Nepal is a landlocked country of 28 million people with a per capita income of about US$340, among the lowest in the world. It has one of South Asia’s worst malnutrition rates, with almost half its children under the age of five stunted and suffering from chronic undernourishment. High dependence on imports left Nepal severely exposed to rapidly rising global food and energy prices in 2008, placing the more than 30 percent of the population living below the national poverty line at serious risk. Making matters worse, drought prevailed in vulnerable districts, while floods wiped out production in many others. The situation soon reached crisis proportions.
The IDA-financed Nepal Food Crisis Response Program and Social Safety Net Project were fast-tracked in 2008 to rapidly address the impact of the global food crisis in 29 food-insecure districts. The effort was designed to bolster agricultural production and make it more sustainable while strengthening safety net mechanisms to deal with the immediate crisis. To accomplish the latter, the project supported a partnership between the Government of Nepal and the World Food Program to provide food and cash in areas facing acute risks.
Communities have reported multiple benefits, including restored short-term food security, increased local employment opportunities and higher income, mainly through vegetable production, rural road construction, and the rehabilitation of community assets such as trails, foot bridges and tap stands.
-Widespread impact. The project resulted in the employment of 168,263 workers and provided food for approximately 940,000 people; 94 percent reported better food security.
-Improved local roads. A total of 118 kilometers of rural road were constructed or are under construction, employing more than 38,000 people.
-Enhanced community assets. Work projects are shoring up community infrastructure, including irrigation and drinking water systems, meeting halls, wooden bridges and access roads.
-Momentum for community development. Aside from the short-term benefits of food and cash during a period of high vulnerability, longer-term benefits were also seen: better connectivity to markets due to road improvements, skills training, and the emergence of small income-generating projects such as fish ponds and cultivation of cash crops.
The project is financed with an IDA grant of US$19.2 million, an IDA credit of US$2.5 million and a contribution from the Food Price Crisis Response Trust Fund in the amount of US$5 million. IDA’s investments in Nepal focus primarily on helping the government provide basic health, education, safe drinking water, irrigation and agriculture extension to meet the needs of its rural population.
The project is a collaborative effort between the Government of Nepal and the World Bank, with the World Food Program as the main implementing body.
The project began as an emergency response to rising food prices and the Koshi floods. While short-term relief action is still needed since global food prices remain high and the impacts of drought and flooding continue, agriculture initiatives to boost yields and improve sustainability should also be strengthened for the long term. To address chronic food insecurity in remote areas, the project will now focus on building government capacity to act proactively through better monitoring and advance planning.