Chhatra Chaudhary is our MIS Advisor, working on SmartME, Excel and overall supporting the monitoring (also of e.g., sensors – read Chhatra’s text about it here) – when he is not too busy providing technical support for others in the office. Chhatra is from the neighbouring province, but the mountains of Karnali are still quite exotic, as he grew up in the Terai, cycling in the jungle on the Indian side of the border just to get to school. Currently Chhatra lives with his wife and his two year old son in Birendranagar and works in the main office. However, that doesn’t mean you often see Chhatra in the office as he is considered to be in the field more than all the specialists. So let’s find out what he does in the field – read more about Chhatra in the interview below.
You are SUSWA’s MIS advisor. What does that mean?
MIS stands for Management Information System and is an essential tool for managing data, controlling processes, analyzing information, visualizing data, and making informed decisions within an organization.
As an MIS advisor, I am the primary point of contact for SmartME, a web-based MIS system used by our project. I am responsible for ensuring that all monitoring data is reported according to the monitoring plan, including progress on result indicators, training and event data, and scheme information. I also ensure that Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion indicators are incorporated into the MIS and monitored & reported systematically.
In addition, I oversee the water sensor dashboard data to ensure the functionality of the water system. I regularly review the dashboard data and communicate with Water Users and Sanitation Committees, WUSCs, members or the caretakers of the water system to obtain ground truth information. This enables me to provide support to the WUSCs in maintaining the functionality of the water system.
Furthermore, I work on Geographic Information System, GIS, to create various reporting maps and infographics to support management in making informed decisions. Currently, I am also involved in supporting the capacity building of municipalities for WASH plan preparation.
Overall, my role as an MIS advisor involves managing and analyzing data, monitoring progress, and providing support to ensure the smooth functioning of our project.
What does a normal workday look like for you?
The project is in its initial phase, so everything needs to be set up properly for the coming years. Most of the time I feel like I am working and working but the to-do list is never ending. I usually come to office with some plan of work and as soon as I enter to the office my priorities change.
How did you end up working as a MIS Advisor?
I have worked for many years in the WASH sector including working with RVWRMP phase II, phase III and with NEWAH. Before joining SUSWA I was working with PLGSP – a national flagship program. It’s a governance project and I thought of myself as a WASH guy. So I was therefore looking for some opportunities in the WASH sector. I was already somewhat familiar with SUSWA. But I was not sure about working in SUSWA. One of my friends forwarded the vacancy notice of MIS Advisor at SUSWA to me and I was like this is a higher position that I have had before and I am not ready for this. But many of my friends encouraged me to apply. They reminded me of my qualifications and experience and said ‘this a perfect match for you’ and also told me that this is the time to jump up. So finally I applied and got selected for the post.
My Education background is in Computer Science and I have completed a Master of Computer Application. With my experience in the WASH sector, combined with my expertise in data management and analysis, I am glad that I am contributing to SUSWA’s mission.
You mention feeling at home in the WASH sector, why is that?
During my Bachelor’s degree, I completed an On the Job Trainee program for three months with RVWRMP, an earlier Finland-supported project in Nepal. While working with RVWRMP, developed a store management software for the project. The project was impressed with my work and hired me as a Service Provider for other MIS-related work. This is how my professional carrier started in a WASH project as a MIS person.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job right now is remote monitoring of the water system functionality, which is something new I have been experiencing in SUSWA. Another is travelling to the remote communities and getting to know how people are getting the WASH services.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Currently, I am finding data management quite challenging. However, I believe that with some adjustments and improvements that are underway, SmartME will effectively meet the unique requirements of SUSWA. Working alongside Niras, we are actively making progress toward achieving this goal.
As you have traveled a lot in Karnali, what do you think of it?
I think I have visited the most project municipalities in Karnali than any other SUSWA staff. We call this ‘going to the field’ when we leave the main office. I usually go to the field for capacity development of municipalities in preparing municipal WASH plans, to train municipal WASH unit staffs and to introduce the project in new project municipalities. I have already visited 20 municipalities in Kalikot, Jumla, Mugu, Dolpa, Salyan Jajarkot, Rukum West and Dailekh.
As per my knowledge of other parts of Nepal, Karnali is far behind in terms of development. Lower Karnali like Dailekh, Surkhet and Salyan district are comparatively more developed than the upper Karnali like Dolpa, Mugu and Humla. Though many places are reachable by vehicles, travelling in Karnali is very difficult. Major highways are black top but most of the municipality roads are earthen and/or gravel. During the rainy season it even worse due to landslides. In some cases, roads get swapped out.
Finally, tell us about this big sanitation and household study that you and Govinda (SUSWA Sanitation & Hygiene specialist, read his interview here) have been doing?
SUSWA conducted a baseline study a year ago for setting its targets. The baseline data was collected on a sample basis and the target was set based on this. The sanitation and hygiene targets were also set accordingly. However, we are not sure where to fucus the sanitation and hygiene activities based on the sample data. I mean, in which community, which households (HH) do we need to target? For that we needed exact household data. Therefore, we decided to collect 100% HHs sanitation and hygiene status data of the entire water scheme area in all municipalities we currently work in. We prepared a set of questionnaires based on discussion with the team, and after finalizing, the questionnaire is loaded into KOBO collect – a mobile application. The data is collected using mobile KOBO mobile app by mobilizing the municipal WASH unit staffs. It took around 2 months to complete the data collection. After data collection I prepared a summery sheet and we came to know that there are still some data discrepancies. Then we discussed with the WASH unit team on the findings, and we concluded that some of the schemes’ HH data need to re-collected. After the re-collection of data, analysis is still remaining, so I don’t have results to share yet. This data collection work is not only for the sanitation and hygiene targets but also for the disaggregated water beneficiaries, finding actual disability information in the project area and status of menstrual hygiene for each and every household.