Save the Children together with its partners is implementing the Sabal Program in six central and eastern districts of Nepal: Makwanpur, Sindhuli, Ramechhap, Khotang, Okhaldhunga, and Udayapur, and is funded by USAID 2014-19. It aims to increase resilience for targeted vulnerable communities in Nepal, and is being implemented in close coordination with the Government of Nepal Ministry of Agriculture Development, Ministry of Health and Population, Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development and other relevant line ministries, district level line agencies and local NGO partners. The first year was marked by devastating earthquakes in April and May 2015, followed by numerous aftershocks, landslides and avalanches, severely impacting 24 of Nepal’s 75 districts, including 4 of the 6 Sabal districts. Recognizing the necessity to respond to the disaster as well recover from the shock, USAID/Food For Peace expanded the Sabal program into five additional districts heavily impacted by the earthquakes (Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Kavrepalanchowk, Sindhupalchok and Dolakha), with the mandate to contribute in a major way to community recovery from the disaster using the Sabal development modalities approved under the Cooperative Agreement.
Sabal is designed to address root causes of poverty (food insecurity, malnutrition and households (HH) unable to absorb shocks from disaster or adapt to climate change impacts). Contributing factors include poor market access; limited access to improved seed, fertilizer, or micro-irrigation; a lack of local off-farm employment opportunities; household labor shortages due to long-distance migration; and limited access to financial services, impeding efficient transfers, safe saving, and productive investment of remittances. Factors leading to poor nutritional status include low dietary diversity; poor health, hygiene, and nutrition behaviors; lack of access to safe water, latrines, and quality health and family planning services; and women’s lack of control of household economic resource. Target rural households are subject to climate, agricultural, public health, and price shocks. Without access to public services, social protection programs, insurance products, or institutional savings, the rural poor remain exposed to such risks or fail to recover from shocks.
THE DEVELOPMENT HYPOTHESIS AND THEORY OF CHANGE
The development hypothesis behind Sabal is based on the collective expertise of the consortium partners addressing deeply rooted factors affecting food security, nutrition, and risk management outcomes in Nepal. The Sabal Theory of Change (ToC) envisions innovation at three levels: absorptive, adaptive and transformational capacities. Absorptive innovations include changes in investment, economic practices, or public policies that reduces the exposure of households and communities to impact from natural and unforeseen hazards, and enhance HHs ability to cope with shocks. Adaptive innovations will help to adjust major trends such as climate change or the expansion of markets into rural areas. Transformational change will entail implementation of innovations as drivers of lasting, measurable and upwardly-scalable improvement in people’s lives. Based on this hypothesis and TOC, the program seeks to achieve the following goal and purposes.
Sabal’s long term goal is “targeted populations in the eleven districts of Central and Eastern hills of Nepal are more resilient and food secure.” (By resilience we mean “the ability of individual, households, communities to mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth”.) Three program purposes form the programs overarching goal:
- Livelihoods strengthened and diversified;
- Improve health and nutrition status of pregnant and lactating women, children under 5 and their families, and
- Strengthen the ability of households and communities to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stressors.
Sabal will train individuals, strengthen local organizations, and facilitate market access to increase resilience and improve access to economic opportunities. Activities will vary according to local conditions. For people with road access and greater market potential, Sabal will guide value chain activities designed to strengthen farm-to-market links, encourage investment, improve access inputs and agricultural services, and increase from off-farm income. Where smallholder households have limited access to land, labor, and markets, there will be emphasis on home gardens, job-relevant life skills training and links to migration counseling. In addition, Sabal will strive to improve financial literacy, savings and promote productive investment of remittance income. Women’s empowerment methodology will strengthen women’s participation in decision making. Farmers’ groups and private sector actors will be key partners who serve as a platform for gender empowerment work. The project will serve and impact more than 330,000 direct beneficiaries in 264 targeted Village Development Committees (VDCs) ranked as highly vulnerable based on the disadvantaged groups (DAG) ranking system, population density, poverty, literacy, impact of earthquake etc.
Sabal will use the Essential Nutrition Action Framework (ENA). It will promote the adoption of improved health, WASH, and nutrition behaviors for mothers and their children using a sanitation marketing approach and increasing access to WASH products, such as hand-washing stations or latrine slabs. Social and behavioral change strategies, using social marketing tools, will emphasize interpersonal counseling reinforced by mass media and community mobilization. Platforms include female community health volunteer (FCVH)-sponsored mother support groups, homestead food production (HFP) groups, local non-governmental organizations, schools, and volunteers. Purpose II will operate across all 326 VDCs in the six districts, benefiting 847,669 pregnant and lactating women and children under age five.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) and Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM), Sabal will ensure that producers, households, district offices and VDCs have the necessary processes, information, and services for sound risk management. Communities and local authorities will undertake integrated disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA) planning and develop disaster early warning systems to protect their health, wealth, and livelihoods when disaster strikes. Sabal will increase local access to weather information and train community leaders and farmers’ to use data for agriculture and risk management. Purpose III will improve the capacity to manage risks in 224 VDCs in the eleven districts, focusing efforts on an initial cohort of 44 VDCs as trainers, and to then reach all other VDCs and over 22400 direct beneficiaries.
Sabal will adopt a dynamic cross-cutting gender equity and social inclusion approach for all three strategic objectives. It will emphasize substantive progress toward women’s empowerment and program gender balancing which requires more than simply including women in projects. It will use an effective empowerment and social inclusion framework, which grew out of practical research and reflection undertaken during a multiyear Strategic Impact Inquiry (SII) on women’s empowerment as the basis for the conceptual framework for gender balancing and equity and social inclusion.
Save the Children, Helen Keller International, CARE, Action For Enterprise, Action Against Hunger/ACF International, Tango International, Development Project Service Centre (DEPROSC), Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD), Nepal Water for Health (NEWAH), Nepali Technical Assistance Group (NTAG) are the consortium partners that are implementing the program with Save the Children as the lead.