples of small-scale support for
businesses (see Chapter 7.4) but owners continued
to highlight that damages to businesses should have
been assessed and compensation provided by the
government. Those who had been running their
businesses in rented spaces that were fully damaged
during the earthquakes received neither support to
rebuild the spaces where their businesses were located
nor compensation for damaged goods. This issue had
already been pointed out by business owners during
IRM-1 and IRM-2 and was found to affect those whose
incomes entirely depended on their business the most.
The tourism sector was beginning to recover
after long-term disruptions.
Tourism is a major source of income in some of the
VDCs studied: Bamti Bhandar VDC in Ramechhap and
all three VDCs visited in Solukhumbu. Tourism in the
Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA) is also important
for Gorkha but not for residents in the VDCs studied;
only district-level respondents mentioned the repair of
MCA trails as important for Gorkha (See Chapter 7.4).
In Ramechhap and Solukhumbu, however, residents
in VDCs visited strongly felt the impact of the earth-
quakes on tourism, which was compounded by the
blockade in 2015 and ensuing fuel shortages.
Fortunately, by mid-2016 tourism began to pick up
again. Tourists had already started traveling through
Bamti Bhandar VDC and those working in the tourism
sector were hopeful and expecting significant numbers
of tourists to return during the next season. Similarly,
in Dudhkunda municipality in Solukhumbu, hotels
and shops that had no business for many months were
reopening. Hotel bookings for the upcoming tourist
season were reported to be at near pre-earthquake
levels. In Nele VDC in Solukhumbu, hotels and shops
had also been repaired or rebuilt and were running as
76


Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
before the earthquakes. However, people in Kerung
VDC in the same district were more cautious and
said that it would take another one or two seasons for
large numbers of tourists to return and for the tourism
industry to recover fully. Pasang Katuwal from the
VDC said, “Trekking was completely shut last year
so it will be better this year [...] but the recovery will
depend on the number of tourists and I don’t think
there will be as many tourists this year as before the
earthquake. The more tourists the more jobs for guides
and porters!”
Case Study 7.5: Resuming a small business in Gorkha
Purna Bahadur Gurung from Barpak VDC in
Gorkha had lost everything he owned during
the first earthquake. His home collapsed and
most of his belongings and goods from his small
shop were damaged, as was a grinding mill
worth NPR 150,000 that he used to operate in
his shop. When he had to travel to Kathmandu
to seek medical attention for his injured wife
after the earthquake, his remaining belongings
were stolen or lost. He estimated that, overall,
he lost over NPR 500,000 worth of goods and
belongings and said he had to spend NPR
75,000 upon returning from Kathmandu to
buy essential items such as kitchen utensils,
mattresses, and blankets.
But Purna Bahadur was cautiously optimistic.
“The earthquakes disrupted my family and
business life but I am working to recreate what
I have lost. There is still a long way to recover
from the loss but I am glad I have taken steps
forward.” He had constructed a temporary
shelter and was able to again open his shop
during the winter with a NPR 200,000 loan
from a local cooperative at 18 percent interest.
And he planned to buy a new mill as soon as he
could afford it since locals from his ward now
had to walk one-and-a-half hours to reach the
next mill.
Labor
Demand for wage labor, especially in con-
struction, increased further.
In rural Nepal, wage labor has traditionally been
only a complementary economic activity for famers.
However, with fewer households relying primarily on
agriculture, labor at home and abroad has increased in
importance. As such, the facts that labor was only tem-
porary interrupted and that demand for, and incomes
from, wage labor are rising, especially in the construc-
tion sector, are encouraging signs for the recovery of
earthquake-affected families. Some migrant laborers
have even been able to return home to work there.
For example, the husband of Gyanimaya Tamang in
Katunje came back from India after the earthquake
to work as a wage laborer in housing construction.
Many Dalit men from this VDC frequently migrate to
India for work but some have now returned to work
in the village as wage laborers. However, it is unlikely
that enough work for laborers will be available in
rural areas in the longer term, after reconstruction is
complete, and many households continue to rely on
migrant labor as an income source and to repay loans
(see Chapter 7.5).
There were only isolated examples of households
changing their primary income source but where they
did, they commonly moved to wage labor. For exam-
ple, several farmers that were displaced and could not
continue farming started working as wage laborers
instead. Blacksmiths from Dudhkunda municipality
in Solukhumbu whose businesses were in decline also
moved to daily wage labor.
Across districts, skilled laborers such as carpenters
and masons, as well as some unskilled laborers, were
seen to have benefitted from more opportunities and
increasing wages after the earthquakes. Initially, they
were involved in building temporary shelters and
later in the reconstruction of homes, public buildings,
and infrastructure such as roads. Already in early
2016, the increased demand for laborers involved in
construction was observed in several locations and
had led to better wages. By mid-2016, demand had
risen further and wages continued to be high. For
example, in Barpak VDC in Gorkha wages for daily
wage laborers were reported to be NPR 900-950 per
day, significantly higher than before the earthquakes.
The high pay reportedly prompted several farmers in
the VDC to shift from farming to work in construction
77


Economy and Livelihoods
or transporting the sand and stones needed for
construction from the river. In VDCs in other districts,
too, wages for skilled and unskilled labor increased
significantly by between 40 and 100 percent. Some
were therefore able to substitute for other depleted
income sources by taking on extra work as wage
laborers. For instance, in Kerung VDC in Solukhumbu,
those whose incomes depended on trekking were
able to temporarily shift to wage labor when tourism
did not resume for over a year after the earthquakes.
Several farmers in neighboring Okhaldhunga district
also reported engaging more in wage labor to earn
extra cash. Some came to entirely depend on wage
labor such as displaced Dalits in Prapcha VDC, many
of whom were unable to resume agriculture (see
Case Study 7.3)
In 11 out of 18 VDCs visited, demand and wages for
masons and carpenters had increased since IRM-2:
in Barpak and Tanglichowk in Gorkha, in all VDCs
visited in Okhaldhunga and in Solukhumbu, and
in Sri Krishna Gandaki, Waling municipality, and
Arukharka in Syangja. In Kerung VDC in Solukhumbu,
masons had already been benefitting in early 2016
and continued to do well from work opportunities
at home as well as in other VDCs or districts (see
Case Study 7.6). Even in Syangja, a less-affected
district, masons and other laborers commonly
reported that they have had better work opportunities
and pay since the earthquakes. Wages in Syangja
reportedly nearly doubled.
Rising wages for masons and other construction
workers, however, has also led to increasing costs for
house reconstruction, adding to earthquake victims’
economic burden. Khem Bahadur Magar from Waling
municipality in Syangja, whose house was listed as
partially damaged, explained: “I myself, work as a
mason and, still, rebuilding my house cost us five lakh
Rupees (NPR 500,000). NPR 3,000 was not even
enough to buy sand to fill the cracks. And now I have
a loan to pay back.”
Despite gains in the labor sector, the recovery
of Dalits, who commonly depend on wage
labor as income source, did not improve.
Generally owning smaller or no land, Dalits have
long had to rely on traditional crafts or wage labor
just to buy enough food. Yet, with less diverse
income opportunities and assets than other groups,
Dalits were still significantly slower to recover
despite increases in work and wages for laborers
(see Chapters 6 and 7.1). Some Dalit blacksmiths
in Solukhumbu, whose businesses were declining,
were able to shift to wage labor for the time being.
But without a more secure long-term income source,
they remain vulnerable. A Dalit couple in Dudhkunda
municipality in Solukhumbu committed suicide due to
severe financial stress. Although there was no direct
link to the earthquake, it was reported that the lack of
secondary income sources had increased the couple’s
debt burden.
Case Study 7.6: Masonry continues to gain in Solukhumbu
Laxman Basnet from Kerung VDC in Solukhum-
bu previously had to go to the high altitude vil-
lages of Khumjung and Namchhe for about four
months each year to look for work as a semi-
skilled mason. “There are too many masons in
our village—almost every other household has
one—and it was difficult to get regular work in
the village before the earthquake,” Basnet said.
“But after the earthquake, there is so much
demand, I haven’t had a single day off.” Basnet
explained that one head mason would at most
build two houses per winter but now they were
building up to four. Basnet also said that there
had been a gradual increase in the wages since
the earthquake. “We used to work for about
NPR 800 per day but now people are earning
up to NPR 1,250 per day.” Masons from Kerung
are also working in other VDCs, some as far as
Gorkha, where the daily wages are reported to
be even higher.
Asked if he was familiar with the govern-
ment-provided models of earthquake-resistant
houses, Basnet said that he had only heard
about them on the radio but had never seen a
model house. “I think it would be really useful
for us if the government built a model house in
the village and gave us some trainings. We learn
easily through experience and I am sure trained
local masons could help in the reconstruction
process.” But he was convinced that the houses
that are being built locally after the earthquakes
are much safer and stronger than before. “We
are now using extra safety with wooden bands
in the joints and the roof, and people also do
not want to build very tall.”
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Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
7.4 Livelihoods support and needs
Livelihoods support was sporadic and un-
evenly distributed.
Comprehensive, widespread schemes to assist
livelihoods recovery were found to be missing in
the districts visited. Where I/NGOs did provide
livelihoods support or other direct aid to assist
recovery, this was limited to certain wards or VDCs
- and often to a small number of households. In four
of the six districts, at least one of the VDCs visited
had not received any livelihood support. Further,
the geographic distribution of livelihoods assistance
was uneven; there appeared to be a concentration
of livelihoods support programs in Gorkha and
Sindhupalchowk but not in Ramechhap, which was
also severely hit, mirroring the higher presence of 1/
NGOs in these two districts. However, one of the three
VDCs visited in Sindhupalchowk had not received any
livelihood support.
The types of livelihoods support provided varied (see
Table 7.1) but all forms of support were generally
found to be useful by recipients. One respondent from
Barpak VDC, Gorkha, was satisfied that there had
been changes in land tenure practice in the VDC, with
people moving from planting maize, wheat, barley,
millet, and potato to planting vegetables after NGOs
helped residents grow vegetables by providing seeds
and trainings for off-seasonal vegetables. Communities
in Barpak have also benefited from organizations who
assisted communities with goat and pig farming. In
Baruwa VDC in Sindhupalchowk, the Community
Self-Reliance Center (CSRC) provided vegetable seeds
and tunnels that allowed locals to start growing tomato
and bitter gourd. Businesses also received some small-
scale support, mostly in Gorkha. Dalit blacksmiths in
Barpak VDC, for example, received assistance from
CARE to build an ar an (workshop for blacksmiths).
An NGO also provided trainings to hotel operators
and distributed beds and a tea table to 22 households
running homestays in the same VDC.
Table 7.1: Types of livelihoods support provided by district
District and PDNA Categorization Examples of support in study area
Sindhupalchowk (severely hit) Trainings, seeds distribution, livestock farming support
Ramechhap (severely hit) Livestock farming cash support
Gorkha (severely hit) Tunnels for vegetable farming, trainings, homestay development, and material assistance
Okhaldhunga (crisis hit) Masonry training
Solukhumbu (crisis hit) Livestock shed support, seed improvement, cardamom farming
Syangja (hit) Livestock support, subsidy for mini and power tillers
Livelihoods support is an important and
widely cited need, especially for farmers.
While reconstruction aid is vital for recovery, live-
lihood support is also critical for many. Livelihoods
support continues to be useful to ensure that income
generation can support families, particularly under
conditions of post-disaster financial stress. As current
support is limited and disparate, it needs to be wid-
ened, both in scale and in beneficiaries if families are
to recover from the impact of the earthquake.
Various stakeholders in 16 of the 18 VDCs studied
stated livelihoods support as a need. Only in two of
the VDCs in Solukhumbu did livelihood support not
come up as a main need with people in these VDCs
focusing entirely on housing reconstruction support.146
The need for water, both for irrigation and drinking,
was listed in every district, and in 13 of 18 VDCs vis-
ited, corresponding to the shortage of water affecting
agriculture (see Figure 7.2). This was followed by
agricultural support such as farm inputs and in-
come generation programs. Livestock-related needs,
146 According to a survey on food security and livelihoods conducted
by the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project (CFP) in June
2016, livelihoods is a major concern for many in the earthquake-
affected districts. While similar concerns are likely to have been
raised before the earthquakes (most were concerned about a
lack of skills and jobs which is unrelated to the earthquakes),
84 percent of respondents did not believe that their livelihood
would survive another disaster. See, Nepal Community Feedback
Report, Food Security and Livelihoods, September 2016. www.
cfp.org.np
79


Economy and Livelihoods
particularly sheds, was listed in five VDCs. Needs
for employment opportunities and skills trainings
were also commonly mentioned. Some needs were
location specific, such as the improvement of tourism
in Ramechhap and the repair and re-opening of the
Manaslu trail in Gorkha, or monkey and boar control
in Sindhupalchowk. Damage assessment of small
businesses was identified in Solukhumbu but is likely
applicable in other areas, too (see Figure 7.3).147
As farmers have resumed agriculture but continue
to struggle (see Chapter 7.3), livelihoods support for
this group is particularly important. Fortunately,
agricultural support has already been provided by
various organizations. A renewed focus on irrigation
infrastructure, as well as other technologies could
further assist farmers to recover fully from the impact
of the earthquake.
Figure 7.3: Incidence of livelihood needs cited in VDCs visited
147 IRM-i and IRM-2 commonly cited the assessment of business
losses as well as support for small and severely hit businesses
as needs. See, The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource
Center Nepal (2015). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake
Nepal: Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase
1 - Qualitative Field Monitoring (June 2015). Kathmandu
and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 95-96. Or, The Asia
Foundation and Democracy Resource Center Nepal (2016).
Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal: Independent
Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 - Qualitative Field
Monitoring (February and March 2016). Kathmandu and
Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 65-67.
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Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
7.5 Strategies for coping with financial stress
Households in rural Nepal have long relied on
diversified livelihoods in addition to subsistence or
small-scale farming. Since agricultural yields are often
insufficient to sell or to feed the household all year
round, incomes are commonly supplemented through
small businesses, wage labor, or migrant labor. The
following strategies are those people use in addition
to livelihood diversification, particularly after the
earthquakes imposed severe financial stress.
Borrowing and lending
Borrowing is a preferred coping strategy and
was very common across areas visited.
Borrowing from formal and informal sources was a
common coping strategy even prior to the earthquakes
in the research areas. Given that subsistence farming
does not provide cash incomes, and that yields from
non-subsistence farming can only be sold at certain
times in the year, households are used to borrowing
cash from relatives, neighbors, local moneylenders,
or microfinance institutions and repaying that money
only when harvests are sold or money is sent by house-
hold members working elsewhere. The proliferation of
saving and credit groups promoted by government and
non-governmental institutions for poverty alleviation
and entrepreneurship development has enhanced
this process in many areas. After the earthquakes,
households under financial stress were therefore
more likely to borrow than sell assets or using other
coping strategies. “We take loans but we cannot sell
our assets. We have to transfer our assets to our sons
and grandsons,” said one respondent in Dhuwakot
VDC in Gorkha.
In all VDCs visited, borrowing was extremely common.
But borrowing occurred for various purposes, many of
them unrelated to the earthquakes. Respondents gen-
erally borrowed for household expenses and income
generation, particularly to open small businesses and
for labor migration abroad - a trend continuing from
before the earthquake. Researchers met five people in
one ward alone, in Arukharka VDC in Syangja, who
were planning to go abroad and said that they had
had to take loans to pay for manpower agents, visas,
and flight tickets. In all districts, labor migration
has been a common phenomenon since before the
earthquakes (see below). Residents in many of the
VDCs visited also borrowed to buy livestock, pay for
their children’s education, invest in their businesses,
or for household utensils and food. For example, Min
Bahadur Darji, a Dalit carpenter from Baruneshwor
VDC in Okhaldhunga, took a loan from a bank for
his furniture business and Nirmala Neupane from
Sri Krishna Gandaki VDC in Syangja had borrowed
money to buy goats as she is earning an extra income
by rearing goats. Borrowing to pay off other loans
was also reported in some cases, especially among
marginalized and poorer households.
Some residents in the wards visited borrowed because
of financial stress incurred by the earthquakes. Several
took loans to reinvest in businesses destroyed by the
earthquakes, others to buy livestock they had lost,
or to build temporary shelters and reconstruct their
houses. Some even had to borrow for consumption as
the earthquake initially affected their income sources.
This particularly affected Dalits (see Chapter 7.3).
Borrowing did not significantly increase
between February and September 2016.
Where borrowing did increase—mostly in
Solukhumbu and Syangja, the two districts
where the cash grant agreement process had
not begun—it was for house reconstruction.
Borrowing was reported to have increased since IRM-2
in only eight of the 36 wards visited.148 However, bor-
rowing for reconstruction had become more common
even if borrowing overall did not increase significantly.
In IRM-3, borrowing for semi-permanent housing
and reconstruction was reported in all districts visited
(see Case Study 7.7). For example, Samjhana Tamang
from Sindhupalchowk borrowed NPR 30,000 to build
a small semi-permanent ‘cottage’ for her family. She
had temporarily migrated to Kathmandu when her
house was destroyed during the earthquakes but
needed a place to live back home in order to run her
shop. In Ramechhap’s Bamti Bhandar VDC, families
rebuilt houses because they feared snakes and wild
animals coming out of the forest when staying in their
temporary shelters. They did this even before receiving
cash grants by taking loans from cooperatives, friends,
and relatives.
148 In IRM-2 the rate of monetary borrowing had already increased
in 18 of the wards visited but people borrowed mainly to cope
with the difficulties they faced meeting their daily livelihood
needs. The Asia Foundation and Democracy Resource Center
Nepal (2016). Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal:
Independent Impacts and Recovery Monitoring Phase 2 -
Qualitative Field Monitoring (February and March 2016).
Kathmandu and Bangkok: The Asia Foundation, pp. 68-71.
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In seven of the eight wards where borrowing had
increased between IRM-2 and IRM-3, loans were pri-
marily used to finance the reconstruction or repair of
houses damaged in the earthquakes.149 Interestingly,
these seven wards are in Solukhumbu and Syangja.
In these two districts, reconstruction was moving
ahead, financed through loans, despite the fact the CBS
assessment had not been conducted and it remained
unclear when earthquake victims would receive recon-
struction cash grants from the government. In some
areas of Solukhumbu and Syangja, reconstruction was
moving quicker than in the more severely hit districts
where many earthquake victims had signed cash grant
agreements and were waiting to receive the first in-
stallment of the grant before rebuilding. This explains
why borrowing in the other districts visited (Gorkha,
Sindhupalchowk, Okhaldhunga, and Ramechhap) did
not increase significantly between early and mid-2016
-residents often said that they were not borrowing
currently as they were waiting for government assis-
tance but would borrow in the future if the cash grant
was not enough (see below).
Households in Solukhumbu and Syangja began house
reconstruction either believing they would not receive
any assistance or unwilling to wait and confident that
they would be able to repay loans once they received
their cash grant. For example, in Dudhkunda munic-
ipality in Solukhumbu, hotel and business owners
rebuilt or repaired houses with loans. “I waited al-
most a year for the government’s cash assistance and
reconstruction policy, but I did not see any hint of
government support [...] therefore I started rebuilding
my house on my own last May and am planning to
complete it by December,” said one resident in Dudh-
kunda. In Nele VDC, also in Solukhumbu, people also
had to borrow two to four lakhs to supplement the
NPR 200,000 cash assistance they had received from
a private donor to rebuild their homes. And in Kerung
VDC in the same district, at least five households had
borrowed to rebuild. Across VDCs visited in Syangja,
most of those who were already rebuilding their hous-
es could only do so with loans, increasing their debt.
For example, families in Sirbare, Waling municipality,
had waited for over a year for government assistance
when they finally decided to rebuild on their own.
Dilli Ram Regmi, a Red Card holder, asked, “How
long should we have waited for government assistance
risking our family’s life?” He rebuilt his home with a
loan of NPR 300,000 from a local cooperative at an
interest rate of 14 percent. He was not the only one.
149 In one ward in Baruwa VDC, Sindhupalchowk, borrowing had
also increased since IRM-2, but here it was for household- and
livelihoods-related expenses, such as buying livestock and
reinvesting in a carpet business, rather than reconstruction.
Yam Kant Regmi from the same locality also took
a loan of NPR 200,000 from the same cooperative
because, “it was very painful and risky to sleep in the
open with my wife, daughter-in-law, and a little child.”
Across districts, many said they would have
to borrow more money to reconstruct their
houses and it was expected that debts would
rise for the majority of earthquake-affected
households if access to low interest loans did
not increase.
Irrespective of whether they were receiving cash grants
or not, many of those interviewed mentioned that they
would have to borrow more to finance the reconstruc-
tion of their homes. In all wards visited, respondents
mentioned that borrowing would increase after the
2016 monsoon when reconstruction would begin in
earnest. Although the cash grants are not intended
as full payment for reconstruction, those interviewed
were often unaware of this and complaints about the
amount of the cash grants were common. “Two lakh
Rupees is insufficient to build a house,” said Gopi Lal
Nepali of Lisankhu VDC in Sindhupalchowk. He ex-
plained, “The government’s assistance is not enough
and I’m thinking of taking a loan to add money to be
able to build a house.” The small amount of the first
installment was also seen as problematic as earth-
quake victims would already have to borrow to cover
the costs for completing the foundation adhering to the
NRA’s building codes in order to receive the second
installment.
Those who were planning to borrow for reconstruction
had high expectations that the government would
make low interest loans available for earthquake
victims. In Bamti Bhandar VDC in Ramechhap, for
example, where it was expected that around 75 percent
of those needing to rebuild would have to take loans,
residents said they hoped that the government would
provide loans in addition to the reconstruction cash
grant. In Ramechhap municipality, locals had heard
about subsidized government loans through the media
and said that most people in the ward would not be
able to rebuild without such loans. A representative
of the Rastriya Bartijya Bank in Ramechhap revealed
that at least forty people visited the bank every month
inquiring about loans for house reconstruction.
Easier access to loans was not only needed by those
trying to rebuild but also by some of those trying to
improve their shelters. In VDCs in Sindhupalchowk
and Gorkha, several households had already taken
loans of up to NPR 200,000 for semi-permanent
shelters.
Most of those who had to borrow, took loans
from individuals and local cooperatives and
savings groups rather than formal sources.
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Aid and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
Borrowing from informal sources and local savings
and credit groups at high interest rates was much
more common than borrowing from banks. Only in
seven of 18 VDCs visited was borrowing from banks
reported; in six of these, only a few households had
borrowed from banks while in one VDC, Dhuwakot
in Gorkha, many locals had taken loans from banks.
Despite national level efforts for commercial banks to
offer earthquake victims viable loans, the interest rates
from banks were reported to be between 8-20 percent
annually. Borrowing from local savings and credit
groups and local cooperatives was more common
both across and within VDCs. In 14 out of 18 VDCs
visited, locals borrowed from such groups. In six of
these VDCs some had taken loans from savings and
credit groups; in two, many had; in two, most residents
had taken such loans; while in three VDCs only a few
of the local residents had used them for loans. Local
credit croups tended to charge interest rates between
12-18 percent annually, but in isolated cases interest
rates were up to 36 percent. However, locals had to
be pre-existing members of these group in order to
access loans from them.
Most common was borrowing from individuals such
as family members, neighbors, or friends, and from
local moneylenders. In 14 out of 18 VDCs residents had
borrowed from local moneylenders and in 12 VDCs
they had taken loans from family, friends, neighbors,
or other individuals. These sources charged higher
interest rates, generally between 24-36 percent per
year. However, it was often easier for residents to
approach them for loans (see below).
Borrowing from informal sources was particularly high
in all VDCs visited in Okhaldhunga and Solukhumbu
where most or many of those who took loans had
borrowed from moneylenders, more so than in other
districts. In all VDCs visited in these two districts,
many or most households had borrowed from
individuals compared to few or none of the households
in VDCs in other districts.
Informal sources of lending mere more easily
accessible and some expressed a preference
for them despite higher interest rates.
In most VDCs, residents found borrowing from
moneylenders or other informal sources more
convenient even though they charged higher interest
rates than banks. They are physically closer as banks
are commonly only present in district headquarters
and other urban areas. Residents of Baruwa VDC in
Sindhupalchowk, for example, would have to walk
far to access banks and, as such, preferred to borrow
from informal sources and repay after returning from
migrant labor in Ladakh, India. Borrowing locally
from informal sources is also faster and easier than
approaching banks who require formal documents.
Often, villagers lack knowledge on how to approach
banks. For example, in Doramba VDC in Ramechhap,
residents said they would prefer to borrow from banks
but had no information on how to take a bank loan. As
one respondent in Baruneshwor VDC, Okhaldhunga,
said, “There are a couple of reasons why people resort
to moneylenders for loans. The most important one
is ease and convenience [...] moneylenders are readily
available in local areas. Secondly, for those who do not
have resources and property to keep as collateral, the
banks do not provide loans.”
Informal sources of lending are generally more flexible
and ask for no or little collateral. This was commonly
cited as a factor causing people to borrow from
informal sources rather than banks or savings groups
and cooperatives. In Syaule VDC in Sindhupalchowk,
for example, the Agricultural Development Bank had
confiscated the land of a farmer who had taken a loan
when he failed to pay back the loan on time. As a result,
others in the VDC were too scared to approach banks
and said they preferred borrowing from informal
sources that are more flexible. The lack of collateral
and lengthy process of borrowing from banks also
prompted residents in Bamti Bhandar VDC and
Ramechhap municipality in Ramechhap district to
take loans from moneylenders. The valuation of land
in Ramechhap municipality was relatively low—one
roparti (-508 m2) was valued at NPR 14,000 by the
government—which banks do not consider sufficient
for collateral. In Katunje VDC in Okhaldhunga,
some found that their land was not valuable enough
to qualify as collateral while others said they were
afraid that the banks would take away their land and
residents were found to be borrowing large sums
from the local moneylender. They said they preferred
local moneylenders as they were more flexible not
having the strict payback deadlines of banks and
other formal financial institutions. One resident in
this VDC explained, “The reasons for taking loans
from moneylenders are proximity, accessibility, and
flexibility to repay. There is no risk of losing collateral
if one is unable to payback on time. Sometimes we can
request the local moneylenders to postpone or waive
some interest and there is no need for paperwork or
collateral.” Residents in Tanglichowk VDC in Gorkha
also pointed out that those who were not members
of savings or credit groups had to either provide
collateral for formal sources of lending or resort
to moneylenders. In Kerung VDC in Solukhumbu,
residents similarly highlighted that microfinance,
cooperatives, or savings and credit groups only
provided small sums with strict payback deadlines,
which were insufficient for rebuilding.
Banks are also reluctant to provide loans even when
people are able to approach them with the right docu-
ments. The VDC Secretary of Katunje VDC in Okhald-
hunga pointed out that banks find it challenging to
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Economy and Livelihoods
collect regular installments from clients in rural villag-
es and do not trust them to pay regularly, hence they
only provide loans to bigger entrepreneurs: “Banks
give loans to big businessmen to buy vehicles or oper-
ate poultry farms, not to others.” An executive of the
Rastriya Banijya Bank in Ramechhap municipality
confirmed this stating, “In villages people are mostly
involved in agriculture and livestock farming and we
cannot accept this as collateral for loans.” Banks were
perceived to be particularly inaccessible to displaced
communities such as Dalit households in Prapcha
VDC in Okhaldhunga, who do not have any collateral.
For marginalized groups such as Dalits, ac-
cessing credit was particularly difficult.
Marginalized groups, especially Dalits were found to
be struggling more and recovering more slowly than
others (see Chapters 6 and 7.3). However, despite
being most in need of credit, this group was the
least likely to be able to access loans, especially from
formal sources. For example, in Baruneswhor VDC
in Okhaldhunga, upper caste and educated residents
were found to be taking loans from formal sources
while Dalits depended on local moneylenders charging
high interest rates. Many Dalits in Baruneswhor VDC
are illiterate, lack collateral, and do not have access to
social networks and information required to approach
financial institutions for loans. One Dalit in the VDC
stated that his collateral was valued at only NPR
40,000 when he was trying to borrow money for his
poultry business. And Deepa BKfrom the same district
said, “If loans are not paid back in banks, I’m afraid
that they will auction the collateral. But in the village,
if you don’t have money, you can just pay a few days
later.” In Katunje VDC in Okhaldhunga, respondents
reported that Dalits found it difficult to borrow even
from moneylenders who are upper caste and often
discriminated against and humiliated them. Deepa
BK, a Dalit from Baruneshwor VDC in Okhaldhunga,
described her situation as follows: “Without collateral,
banks do not provide loans. We have taken a loan
from the Brahman family in the village. The Brahmin-
Chettri families in the village are the ones who have
some savings to lend to others. We are from the
Matwali caste who earn from wage labor. But we have
many children and what we earn is hardly enough for
food and other daily expenses.”
Rising debts were a worry for many house-
holds and the risks of debt traps were in-
creasing.
Borrowing was common and interest rates were high
and with many unsure how they would be able to
pay back their loans, the risk of debt traps appears
to be increasing. Several households were already
found to be struggling to repay loans. For example,
Laxmi Neupane from Sri Krishna Gandaki VDC in
Syangja was concerned about her family’s large debt
incurred by a loan they took to rebuild their house.
Her husband was chronically ill and could not work
and her daughter’s income from working in the
VDC office was barely enough for daily household
expenses. Similarly, Bal Bahadur BK, an old man
from Arukharka VDC in Syangja, bemoaned, “We
built this house after our house completely fell down
because of the earthquake. We are still in debt. I don’t
know when we will be able to repay it.” Another man,
Khadka Bahadur Rana Magar from Waling in Syangja,
had taken a loan of NPR 200,000 from the bank but it
was not enough to complete his house: “Now the house
stands incomplete, I do not have any source of income
and on top of that we have to pay interest to the bank.
I am now worried about paying back the loan.”
Dalits in particular were seen as being vulnerable to
debt traps. While many struggled to access credit to
begin with, those who managed to take loans very
often had insufficient income to pay interest and
pay back their loans. For example, Dalits in Nele
VDC in Solukhumbu were considered to be unable
to pay back larger loans they had taken to rebuild
unless the government improved access to cash and
cheaper credit for marginalized groups. Dalits in other
districts, too, in particular Syangja and Okhaldhunga,
had taken high interest loans that they could not
pay back.
The large amounts that people had to borrow for
reconstruction—much larger than amounts commonly
borrowed in rural Nepal—meant that loans could not
be paid off merely by increasing incomes from farming,
labor, or small business. Before the earthquakes,
households were used to making adjustments to
increase their incomes, for example by investing in
small businesses or through wage labor. But even when
doing this, they faced other challenges. For example,
residents in Baruwa VDC in Sindhupalchowk said
they planned to repay their usual loans, taken to buy
livestock, by weaving carpets and selling goats, as they
had done before the earthquakes, but that with the
financial burden of reconstruction, even the borrowing
of small regular amounts meant added financial stress.
Nevertheless, several households said they were
relying on their regular incomes from businesses,
farming, livestock sale, or wage labor to pay off smaller
loans. For example, residents in Tanglichowk VDC
in Gorkha had received entrepreneurship assistance
and took loans to invest in livestock or vegetable
farming that would allow them to increase their
incomes. In Prapcha VDC, Okhaldhunga, several
households said they relied entirely on daily wages
from labor in construction to pay back the money they
had borrowed. Entrepreneurs in Solukhumbu and
Okhaldhunga reported that earnings from electronics,
furniture, or retail businesses were currently sufficient
to pay back loans. This is encouraging but their
84