During the course of the Inter-regional Project for Participatory Upland Conservation and Development 32 User Groups, including 8 Women Groups, have been formed to date. The Women Groups differ from the general user groups in several respects: they consist of women only; most of them were formed spontaneously; and they are usually focused on income generation and welfare, whereas the general user groups were often formed to implement and manage infrastructures.
The women groups in the project area (Bhusunde Khola watershed) have certain recurrent weaknesses. such as: vague group constitutions, with very broad and unattainable objectives; lack of awareness of the objectives of their self-set group constitution, or of their rights and responsibilities within the groups; and insufficient managerial and organizational skills to secure a long-lived fruitful existence of the groups.
From the point of view of watershed management, women are very important as users and managers of natural resources. Women are therefore a major target group in the participatory approach to integrated watershed management, and need to be supported by specific training in both managerial and technical skills (income generating activities).
The objectives of the Leadership Development and Management Training were: to teach local women a process of local leadership and management techniques, as a result of which they will be able to develop realistic group constitutions. effective meetings, record keeping systems, and so on; to motivate existing women groups: and to develop lesson modules for leadership development and management training that are adapted to the local field situation and can be replicated.
Lesson plans were developed based on the FAO publication "The Group Promotor's Resource Book, a practical guide to building rural self-help groups", topics included: features of a successful participatory user group; basic principles of group formation; how to make a group constitution; participatory leadership; what is a record keeping system; roles and responsibilities of a management committee; income generating; inter-group association; and participatory monitoring and evaluation. These lesson plans serve mainly as a backbone, while most depends on the actual oral presentation by the trainers.
Three local resource persons were identified and provided with a trainers training of two days during which the lesson modules and their presentation were extensively discussed, modified and finalized.
A total 59 women of 8 women groups (all members of management committees) were trained in two day sessions in their own villages during the period of 13-28 April 1995. The training sessions were often conducted in the evenings, women being too busy during the day to attend. The costs involved in the training were about NRs 15,000 (US$ 300), or about NRs 250 (US$ 5) per trainee.
The training was overall very well appreciated by the participants. Its impact on the beneficiaries, was evaluated by 91 % of the women as good or excellent; 40% of the participants found the time allocated for the training too shoe, and only 5 % found it too long.
The leadership development and management training should be seen as an initial training to improve the process of women group formation and performance. It is recommended to systematically conduct such training in all existing and newly formed user groups.
It is recommended to monitor the performance of the trained women groups through regular visits of the project motivators; and to organize follow-up with training courses in specific management and technical skills.
Any organization or project working through people's participation and using the concept of (user) group formation is recommended to use the FAO publication "The Group Promotor's Resource Book, a practical guide to building rural self-help groups" as an important resource in design and implementation of their programs.