Promoting Innovative Solutions: 2021 in Review

Snapshots of some of the promising innovative solutions promoted by UNDP in Nepal in 2021

Posted May 23, 2022
Two houses

How do we address development challenges of increasing complexity that confront our society today? Our resources are limited and are certain to get even scarcer in the future. We must find smart solutions so that we can make the most out of few resources. UNDP believes in the human ability to innovate efficient and effective solutions that add value for those affected by these development challenges – people and their governments. In 2021, UNDP was able to prototype and introduce a number of unique solutions, including in areas of waste recycling, clean mobility, agriculture, housing safety, legal aid services, and market access. Many of these solutions have the potential to be scaled up further to substantively ease the business of the government, the private sector, local communities, and the general public.



UNDP Accelerator this year introduced a new technology to make bricks out of non-recyclable plastic waste. Developed and tested by Green Roads Waste Management Private Limited (GRWM) with technical and financial support from UNDP’s Accelerator Lab, the new technology aims to help sustainably reduce and manage multi-layered plastic waste while also providing a viable business opportunity for the private sector. Adding 1 percent plastic to the brick mixture reduces the overall weight of a brick by nearly 10 percent, making the bricks lighter than conventional ones. A technical team from Pokhara Metropolitan City Office has recommended the use of these bricks for non-load-bearing structures. In terms of volume, around 40,000 pieces of noodle and biscuit wrappers were utilized in a demonstration toilet that was handed over to Pokhara Metropolitan City on 1st September 2021. One normal size room can consume up to 100 kg of non-recyclable plastic waste. More importantly, this process can easily be adopted by brick manufacturing companies. According to Netra Prasad Timilsina, an engineer with the Planning Division of Pokhara Metropolitan City Office, the plastic bricks have passed the compressibility strength and can be used in non-load bearing structures like pavements and small construction units (read more about this).


UNDP Nepal, with funding from the Government of India, supported the development of a 20-tonne shock table facility at the Tribhuwan University Institute of Engineering’s Pulchowk Campus. The facility will allow engineers to test the resilience of different models of Nepali houses against shocks from earthquakes in a controlled environment. Model houses that need testing are built on the shock table, which is mounted on six rollers to allow longitudinal movement of the platform. While testing, a two-tonne pendulum installed at one end of the platform imparts the desired acceleration through an impact. Springs installed at the far end force the table to move back-and-forth, mimicking the movement of the ground during an earthquake. The table generates scientific and engineering data that will assist in proving the effectiveness of retrofitting techniques specific to materials used traditionally in Nepal. During the first test, which was conducted in November 29, 2021 with two house types, the shock table demonstrated that retrofitted houses are capable of withstanding major impacts whereas non-engineered houses succumb to even minor impacts.   

 Records show that a major cause behind the loss of property and human life was the destruction of buildings, particularly those made of stone and mud mortar since they are highly vulnerable to shocks. While these buildings are sustainable from a socio-cultural and economic perspective, leaving behind a minimal carbon footprint, potential losses can be significantly reduced if they are made earthquake-resistant by incorporating new technologies in the initial construction or by retrofitting vulnerable buildings. But research and education about earthquake-resistant construction using local construction materials are required. This is what the shock table is expected to deliver on. Such scientific evidence will contribute to ‘clearing the air’ around retrofitting as a viable and cost-effective option for building earthquake risk resilience in Nepal (read more).


Confronted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Nepal came up with a new digital solution to make its bureaucracy more efficient. The Ministry of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (MoLJPA), on 27 September 2021, unveiled an online course on the basics of law drafting. The course aims to impart basic knowledge and skills on law drafting processes to entry-level professionals who will support legislation at all levels of government -- federal, provincial, and local. Government officials said that the course would not have been developed had it not been for COVID-19 and its impacts on people’s mobility.

Developed with support from the Enhancing Access to Justice through Institutional Reform Project, a joint project of the MoLJPA and UNDP, the online training package is expected to benefit over 2,000 legal officers working in different levels of government across the country. “This is part of the ministry's efforts to adopt innovation in capacity building. The online course will provide basic skills that a legal officer is expected to acquire in order to carry out their duties,” said Udaya Raj Sapkota, MoLJPA secretary. Over 36 legal officers have already enrolled in the online course while seven completed it before they were deployed at the federal and provincial levels (read more).


Free legal aid for the marginalized and the poor is key to ensuring equal access to justice for all. UNDP, through its Enhancing Access to Justice through Institutional Reform Project (A2J), supported justice sector institutions to formulate the necessary policies and guidelines to formalize free legal aid services, including the Integrated Legal Aid Policy and a special protocol for lawyers from the Nepal Bar Association to provide free legal aid. In line with these provisions, the government has been providing free legal aid services to women and vulnerable populations through its District Legal Aid Committees (DLAC) in 48 districts. The free legal aid services are provided by lawyers supervised by the DLAC. However, in the absence of an efficient online system, service seekers were facing several problems, including delays, document losses, lack of uniformity, and difficulties in content management and sharing of information.

 Through the A2J project, UNDP in 2021 supported the Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs (MoLJPA) to develop an online reporting system -- -- to centralize reporting of free legal aid services from across the country. Legal aid lawyers from 48 districts can now enlist their work in the centralized database system and track progress. In 2021, lawyers from 45 districts were able to report more than 2,000 cases from the field through this reporting system. The online system is expected to support the government’s effort to implement its constitutional obligation to guarantee the right to free legal aid for the vulnerable and needy. 



Waste management has been a major challenge for many of Nepal’s newly emerging urban settlements. In Tilottama Municipality, a fast growing city in Lumbini, UNDP introduced vermicomposting -- a simple technology for converting biodegradable waste into organic manure with the help of earthworms -- as a sustainable and eco-friendly solution to household waste management. Local farmers have received basic training and logistical support to help them start vermicomposting at the household level. Over 1,000 local farmers -- 67 percent of them women -- are currently practicing vermicomposting, supporting Tilottama municipality’s plan to become a green city. Funded under UNDP’s Rapid Financing Facility, the Promoting Green Recovery Project (PGRP) has been working with five municipalities, including Tilottama, to improve household and municipal waste management systems.

 “Vermicomposting has worked wonders for our produce,” said Devendra Prasad Niure, a recipient of the PGRP-supported training.

According to his wife, Sita Niure, they planted two sets of cauliflower of the same seed and at the same time. One set used vermicomposting while the other used traditional means of composting.

“The results all pointed in favour of vermicomposting. The cauliflowers that received vermicompost are healthier and are growing at a quicker pace,” said Sita.

 Currently, only a few suppliers provide the special earthworms suitable for household-level vermicomposting as they require special breeding facilities. With more farmers turning to vermicomposting, the demand for earthworms has increased, leading to new business opportunities for the private sector. 

Photos: Laxmi Ngakhushi/UNDP Nepal & CCNN


Greenway is a unique partnership that UNDP has forged with Nepal’s private sector to promote cycling as an alternative mode of transport. Users can download the Greenway smartphone app from Google’s Playstore to track their cycle rides and join a group competition that provides incentives and rewards. In the first year of its launch, over 6,000 cyclists took part in this campaign, which is managed through both manual and automatic cash incentive systems. Co-funded by UNDP and Ncell Axiata Limited, Greenway has so far incentivized 51,000 kilometres of cycle rides, particularly for students and workers, leading to the reduction of 26 tonnes of carbon. The project, which is implemented by Cycle City Network Nepal, has partnered with Kantipur Media Group, NMB Bank, IME Pay and various city municipalities. 

 The Government of Nepal’s National Plan for Electric Mobility (NPEM) envisions improving air quality through a 50 percent reduction in the use of fossil fuels, among several other means, by 2050 and to decrease air pollution through the proper monitoring of sources of pollutants from old and unmaintained vehicles and industries. Promoting cycling in cities is a low-cost and sustainable method to reach that target.

The Greenway campaign is also partnering with over half a dozen schools across the country to encourage and incentivize students to cycle to schools.

Photo: Dinesh Bista and Dhan Chand


With the support of UNDP and local governments, a large swath of riverside and riverbed land in Mahottari and Dhanusha districts have been turned into lush green vegetable farms, directly benefiting over 2,100 people, most of them from poor and historically marginalized groups. The project also provides seeds, chemical fertilizers, technical know-how, and irrigation facilities to support families engaged in riverbed farming.

In Mahottari, an area of over 55 hectares on the banks of the Soni River has been fenced, plotted, and distributed for agricultural use. Plots were divided into 130 sections and allocated to individual farmers to grow vegetables and fruits. Socially and economically marginalized communities living around Kusmadhi village in Gaushala Municipality in Mahottari have been directly benefiting from the programme as they now have secured a stable source of income.

Sixteen-year-old Bina Kumari Raut says that the multi-layer farming project has brought about positive changes in her life as it has started providing a stable income for her family. She has planted tomatoes, brinjals, and bitter gourd, among other vegetables.

 “I could only study till Grade 7 as I had to drop out due to our weak economic condition. But now, I am happy that I am able to help my family grow and sell vegetables,” said Raut, who hopes to be able to resume her education.

This riverbed revitalization project has a strong focus on gender and social inclusion, which is expected to help to address the exclusion and inequality that is prevalent in the area. Province 2, where the project area lies, ranks the lowest among Nepal’s provinces in terms of Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 5: Gender Equality) indicators [See UNDP infographics].

Photos: MDI Nepal


With support from the UNDP-managed Global Environment Facility Small Grant Programme, the Manahari Development Institute (MDI) introduced aquaponics, an innovative technique that combines agriculture with fishery in ponds and wetlands. Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (raising plants without soil), where plants are grown with minimal or no soil. Plants grown under this system use waste from fish farming as their nutrient source. As a result, the system has multiple advantages: it uses less water than traditional agriculture and the waste generated by the fish is recycled. The plants do not need chemical fertilizer and they also serve as cleaning agents. This system can help clean water sources while at the same time, addressing food security and providing healthy food supplements. 

Aquaponics has been tested successfully in Makwanpur and is expected to help increase productivity and income for Nepal’s fish farmers. It’s a one-time investment for farmers that will bring multiple benefits,” according to Khop Narayan Shrestha, executive chair of MDI Nepal. Shrestha was able to earn NRs. 18,000 (US$150) from a 3 cubic meter tank within a period of 7 months. "Besides fish (Tilapia), vegetables like tomato and colocasia production has been satisfactory. We are also testing with other fishes and vegetables and monitoring water quality parameters," said Shrestha adding he was excited with the results, as the technology is helpful in increasing productivity and income for the fish farmers in Nepal and has potential to be scaled up across the country.


COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on Nepal’s economy, particularly in the food and agriculture sector. In 2021, the Nepal government and UNDP’s Cooperative Market Development Programme (CMDP), with technical support from UNDP Accelerator Lab, developed a digital platform, ‘’ (Agriculture Cooperatives Bazaar). CMDP is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives, and Poverty Alleviation (MoLCPA) and UNDP. 

This new digital portal is helping facilitate transactions between farmers and customers while addressing issues related to food security by ensuring greater access to, and more reliable supply of, food. This outlet is available on the web and as mobile applications on both Android and iOS platforms. The platform aims to link farmers’ cooperative markets directly with consumers. It can help safeguard the livelihoods of farmers by directly supplying fresh fruits, vegetables, and other agro-based commodities to consumers. It is expected to help bring farmers’ cooperatives into the e-commerce sector so that they can build digital connections for greater outreach. At present, the platform is undergoing testing for two of the seven cooperative markets under the CMDP and will be scaled up after analysing the test results. Once rolled out, the platform is expected to expand the service area of cooperatives, promote local production, and reduce the number of agro-imports.

Preparing raw material for refuse derived fuel (RDF) using a locally made shredding machine. Non recyclable plastics (50%) and waste papers are shredded and mixed to prepare RDF. Photo: CEEN

Technical experts testing the emission level of RDF in a clay craft factory in Timi, Bhaktapur. Photo: Santosh Das Shrestha/UNDP Nepal

Refuse derived fuel (RDF), the final product.


UNDP’s Accelerator Lab, together with Avni Ventures and the Centre for Energy and Environment Nepal (CEEN), was able to test the potential of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) from non-recyclable plastic waste from cement and clay-craft factories. Feeding in plastic as fuel at the Ghorahi Cement Factory showed a 7,500 Kcal calorific value, providing the potential to replace at least 5 percent of imported coal in the future. Similarly, RDF from non-recyclable plastics and paper in a 1:1 ratio has a calorific value of around 5,500 Kcal with the potential to replace firewood in pottery factories. These show the viability of using waste as fuel and have been submitted to the Department of Environment for further analysis so that they can be promoted at an enterprise scale. Together with CEEN, Accelerator Lab was also able to develop a locally made shredding machine to complement this entire process.



Good governance begins with an accountable government and efficient public service delivery. In order to strengthen local and provincial governments’ capacity to effectively handle grievances, UNDP Nepal launched an initiative to support and develop the Nepal government’s existing Hello Sarkar and Hello Chief Minister programme. The initiative aims to allow governments to measure, monitor, and respond to grievances through digital technologies such as machine learning, chatbots, and data analytics tools. The project will work with Hello Sarkar and Hello Chief Minister to not only receive complaints but also secure data to measure and monitor the sources and types of grievances, mobilize justice actors to enhance the responsiveness of the concerned government bodies, and engage with various civil society organizations and interest groups to encourage inclusive public services. 

In 2021, the initiative identified baseline needs and capacities of local and provincial governments in its recent needs assessment in Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces. In 2022, the initiative plans to strengthen the complaint handling mechanism to be used actively at the provincial and local levels to report cases regarding accountability, corruption, mal-governance, and delay in service delivery. Furthermore, the initiative will provide technical support to map corruption at the provincial and local levels through data digitization, disaggregation, and analytics tools. Women and marginalized groups, especially at the local level, will have better access to information about public services and grievance mechanisms while building the capacity to use them.



UNDP Nepal together with WHO supported the Government of Nepal Ministry of Health and Population in digitalizing the COVID-19 vaccine management process, particularly the pre-registration, which not just helped bring efficiency in what was the largest-ever vaccine drive but also ensured no one is left behind. In a period of six months since June 2021, the project helped digitize the vaccine registration of over 500,000 people in 7 municipalities. The project aims to ensure that no one is left behind from accessing the COVID-19 vaccination, ensure equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccine across population and communities, reduce hassle and crowd during COVID-19 vaccination session, ensue vaccine safety monitoring for long term care of risk communities and instantly provide globally acceptable proof of vaccination certification.

Photo: Satish Pandey/UNDP Nepal



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