ISARD (Integrated Self-help Association for Rural Development) was founded by and all this time led by Mr Ebindra Neupane, who originally worked as a civil servant in the capital Kathmandu. ICFON Foundation supports ISARD since 1993. Back then ISARD focused on only one village. Now it has become a much larger organization with operations in more than 30 villages. Each village receives about 7 years of financial support, followed by a period of mainly technical support and advice.
The main objective is to stimulate development of rural areas in the district Sindhupalchowk (in the mountains, about 200 km northeast of the capital Kathmandu), by teaching people to organize themselves and work together towards a higher standard of living. ISARD consults the villagers in what they need , according to the so-called “demand-based” approach, which is different from the “program-based” approach. Typically, a village receives about five to seven years supported. Thereafter, follow-up programs still be granted, depending on the local situation.
The emphasis of ISARD is on the poor peasant communities in the region. These are mainly ethnic Thami and Pahari communities. Besides the fact that the majority of these people are illiterate, they have no land, or land of very bad quality. For loans in the commercial circuit, they pay very high interest rates, and usually they are not able to turn to government sources to improve their situation. These farmers are very poor, they do not reach the UN subsistence of $ 1.25 per day per person.
At own request villagers learn to read and write. Especially many women take part in literacy courses. Currently there is a lot of demand for these courses. These course often are combined to the establishment of savings groups, from which micro-credit programs arise. These programs are popular because of the reasonable interest rate that are requested, and the fact that the villagers themselves raised the capital and decide on which loans they fund. Here, too, women usually play a major role.