“JICA Has Provided Seamless Support” Jun

As Nepal and Japan are celebrating sixty years of establishment of their bilateral relations, Sakuma Jun, Chief Representative, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Nepal Office, spoke to NEW SPOTLIGHT. Excerpts:

Aug. 31, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol 10.No.3, September 02,2016 (Bhadra 17, 2073)

As JICA has been supporting Nepal’s development process for a long time, how do you review JICA’s support to Nepal over the years?

Basically I am satisfied with what JICA has done and achieved so far through more than 45 years' history of cooperation in Nepal as a development partner. JICA started its cooperation in Nepal in 1970 by dispatching three Japanese volunteers to the Rapti Agriculture Experiment Farm of Chitwan District. Since then, we have extended projects and programs in various sectors through various modalities including Technical Cooperation, Loan Financing, Grant Aid, Volunteers, etc. Till now, we have provided Technical Cooperation worth 71 billion JPY, Loan Financing for 79 billion JPY, and Grant Aid for 198 billion JPY. By applying the various modalities, JICA has met the variety of needs in Nepal.

How do you look at JICA’s support?

JICA’s persistent and comprehensive cooperation have brought tangible results in many areas.  For example, Loan Financing and Grant Aid have been mainly used for construction of infrastructure such as power plants, water supply treatment plants, roads, schools, hospitals, etc. As a result, JICA’s contribution has reached one-thirds of hydropower generation in Nepal, and more than 50% of water treatment capacity of Kathmandu valley. Also, more than 9,500 classrooms have been constructed. Kathmandu-Bhaktapur Road and Sindhuli Road, both were constructed by Grant Aid of Japan, and they have been serving as main roads in this country. Furthermore, as part of technical cooperation, we have dispatched more than 2,500 Japanese experts and 1,300 volunteers to Nepal, and received more than 5,500 Nepalese trainees in JICA’s training program in Japan.

How do you look at the results of technical cooperation?

Though the results of technical cooperation are not tangible as construction of infrastructure, it has played a significant role in strengthening capacity of people and institutions in Nepal which is the base of every development and therefore most important. Those human exchange activities have also contributed to establishing a good relationship of mutual trust and respect between the people of the two countries. Thus, JICA has contributed to the socioeconomic development of Nepal.

As JICA has been supporting different development sectors, including big infrastructures like road, civil aviation and hydropower, in how many areas has JICA been involved now? What are the priority sectors of JICA’s support to Nepal? 

The distinctive features of JICA’s assistance towards Nepal is its wide coverage of the sectors ranging from transport, energy, water and sanitation, to education, health, peace building, governance, and agriculture.

The overall goal of JICA’s assistance to Nepal is the achievement of equitable and sustainable economic growth. For this goal, we have set three priority areas of cooperation, namely (a) infrastructure and institutional development, (b) promotion of peace-building and democratization, and (c) rural poverty reduction. In addition, after the devastating earthquakes last year, early and strong recovery and reconstruction was added as the most urgent area of our support with the Build Back Better (BBB) concept. Under the above 4 priority areas, 12 cooperation programs such as urban environment improvement, agriculture and rural development, government administrative capacity strengthening are allocated. Along with those 12 programs 12 technical cooperation projects, 4 loan projects, and 6 grant aid projects are currently implemented.

Along with technical support, JICA has also been supporting human resources development through Japanese Volunteers. How many volunteers are currently working in Nepal and in how many districts? How do you see the Japanese Volunteers' contribution in Nepal?

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) program was founded in 1965 as part of JICA’s grass root level technical cooperation. The major objectives of this program are to contribute to the socioeconomic development of the recipient countries, strengthen friendship and mutual understanding, and give back to the Japanese society the fruits of volunteer activity experience.

Having said that, JOCV program in Nepal started in 1970 and so far more than 1,300 volunteers have been assigned to various fields across the country. Currently about 50 volunteers are working at 13 districts in the field such as agriculture, community development, education including youth activity, sanitation and health, etc.  Among them, volunteers in agriculture have a long history and so far achieved significant result in collaboration with experts in the sector. For instance they have contributed in introducing junar (sweet oranges) in Ramechhap, rainbow trout in Rasuwa and Nuwakot, apples in Mustang.

Where do JICA volunteers work?

In order to help improve the livelihood of people, JICA volunteers adapt themselves to the local life in Nepal by speaking local languages, eating local food, and working together with the local counterparts. I am convinced that such efforts by the volunteers have promoted cultural exchanges and mutual understanding at grass-root level.

Following the earthquake, JICA has been providing various support in post reconstruction? Can you explain the areas of support and progress?

JICA has provided seamless support to Nepal since just after the great earthquake last year. What we did first was the immediate dispatch of rescue and relief teams. Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) team arrived in Nepal after the next day of the earthquake and worked in the immense damaged areas like Sankhu, Bhaktapur, Gongabu and Basantapur of Kathmandu. Similarly, JDR Medical team came immediately and worked at Barahbise under coordination with Japan Self-Defense Force Medical Units.   

How about JICA support in other ways?

At the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction held in June 2015 (ICNR 2015) where more than 50 countries gathered, Government of Japan expressed its assistance for recovery and reconstruction amount of 260 million USD. Then, JICA has been operating several programs and projects for supporting Nepal’s efforts for recovery and reconstruction. Our major focus is school and housing reconstruction. For this JICA has signed the loan agreement with the Government of Nepal for up to 26 billion JPY. At the same time we have implemented grant aid projects worth 4 billion JPY for reconstruction of Bir Hospital and Paropakar Maternity Hospital in Kathmandu valley. In addition, projects such as the rehabilitation work of water supply line in Sindhupalchowk, and reconstruction of bridges in Gorkha are on-going.

How do you see other supports are working?

We’ve been also providing technical cooperation along with financial assistance. Training for the masons for housing construction in the damaged districts and training for the victims for livelihood improvement are among them. Furthermore, we have developed a risk map of the valley providing essential information in order to prepare for possible earthquake in the future. We have been implementing these projects with the concept of Build Back Better (BBB). We recognize that recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake need a long time period and therefore we are going to extend our support with long-term perspectives

As Nepal and Japan have been celebrating sixty years of establishment of bilateral relations, how do you see the contribution of JICA in this regard?

Nepal and Japan have established and deepened good bilateral relationship with mutual trust and respect through the past 60 years. I think JICA has contributed to it through various cooperation activities. In particular, face to face activities of Japanese experts and volunteers on the ground as well as training programs in Japan have played a significant role for it.

How can we build the capacity?

We, JICA, have a strong belief that capacity development of people is the most significant and it can be accomplished only when we work together with the counterparts as equal partners. It is not JICA but people in Nepal who should take the lead for changes and development of this country. Otherwise sustainable growth cannot be achieved. Therefore we will continuously strengthen our face to face cooperation as well as other activities.

How about scholarship?

This year JICA has just started a new 4-year scholarship program called JDS. It provides opportunities of studying at master's courses of Japanese universities to young government officials who are expected to be future leaders in their respective fields. In total 80 JDS fellows will study in Japan and I believe they will also contribute to enhancing the better relationship between the two countries.

How do you see the importance of Alumni Associations?

I’d like to mention the importance of alumni associations of the Nepalese who studied or took part in the training in Japan such as JICA Alumni Association of Nepal (JAAN), Nepal AOTS Alumni Society, etc. They have strong human networks and actively extend various programs to bridge the people in Nepal and Japan. Taking this opportunity, I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to their dedication and contribution. I sincerely hope that JICA will further advance its activities for people in Nepal in collaboration with various stakeholders such as Government of Nepal, Embassy of Japan, other development partners, and alumni associations mentioned above, and contribute to the better relationship of the two countries in the futur

Keshab Poudel

Keshab Poudel

Poudel is the editor of New Spotlight Magazine.

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