The F of FIETS travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal

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The Nepalese WASH Alliance intervention areas are in the Western, Mid Western and Far Western regions of Nepal. The projects are implemented in 12 VDCs & 2 municipalities of 7 districts. They are Gorkha, Baglung, Salyan, Kanchanpur, Banke, Surkhet and Dailekha. Because of the rainy season, the training was in Kathmandu though the first intention was to have it in one of the project sites. It took place on 15 – 17 August, 2012.

Country coordinator Kalawati together with my colleague Lilliana made all the arrangements, to my and more important the participants’ satisfaction.

In the F-training, we had engaged the services of Anup, a local well-connected banker. He prepared a quick scan of the financial sector in Nepal and ensured that the banks joined the programme on the third day. He was also requested to follow up after the workshop together with the participants.

The workshop differed from earlier ones in Uganda and Kenya as the afternoon of the second day, budget tracking was included. Budget tracking is not our forte or perhaps I have to see mine. Thus for budget tracking we invited DORP, a WASH partner from Bangladesh, who has been involved in budget tracking in Bangladesh for the past 10 years. Zobair and Mohammed Azher Ali presented their experiences (see also picture), including their learnings, successes but also failures.

Time keeping was very good, and all participants were on time. The third day being father’s day in Nepal, all dads (and moms) would like to go home early and we tried with limited success to shorten the programme.

The expectations of participants were hovering on three subjects. To learn more about: WASH financing (65%), micro finance in WASH (20%) and budget tracking (15%).

Zobair (DORP of Bangladesh) presenting their budget tracking experience

A mixture of presentations, group discussions, group work and films all centered on the central topics: demand generation, business opportunities, sustainable finance, FIETS and particularly the F, Product Market Combinations was used to meet these expectations.

In the first group work, five groups worked on addressing the question how to finance WASH if no donor money is available? They came up with some innovative suggestions such as promotion of the Cooperative Model (Cooperative shops, co-banks, co banks linkage with commercial banks), promotion of the value chain module and many others.

In Day 2, the knowledge gained was tested in a role-play: how does one make a business plan that is interesting enough for bank to become a financial partner. This was tested before one banker (Anup) and one fake banker (me). We tested the strength of the entrepreneurs and their plans by asking all sorts of questions, which bankers typically ask.

From the original ten or so business ideas that the participants came up with, they voted for the following in rank order: (1) public toilet in urban or high traffic areas with gas sale; (2) re-use: selling urine and compost, making urine and compost; (3) sanitary hardware and technical assistance; (4) toilet financing; and (5) training/ capacity development for a charge. Not enough participants voted for water vending: sprouts and bottles; commercial organic farming; waste for art; demand generation for a charge; demand generation for a charge linked to a house.

But Рand this was part of the game – as “bankers” were also mean and rude, so we could test how they react to pressure, distractions and the like. It also made it much easier to face the real bankers as they would invariably be more friendly. Though it was a serious affair, it became hilarious when one of the presenters told his ideas to the shock of his own group members and the “bankers” fell out of their roles. The general idea however was clear: one has to clear, persuasive, believe in the idea (in short be entrepreneurial), have a track record, hold an account with the same bank, think about loan size, convince the bank that the loan can be repaid and offer sufficient and acceptable security.

On the third day the role-play became real exercise, when eight banks or financial institutions presented their institutions and products, Bank of Kathmandu, NMB, Prime Bank, CEDB, Nefscon, ManasLu Bikas Bank (Gorkha), Diddhartha Bank, SKBB2 and Sunrise Bank. Seperately BSP and Lumanti presented their cases.

Presentation by NMB
Presentation by NMB

The participants presented eventually five business cases. Two were different from the day before: rainwater harvesting and biogas. The banks gave valuable and very positive feedback.

In relation to the workshop, all participants were very satisfied (nearly all) whilst some were 80 –85% satisfied. It gave all participants useful insights and tips to take it home.

As to what their next steps would be, participants stated various actions. Below are just a few. “I want to visit the banks in my area and discuss about loans for rainwater harvesting and toilets.” “I want to identify the potential local financial institutions to provide loan to invest in deprived sector lending including sanitation improvement”. “I want to share all things we have discussed in the training with our implementing partners and right stakeholders as well as bankers working in the district”. “It is to accelerate the programme in real life situation”. I want to prepare a WASH business plan linked with microfinance institution”. “I like the concept of making money from sanitation business”. “I would like to incorporate the entrepreneurs in the WASH programs and our organisation with cooperatives, banks in the WASH sector.”

Participants also provided other reflections important to mention. “ The approach of the workshop was lively, inclusive and talking to members of the alliance seems to have prompted self reflection on the financial and ultimately social sustainability for their organisations”, “Some briefing documents of banks about their strategy or experience on deprived sector landing would be helpful to enhance our/staff/community awareness”

Based on the above and the response of the bank, we anticipate a minimum of two business plans with the bank before the end of 2012. The financial consultant Anup will assist the entrepreneurs/partners in these endeavors. A saving cooperative represented by one of its members, supported by Lumanti may perhaps get its toilet activities financed too. I want to thank all participants, the banks, our partners, Kalawati and NWA partners for the organizing, Anup for his dedication, useful comments, translation skill, good contacts and above all my colleague and friend Lilliana for her outstanding facilitation.

Valentin Post works as Controller / Senior Adviser at WASTE