Strategy for Mobilizing Volunteers in Development in Nepal: Prospects and Challenges

Tek Nath Dhakal's picture
Abstract: 
The use of volunteers in development and service delivery in an organized form is a modern concept, however, the practice of volunteerism in the society has been found since times immemorial. The traditional mode of voluntarism in Nepal was mostly based on personal relations and was also a felt need due to the lack of and/or the weak presence of the state to deliver basic services to the people particularly at the local level. In addition, the reciprocity of voluntary support and the contribution was also very much influenced by the religious feeling and the cultural practices. In Nepal, National Planning Commission (NPC) has initiated to mobilization of volun-teers through its National Development Volunteers Service (NDVS) program in development through various local level organizations such as District Development Committees, Health Posts, Agriculture service office, and the Animal Health Service including local academic institutions for the last fifteen years. In this context, query arises whether the NDVS program proves to be an appropriate strategy in Development and delivery of services in Nepal. This study reviews the implementation status of NDVS program and discusses with the volunteers and NDVS unit of the NPC to substantiate factual information. The study found that there was a high demand of such volunteers from the recipient organizations to substantiate the shortage of technical human resources in those local level organizations. It was also found quite important to build enthusiasm of volunteerism among the potential volunteers. The experience of such voluntary works also found to be helpful to the volunteers for skill development through practical learning, motivation to offer voluntary services, and useful for getting future career jobs. However, the NPC has been facing the challenge of sustainability of such schemes and retention of volunteers particularly the technical human resources due to the financial constraints, at least, to provide basic level of survival benefits to the volunteers.
Main Article: 

A huge number of volunteers are mobilized for the development, peace keeping and also service processes in the present contemporary society. The United Nations through its United Nations Volunteer (UNV) program mobilizes around 7,700 volunteers annually into development programs, run local and national elections and supports a large number of peacekeeping and humanitarian projects nationally and internationally. In addition to UN agencies, in many countries, the national government and also the civil society organizations such as NGOs/CBOs and the religious and humanitarian organizations also mobilize a large number of volunteers.
Nepal has a long tradition of mobilizing volunteers as voluntary service has been deeply rooted in the diverse cultures, lifestyles, and religions of the society. Over the passage of time the arrival of international volunteers and the emergence of the national organizations have further contributed in the voluntary services in Nepal (NPC, NDVS 2013a). As a result, the number of voluntary organizations working in Nepal are increasing and flourishing for responding to the needs of the community, interests of the people and a sense of social work and formation of a strong social capital.
In Nepal, a number of voluntary programs such as Dalit Social Development Program, Indigenous Ethnic Development Program, Sample Village Develop-ment Program, Volunteer Mobilization in Low HDI districts, Youth Volunteer Mobilization Program, and the National Development Service (NDS) were initiated under government Initiatives and completed their working period (NPC, NDVS, 2013b:4-6). At present, two voluntary programs, one, ‘Female Community Health Volunteers’ (FCHV) under Ministry of Population and Health, and the second, ‘National Development Volunteer Service’ (NDVS) have been running under the National Planning Commission in Nepal. The FCHV program was established in 1995 for assisting the primary health care activities and acting as a bridge between the government health service and the community (NPC, NDVS 2013:7). On the other hand, the NDVS program aims to involve youth and human resources who want to devote themselves to the voluntary spirit of the rural and local development as to achieve the goal of poverty reduction of the state. Since the establishment in 1998/99, the NDVS program has created unique opportunity to serve in the field of local governance, education, livestock, agriculture, engineering and social mobilization (NPC, NDVS 2013:7). In this context, this article seeks the answer of, “to what extent NDVS program contributes in Development and delivery of services in Nepal”? In addition, other issues such as, what strategy has NPC adopted for mobilizing volunteers in Development? What benefits do the potential volunteers to join such volunteer mobilization scheme foresee? And, what the key issues to mobilize the volunteers in development are key areas of focus of this article.
For the purpose of the study, NDVS program is taken as the unit of analysis in this article. It adopts descriptive cum exploratory research design. A number of documents were reviewed to underscore the existing provision of National Development Volunteer Service, its usefulness, and the other factors such as motivation of the volunteers were analyzed. Annual reports of the NDVS, NPC plan documents and study reports of the NDVS were reviewed for generating secondary information. To substantiate the secondary information, the volunteers working and others who had completed their voluntary work under NDVS in different offices, and the potential volunteers who applied for volunteer services were interviewed. The Director and other two staffs of the NDVS and two officials from NPC were also interviewed for generating primary information. Issues derived from the desk review were triangulated with the persons who were involved in the volunteerism mechanism.
Concept of voluntarism
In simple term, voluntarism is a desire to contribute time, skills and knowledge through volunteer action. It helps in engaging and promoting people for the combined efforts for achieving developmental goals. In the Western society, the normative concept of voluntarism holds that ‘voluntary groups are both good and good for society. Van Til (1988:9) discusses the importance of the voluntary principle in American “religion in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a key facet of “freedom of association”. Handy (1966) discusses the organized form of voluntarism and the roots of voluntarism based on freedoms that go back, in one sense, to the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and even earlier to the ‘heresies’, and sects of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Eastern philosophers, those such as in South Asia, took an important role in propagating the ideals of voluntary services in society and demonstrated a number of examples of social service rendered by the rulers and the people. The practice of social welfare service in Nepal is as old as the society itself. Factors creating such social actions were basically initiated by the philosophy of religious values which became a part of the daily life of the people and its influence can be found in governance principles of the society as well. Therefore, the philosophy of administration was based on dharma shashtra (religious principle) and often inspires people for paropakar (voluntary contribution/support to others) (Bajracharya 2035 BS, Sharma, 2022 BS, Dhakal, 2006).
The attraction of voluntary action is due to the assumption that people could benefit of the developmental incentive with membership in a nonprofit group. Wuthnow (1994:84) observed that this incentive was the most common reason for joining the small social support groups. Volunteerism for development can enhance the capacity of people to exercise choices to set and achieve their own development objectives. For the effective and sustainable development, people must take ownership of and give relevance to its processes and drive them forward through civic engagement. As the individual citizens have an important role to play in development and service delivery through volunteering, motivating them and bringing them in an organized form is important. For this, cooperation and commitment of various actors including public, nonprofit and the private sector along with international agencies such as United Nations system and the world community is important. Regarding the essence of cooperation in organized form such as NGO approach for mobilizing volunteers Cernea (1988:7 writes that, “…the NGO approach is not to induce development financially, but to mobilize people into organized structures of voluntary group action for self-reliance and self-development”. If development is for the welfare of people, it should be initiated and carried out by people and should be for people to take the benefit of the development (Dhakal 2006). In this context, mobilization and organization of people becomes important to achieve self-reliance and self-development.
The need of voluntary work and creating voluntary organization is important when the public and the private organizations are not able to fulfil the demand of development and/or the service delivery. In such situation voluntary organizations emerge to fill the gap and to complement and supplement the demand of public goods for all the people or serve all the interests, at least, at the minimum level (Weispord, 1977 in Dhakal, 2006). The ‘performance failure’ situation arises when the public institutions are unable to deliver service or development when the social values or the interests, geographic coverage and work diversity are heterogeneous (Anheier and Salamon, 1998).
Thus, volunteerism benefits both society and also the individual volunteer as it helps to strengthen trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and also create opportunities for participation. UNV advocates for the recognition of volunteers, working to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizes an increasing number and diversity of volunteers throughout the world.
Volunteerism continues to evolve in response to the emerging needs and priorities of communities. Many voluntary activities are rooted in ancient customs of caring and sharing. Whenever there is a need in society, such as in funerals, natural calamities, and any other emergencies, human beings have the impulse to work together. Thus, in most societies, volunteering is a fundamental part of people’s lives and most languages have terms to describe it, for instance, “Shramadan” and “Paropakar” in South Asia, “Harambee” in East Africa, “Mingu” in Latin America and “al taawunwaltawasul” in many Arab States. The act is very familiar, even if the word “volunteer” is not the same (Thapa and Malla, 2001). In the western construct, Webster’s Dictionary has defined the concept of volunteer as “one who enters into or offers himself/herself for any service of his own free will”. The meaning of volunteerism can be understood differently. From religious perspective, volunteerism is concerned with the religious functions. From socio-cultural perspective, volunteerism is special kinds of social institution that include a set of social rules, values and attitudes for performing any social work in an unselfish manner. From the modern development perspective, volunteerism is an organizational effort of mobilizing volunteers in development programs by providing subsistence allowance.
The terms ‘volunteer’ and ‘volunteerism’ are not new to Nepal and Nepalese society. They have deep roots in the diverse culture, lifestyle, and religions of the land. The volunteer activities here have been performed in different ways, and by several socio-cultural groups of people, since the dawn of civilization. Due to the cultural, religious, and geographical diversity of the country, the meaning and type of volunteers and volunteerism may differ from place to place. But the term volunteer is traditionally understood as an individual or institution that promotes collective action in achieving a common goal with a strong commitment. Voluntary service has been understood by the Nepalese society differently in other times and contexts. In the first generation of volunteerism, the western concept of “offering himself/herself for any service” became embedded into the eastern culture. The voluntary concept internalized in the east as a part of its lifestyle and institutionalized in the social system, has been understood as a “leisure time” service delivery mechanism during emergency for needy people. The traditional concept of volunteerism falls under this category under which voluntarism remains in the communities being largely limited to religious rituals. In the case of second generation volunteerism, it promotes the concept of welfare and external dependency, encourages mobilization of external volunteers which is likely to increase external dependency among the people. Volunteer action is not limited only to welfare, essential service delivery, distribution of meals and other materials at the time of emergency. Volunteers at the local level can also be effective in the process of social mobilization (Neupane, 2001). In the case of Nepal, volunteerism can be classical, NGO-promoted and state-promoted volunteerism. The traditional concept of volunteer mobilization practices, which is the combination of self-service promotion, participation, program implementation and local resource mobilization, is practiced by a limited number of voluntary institutions in a few areas of the country. The examples of this category include Guthi, Badghar and Kulha Chaudhary, Raj kulo, Rodi etc. The second-category of NGOs promoted volunteerism refers to the role of NGOs as a development partner. GoN recognized them a development partner due to their comparative advantages in contributing to the development process. The recognized strengths of the NGO sector are competence in voluntary social mobilization for meaningful participation of the communities in the decision-making process, program implementation and local resource management. In Nepal, there are approximately 36 thousands NGOs registered in Social Welfare Council (SWC, 2014). The third category of volunteerism is the state promoted volunteerism. GoN has also been mobilized volunteers in the sector of health, education, environment and infrastructure development.
Looking into the contribution of volunteers to national development by various agencies in different sectors the National Planning Commission of Nepal (NPC/N) has addressed their need in the development process. In this context, the NPC/Nepal adopted two strategies such as “Create opportunities to volunteer in facilitating development work and public service delivery for persons involved in various sectors and disciplines”, and also “mobilize volunteers at both the central and the local levels in partnership with various organizations” (NPC, 2013:144). Accordingly, interested volunteers and the organizations to volunteer receive more space to contribute for the attainment of development. It makes important contributions, economically as well as socially and contributes to a more cohesive society by building trust and reciprocity among the citizens.
Voluntary service in Nepal
Voluntary organizations in Nepal have been found to be flourishing spontaneously for responding to the needs of the community to fulfil the interest of the people and forming social capital from tradition to the modern times. For the delivery of services and furthering development initiatives, people’s involvement individually and/or in groups within the community or outside the community in a voluntary way were found in the ancient times, and also found in the continued form in one or the other way today. These voluntary social institutions such as Guthi (trusts created for social and development functions) can be taken as one of the most popular social institutions created even before the unification of Nepal in 1769 and also considered the backbone of local economy (Regmi, 1978). The other forms of such organisations created in those periods were parma (labour exchange group), dhikur (credit group) (Chand 1991). Apart from these, similar type of people’s organisations created within ethnic communities were bhejas among Magars, chumlung among Rai & Limbu, nangkhur among Tamangs, nogar among Gurungs, bolawanegu among the Newars, and dharma phanchayat among Thakali, etc. (Lama, 1992: 85; Bhattachan, 2000:74; Pokharel, 2000: 58). Apart from these traditional institutions, the individual roles performed by different actors such as dhami jhakris (faith healers) and lami (match maker) were also equally important for the delivery of such services. Though scientific validation of such practice has yet to be documented in a precise form, one can observe the high level of trust in their services in the Nepalese society.
Actually the objective of volunteerism is to serve the people who are really in trouble. Or they cannot find out the proper solution to get rid of the problem, which they are facing. The role of volunteers and the practice of volunteerism in Nepal is not a new concept. It has been adopted since ancient times. Digging a kuw and inaar (spring and well), constructing the paani dhaaro (fountain or waterspout), chautaro (building and maintaining a shady trailside resting place) paati pauwa (overnight rest house for travelers), and contributing shramadan (voluntary labor to public works), etc. are all traditional form of in-built social values of the Nepalese society. The high value of doing good things and serving others is captured in such terms as paropakar (‘helping others without any self-interest) and swayamsewa (‘to serve others of one’s own accord’ as a volunteer (Shah et al., 1986). It is found that voluntarism is also associated with a number of social activities such as birth and death ceremonies, construction of houses and foot trails, etc.
The people have been supporting the needy people in an organized manner. The creation of modern voluntary organizations such as NGOs in Nepal was limited in number up to the early 1990s; however, the modern voluntary organizations such as Shree Chandra Kamadhenu Charkha Mahaguthi, Paropakar Sanstha, Nepal Aurvedic Sangh, and Tharu Kalyankarini Samiti were created in organized form before 1951 (Ghimire, 1998:3 Paropakar, 1998). The act of volunteerism has proliferated after the political changes in 1990. Many NGOs and community-based organizations are registered and providing support to the people without making any kind of profits for the service delivery. Including this kinds of efforts, volunteers from international organizations like United Mission to Nepal, Peace Corps, Volunteer Service Overseas, German Development Service, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, United Nations Volunteers Program, Lutheran World Federation, Danish Association for International Cooperation, Canadian Center for International Studies and Cooperation and Student Partnership Worldwide have been serving the Nepalese people in different fields such as public health, agriculture, veterinary, engineering etc.
In Nepal, the number of such registered NGOs up to 1990 was 220, which increased to 35,276 in June 2013 (SWC, 2013). This shows that the voluntary sector is found to be one of the fastest growing sectors in Nepal. In addition, a large number of unregistered groups are also found active for civic actions in Nepal. Some of the reasons for this fast growth of the NGOs in Nepal are due to social, economic, political and the other reasons (Dhakal, 2006). Naturally, people have some sort of desire or interest or seek roles to contribute to the society, the development policy adopted for GO/NGO partnership, and funding approach of the donors and international agencies to NGOs along with the creation of conducive environment for NGOs has also contributed to the rapid expansion of voluntary organizations in Nepal. As a result, volunteering in Nepal has been contributed by a sizeable number of non-government and international organizations which have been engaged in exemplary voluntary works in the sectors of health, education, agriculture, forestry, environment, social awareness etc.
National Development Volunteer Service (NDVS)
To augment the spirit of volunteerism and use of volunteers in the development process, the GoN has initiated volunteerism in the name of National Development Volunteers Service (NDVS) in an organized way since 1998/99. National Planning Commission plays the role as a focal organization to handle the NDVS scheme in Nepal. Usually, NPC mobilizes both technical and non-technical volunteers and also of different categories such as SLC to Master level graduates. The selected volunteers are deputed at different institutions such as in the public schools, district health offices, District Development Committees and other related district line agencies. Such volunteers cover 73 districts of the country. The NDVS program has continuously been contributing to social service and development activities assuming it as worthy for nation building. NPC has introduced ‘Volunteer Mobilization Procedure’ (VMP) in 2011 to guide, facilitate and monitor the volunteer mobilization schemes. The VMP specifies the bases of volunteer mobilization, types of human resources, sectoral area of work, code of conduct of the volunteers, and the reporting and monitoring system. NPC intends national development by mobilizing voluntary service to:
• revive the spirit of volunteerism and draw people from different occupations;
• promote a sense of volunteerism among the public in cooperation with local as well as international voluntary service associations;
• provide instant relief to the remote districts to back up the shortage of manpower;
• encourage young volunteers those committed to work with unselfish motive for working in the remote and backward districts for serving the people;
• provide an opportunity to the fresh graduates to obtain field level work experiences;
• persuade the experienced and retired senior persons to contribute as volunteers to the development of rural people;
• disseminate information to encourage skilled professional Nepalese living abroad and also the foreign citizens those willing to work in Nepal as volunteer in rural areas and also work as facilitator in this endeavor; and
• initiate inter-country exchange of volunteers with objective of sharing skill, technology and experience- especially among the SAARC nations (Dhakal, 2014:16-17).
Once the volunteers are recruited, they are deputed in different district based specific organizations. During the working period, the volunteers are assigned duties. Accordingly, the volunteers have to:
• involve in rural development activities with the true spirit of volunteerism;
• provide appropriate suggestion and assistance to utilize the locally available resources;
• assist in the operation and expansion of the development program having direct impact on the education, health, agriculture, income generating activities and skills of the rural people;
• assist local organizations and groups in the implementation of development activities and awareness activities;
• establish coordination with district based agencies while performing their duties;
• encourage and facilitate local people in the formation of community based- organizations and users’ groups to carry out local level development activities;
• assist CBOs and users’ groups in providing technical and other types of assistance; and
• act as a link between district agencies and NDVS and to carry out other activities as assigned by concerned DDC (Dhakal, 2014:17).
The VMP specifies the bases of volunteer selection and deputation in the areas of insufficient services rendered by the regular administrative mechanism, need of technical support to the cooperatives and social organization and locally based government organization and deprived areas on the basis of human development indicator (NPC, 2011). The VMP specifies that five kinds of human resources such as health workers, agricultural extension workers, veterinary workers, engineers, science and mathematics teacher in remote areas. Such volunteers are deputed at various government agencies such as health, agriculture, veterinary, cooperatives, community organization, educational institutions, local agencies, traffic management, entrepreneurial development, and the natural disaster and risk management.
Table 1: Category of districts
Category Name of the district Total number of districts
A Bajhang, Bajura, Dolpa, Mugu & Humla 5
B Jumla, Kalikot, Jajarkot & Darchula 4
C Mustang, Manang, Rukum, Dhailekh, Achham, Solukhumbu, Bhojpur, Khotang 8
D Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Tehrathum, Okhaldhunga, Myagdi, Rolpa, Salyan, Puthan, Doti, Dadeldhura, Rasuwa, Baitadi 12
E Pachthar, Dhankuta, Ramechhap, Udaypur, Sindhuli, Dolkha, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchowk, Dhadhing, Nuwakot, Gorkha, Lamjung, Banglung, Parbat, Gulmi, Arghakhachi, 16
F Ilam, Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, Chitwan, Makwanpur, Tanahun, Kaski, Syanja, Palpa, Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilvasthu, Dang, Banke, Bardia, Surkhet, Kailali, Kanchanpur 27
The NDVS program tries to widely cover its voluntary programs in the country. Out of the total 75 districts in Nepal, NPC has covered NDVS program in 72 districts. These districts are grouped into ‘A’ to ‘F’ categories to operationalize for fulfilling the demand of volunteers and arrangement of subsistence allowances to volunteers (See Table 1). Not a single volunteer has been deputed in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur as the demand for volunteers is high in other districts than in the Kathmandu valley.
The highest number of districts, i.e., 27 districts falls under ‘F’ category whereas only five and four districts fall in the categories ‘A’ and ‘B’ respectively. The districts under categories D and E have 12 and 16 districts respectively.
Once the volunteers are recruited and deputed in the specified offices they have to follow the code of conduct. Accordingly the volunteer should not involve in political activities, work as international norms of volunteer spirit, not seek undue benefit, obey the rule, not disturb the peace and security, and perform the assigned duties (Dhakal, 2014:18).
Findings and Discussions
By realizing its benefits of volunteer service in the society, GoN has initiated the volunteerism since 1970s. The historical efforts and practice of voluntarism made clear that voluntarism had significant contributions for the well being of the society, better livelihood, spiritualism and national development. GoN has responded to the declaration of United Nations Volunteers Year 2001. All these reasons led to the start of the scheme of voluntarism in Nepal.
Increment of volunteers mobilization
After the introduction of NDVS program in 1998/99, altogether 9,206 volunteers are found mobilized in various areas. It shows that there is a gradual increase in the number of volunteers. These volunteers were recruited and mobilized at the central level, local level and rural level. Since 2011/12, all recruitments were consolidated at the central level. During the study period, the number of volunteers mobilized at the central level was 4,789 while those recruited at local and rural level, were 2,679 and 1,738 volunteers respectively (See Table 2).
Table 2: Status of Volunteers Mobilization by NPC during July 1998 - June 2013
Fiscal Year Central Local Rural Total
1998/99 220 0 0 220
1999/2000 0 0 0 0
2000/01 222 0 0 222
2001/02 224 0 0 224
2002/03 142 150 142 434
2003/04 166 189 167 522
2004/05 200 403 166 769
2005/06 195 316 184 695
2006/07 184 204 199 587
2007/08 69 222 196 487
2008/09 101 215 228 544
2009/10 952 539 228 1719
2010/11 585 441 228 1254
2011/12 940 0 0 940
2012/13 589 0 0 589
Total 4789 2679 1738 9206
Source: NPC, NDVS, 2013. Introductory Book, 32-33
The decreasing trend started since 2010/11. This is mainly due to two reasons – firstly, NPC has adopted centralized recruitment of volunteer policy, and secondly, the recruitment of volunteers with only technical degree and/or training background. As a result, there was no recruitment since 2011/12 at the local and rural levels, and the recruitment of volunteers with non-technical background was stopped.
Enthusiasm among the community
The study shows that there is an increasing interest to work as volunteers. The NPC source also reveals that 53 percent of the total volunteers were males and the rest 47 percent were female. Looking into the caste and ethnic composition of volunteers 56 percent of the total volunteers were from different castes and 26% from Janajatis. Madhesis comprise 10 percent, 7 percent among the dalits and the Muslims comprised only 1 percent of the total volunteers mobilized by NPC. From the sectoral perspective, the majority of volunteers were mobilized in the health sector and veterinary sector. The Development Region-wise distribution shows the highest number of volunteer mobilization in the Eastern Development Region and the lowest number in Far Western Development Region.
Benefits of voluntarism
The act of volunteerism provides a number of benefits at various levels to an individual and the organizations, and at the national and international level as it fosters compassion, social responsibility, spiritual and emotional ties between the provided and recipient of voluntary services.
With regard to meaningful and positive impact for joining volunteerism, how the volunteers see the voluntary work and how they rank on such benefits, a question was asked to rank various types of benefits (See Table 3).
Table 3: Benefits of volunteering from the volunteers’ perspective (N=30)
S.No. Type of benefits Rank
1 Learn or develop new skills 1
2 Motivation and sense of achievement 2
3 Boost the career skills 3
4 Gaining new experience 4
5 New interest and hobbies 5
6 Meeting a diverse range of people 6
Question: Based on the type of benefits given in the table please rank as per the benefit you see for being a volunteer under NDVS program (1 for the most important and 5 for the least important).
The respondents confirm that the voluntary action helped them to learn or develop new skills as the number one benefit. Raj Kumar Shrestha – a former NDVS volunteer in an interview (interviewed on 13.05.2014) said “it very important for learning practical skills and due to this experience, I am able to pass Public Service Commission’s recruitment exam. Now, I am working as Health Assistant at Jhangajholi Ratamata Health Post in Sindhuli district and I am happy that my job career has started.”
Motivation and sense of achievement stands as the second benefit for joining volunteering works. In the remote places, people have high respect for govern-ment employees though they respect the volunteers. This motivates the volunteers to work and contribute. The other benefits such as boost to the career skills stands in the 3rd ranking and gaining new experience as the fourth rank. Similarly, new interest and hobbies stands in the fifth rank while meeting diverse range of people in sixth rank. In an interview Yadav Raj Basyal – Junior Technician in Animal Health who works as volunteer at Banke District Animal Health Office in an interview (interviewed on 14.05.2014) proudly says “very useful to have good experience, develop portfolio, easy to promote business, easy to work in future, trusted me as government employee, get recognition from the community and easy to adjust both in the host office and in the community.”
It also helps to maintain solidarity in the society and contributes to perform the given task economically and makes it less costly. Volunteering helps bringing the socially excluded into the mainstream excluded and integrate the societal members. Volunteering plays an important role in promoting employment by enhancing the employability of unemployed people, especially the young generation. They could be goodwill ambassadors as they would introduce the country in other country. Recipient society could be benefited through the knowledge and skills from the volunteers who belongs to developed countries. Thus volunteering brings together a diverse range of people from all backgrounds and walks of life and offers an incredible networking opportunity that also help to develop personal and professional relationships, learn about people from all walks of life, different environments, and new career opportunities.
NPC (2010; 2013) highlights the strength of NDVS scheme as this program contributed to fulfill the gaps of human deficiency in remote districts. This program also played a crucial role in delivering services and reach out to the deprived community in the rural areas. On the other hand, the educated youths also availed employment opportunity though voluntary job is a partial job. Due to this program, a positive message has been delivered and helped to build international relations.
Key Issues in Volunteerism in Nepal
There are some instances of dropout of volunteer before the completion of the assigned jobs because it is a low or not a paid job but the community people have high expectations from them. Geographic remoteness, lack of awareness, and political instability are other threats determinants are warning to volunteerism promotion. Non-cooperation and reluctant attitude of the government officials, for instance in engineering and construction works in Nepal, also found volunteers discouraged from making contributions.
Volunteering is under pressure from the forces of globalization and industrialization, fuelled by a reduction in religious attachment, the break-up of traditional communities, and an increase in individualism. Due to the consumerism, the traditional model of voluntarism in Nepal is declining. In Nepal, also traditional voluntary organizations are disappearing or not functioning as they used to do in the past. Funds of the traditional Guthis and Trusts are being depleted. Changes in social patterns such as increasingly materialistic thinking and depreciated social and cultural values have contributed to defunct traditional voluntary organizations. Thapa & Malla (2001) have identified the issues like unclear policy. According to them, lack of clear policies and strategies to promote volunteerism by the Government by the private sector as well as by voluntary organizations themselves also pose a serious challenge to sustaining voluntary services. Likewise, they argue that the value added by voluntary services is not adequately recognized and the contribution made in the nation’s economy has not yet been estimated. In many countries including Nepal, the failure of governments to measure the contribution of volunteering to GDP is a sign of the low status in which it is held. In addition, coordination is another issue related to the volunteerism. Lack of coordination among the recipient institutions, VSAs, and government agencies affects the efficiency and effectiveness of volunteers’ services. This may lead to duplication of efforts in certain areas with no activities in others.
In the case of international volunteers, it is reported by many VSAs that the recruitment process takes six months to one year. Due to such an ordinate delay in recruitment, often they lose appropriate candidates. In many cases, voluntary services are considered as free and do not receive adequate commitment and ownership of the recipient agencies. On the other hand, volunteers’ services are not used at the optimum level. In some cases, volunteers are used only for attracting external funding.
The NPC source also reveals that the subsistence allowance provided by GoN is inadequate to maintain daily necessary expenses of the volunteers. Due to the low level of subsistence allowance, the volunteers particularly the technical human resources are found somewhat reluctant to work as volunteers in remote parts of the country though their expertise plays great importance.
In this context, former NDVS volunteer Raj Kumar Shrestha – in an interview (interviewed on 13.05.2014) said “due to the low allowance it is not easy to manage the monthly expenses and there is also a lack of reward as per the contribution”. Similarly, Yadav Raj Basyal (interviewed on 15.05.2014) added “there is also lack of orientation to concerned district level officials about voluntary work and volunteers to create good environment. Another issue is lack of timely monitoring and evaluation which affect in making appropriate decision for rewarding the volunteers.”
In this context, Adhikari (2013), in his assessment, also concluded on the need for increment of such subsistence allowance by 22 to 31 percent of the existing allowance. Usually, the monthly allowance is fixed as per the level of academic qualification and the categories of remoteness of districts. In case of education, it is classified into technical and non-technical. It is further classified into educational level. The allowance is fixed as discriminatory on the basis of technical and non-technical academic degrees. Accordingly, volunteers who work in ‘A’ category with Master’s degree would get highest amount of allowance than the volunteer working in ‘F’ category of the district with the qualification of just SLC. Thus the level of subsistence allowance has been fixed on the basis of remoteness of district which is categorized in different segments and also the academic level of the volunteers.
For the last few years, both internal and external factors have been influencing the price rise. A number of factors such as low agricultural production and productivity, higher imports of agricultural commodities, frequent closures, strikes, load-shedding and political instability as well as the price hike in petroleum products and the high food price inflation have affected the price rise of the commodities (MoF, 2012:53). On the other hand, the annual point to point national salary and wage rate index has increased. Compared to higher inflation rate and increment of salary level, the subsistence allowance given to the NDVS volunteers have not been increased which may be another issue in retaining or attracting the volunteers.
In fact, the basis of fixing the allowance should be as per the market index and the GDP of the country. The reviews also show that there are other issues in this sector such as lack of coordination among volunteer organizations and programs, the lack of certainty about volunteers’ scope and duration of activity, inability to strike a balance between the demand for and supply of volunteers. The challenge lies in establishing the significance of volunteer services at the societal and local levels and advancing volunteerism as a campaign.
Conclusion
Volunteer service in Nepal in organized form is a modern concept, however, the practice of volunteerism in the society has been found since ancient times. The traditional mode of voluntarism in Nepal was mostly based on personal relations and was also a felt need due to the lack of and/or the weak presence of the state to deliver basic services to the people particularly at the local level. In addition, the reciprocity of voluntary support and the contribution was also very much influenced by the religious feeling and the cultural practices.
NDVS scheme of volunteers in the development is to regulate and operationalize it. Therefore, the government has also brought the ‘Volunteer Mobilization Procedure, 2011’ which helps to streamline volunteers under this scheme. Both strengths and weakness are found in sustaining the spirit of volunteerism and mobilizing the volunteers in development activities through various organizations. Up to the review date, a total 9,206 volunteers were mobilized in different parts of Nepal particularly in the remote areas. As there is a lack of technical and to some extent non-technical employees in rural based offices, they are not able to deliver services and implement the development activities smoothly. Some of the strengths of NDVS are:
• Fulfillment of human resource gap in the country particularly in rural and remote areas,
• Preparing a sizeable work force for working as development workers and service providers,
• Establishment of linkage at central planning system to the local implementing agencies,
• Creating a spirit of volunteerism among the people,
• Useful for practical learning for the volunteers which can be taken as an internship for them, and
• Formation of social capital as said by Robert Putnam (1993).
However, on the other side of the coin, the perceived issues in this sector are found as follows:
• Lack of coordination among volunteer organizations and programs,
• Lack of certainty about volunteers’ scope and duration of activity,
• Inability to strike a balance between the demand for and supply of volunteers,
• Difficulty in establishing the significance of volunteer services at the societal and local levels and advancing volunteerism as a campaign, and
• Low level of subsistence allowance may affect the attraction of new volunteers particularly for working in the remote areas.
The above discussion shows that the volunteers play a significant role in helping the service delivery and promoting development initiatives at the local level. There is also the significance of volunteers in the local and remote areas due to the shortage of necessary human resources. Volunteers especially among the technical background in health, agriculture, engineers and others were found reluctant to work on the given allowance package. This is mainly due to the insufficient level of allowance. But the demand of technical volunteers at the remote and field level offices are high. Thus, how to attract the volunteers, especially the technical persons, has become a burning issue. It is important to motivate more volunteers in the process of service delivery and implementation of development activities to sustain the NDVS initiatives. One of the strategies for motivating the volunteers is upgrading subsistence allowance for meeting their monthly expenses so they can maintain their monthly expenses which would attract more interested youths in NDVS. In addition, recognition of voluntary work would be effective to motivate the volunteers for further contribution. This would help in delivering quality services and create interest in voluntary works. There is also a debate whether the volunteers should be paid or should be free. As they have to survive, it may not be free. The importance of voluntary contribution in development is very high. As Aditya, (2001) said, voluntarism is emerging as professional activism essential for social change. Thus, the invaluable services rendered to the disadvantaged and backward communities of this country both by national and international volunteers for the last few decades deserve a high degree of appreciation.