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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

The Roles of "For-Profit" and "Not-For-Profit" Organizations: A Study of Irrigation in Nepal

Colleen Duncan

The Roles of "For-Profit" and "Not-For-Profit" Organizations: A Study of Irrigation in Nepal

During the past decades the international aid sector has changed dramatically as a result of shifting funding requirements, a better understanding of the causes of enduring poverty and increased decentralization.  The roles of aid agencies and for-profit consultancies in developing countries and infrastructure services need to be re-examined within this emerging context. The responsibilities and actions of different organizations are explored by investigating three projects in Nepal’s irrigation sector.  The purpose is to analyze their strengths and weaknesses against a set of sustainable development criteria, thereby comparing the operations and responsibilities of various organizations and drawing out development focused recommendations for the future.

Understanding the actual operations of the for-profit (FP) and not-for-profit (NFP) sectors is best approached in a case based manner.  This dissertation examines some of the organizations working in the Nepali irrigation sector.  The organizations and their respective projects are:

• Mott MacDonald (FP) – Rajapur Irrigation Rehabilitation Project
• CARE Nepal (NFP) – Strengthened Actions for Governance in Utilization of Natural Resources (SAGUN)
• International Development Enterprises (NFP) – Smallholder Irrigation Market Initiative (SIMI)

Operating at different levels of the aid spectrum, delivering services on different scales, and responding to different goals and motivations, each organization excels at a particular set of skills.   However, a combination of these competencies is required to improve essential services, meet the Millennium Development Goals and respond to growing national pressures. Both the government’s top-down policy of employing consultancies and the bottom-up approach of stakeholder involvement promoted by non-governmental organizations will be needed.  Improved understanding and appreciation by both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors of the value and need for the variety of skills offered in each organization is therefore essential to address the requirements of economic opportunity, social inclusion and environmental protection within the existing political and technological context.

Collaborative partnerships, subcontracting and learning alliances offer some possibilities for improved organization relationships and appropriate use of their unique talents.  A pro-poor focus from inception to delivery and real stakeholder participation, requiring inter-departmental cooperation and increased contract flexibility, are equally needed to ensure that the government’s, donor’s and agencies’ goals of poverty reduction and effective delivery are met and sustained.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.