Dr Hemant Ojha, Principal Advisor of IFSD was one of the speakers for a public discourse on Reframing participatory development action: Critical insights for Nepal organized by Nepal Participatory Action Network (NEPAN) held on 30 January 2022. This event aimed to understand the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on inclusive participatory approach with further discussions on how it can be restructured moving forward into the new normal.  

Joining the discussion were  

  • Gopi Krishna Khanal (Phd), Joint Secretary, Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration 
  • Smrittee Kala Panta (Phd), Director of Planning and Outreach, Samridhhi Agriculture Research and Development Pvt. Ltd., 
  • Purna Nepali (Phd), Associate Professor, Kathmandu University.  

All four speakers brought with them extensive experience and insights from their active engagement in participatory approach. 

Here are the key takeaway messages from Dr. Ojha’s experience with participatory development: 

Limited reach of participatory practices 

Nepal’s community forestry management system is globally regarded as one of the best participatory practices. Over the years, various participatory practices have emerged relevant to a community’s culture and setting. However, such practices have failed to be conceptualized and further interacted with the global community.  

Need for critical analysis of participatory approach 

The idea of participation started in Nepal with the increased flow of development projects from the West. It was decided that the project idea and resource would be sufficiently provided by the funders but the implementation process would include the involvement of the local communities. However, in reality we’ve not been able to critically analyze our participation in such matters. So, there is a need for a more critical approach for participatory development.

Changes in the participatory approach 

Over the years many critical discourses on participatory approach have taken place. At the same time, Nepal’s geopolitical positions have shifted radically with the major funders now being our neighbours – China and India. This shift also brings in changes with regards to our participatory approach.  

Reframing participation 

Dr Ojha stressed the importance of connecting participation with both knowledge and power relations moving forward. Nepal should be able to create our own philosophy of participation by theorizing all of our current participatory practices which among many include the participation experience of indigenous groups. Along with this understanding the influence of many socio-political movements is also necessary.  

 All four speakers agreed that moving forward it is high time for Nepal to critically analyse the national context of participatory practices. The session was moderated by Mr. Bhola Bhattarai, Executive Member – Nepal Participatory Action Network (NEPAN) who also is an expert on the issue.