RAP's economic development component, CONNECT, aimed to boost the economy in the remote Mid and Far West of Nepal by making roads work for the poor. We did this by building partnerships between divergent interest groups including banks, multinationals, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and farmers, focusing on empowerment of players who are poorly represented on the entrepreneurial landscape, such as women and youth.
The CONNECT approach harnessed the commercial opportunities that already exist in the Mid and Far West of Nepal – primarily the production and sale of agricultural services and products - by
- leveraging private sector investment and interest in commercial opportunities by reducing the risks of investment in Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to enable the scale up of enterprises and
- strengthening the enabling environment to promote entrepreneurship and increase access to business opportunities for individuals, particularly women and youth.
CONNECT worked on improving subsistence farmers' livelihoods by helping them access credit cheaply and shift to commercial agriculture. Over 2,000 farmers have entered long term buy-back agreements with CONNECT's nine business partners, which range from MSMEs to multinationals. Additionally, CONNECT has selected 100 high potential women in the Mid and Far West of Nepal, who have been trained and appointed by our partner Unilever Nepal Limited as rural sales agents.
Our work is not just benefitting rural communities, who now have access to essential products and job and income opportunities. CONNECT business partners such as Prabhu Bank Limited and Unilever Nepal Limited are benefitting too, as they have extended their reach to remote areas.
We are connecting our MSME partners directly with national retailers and international importers, enabling them to shift from being local traders to official suppliers of mass markets.
As they can now bypass the two - three layers of traders above them in the supply chain, the price of the products they sell is going down and consumer demand is increasing. Moreover, thanks to CONNECT, small businesses can access finance more easily.
CONNECT helpied women to open bank accounts as well as acknowledging them as the managers of the land they farm, regardless of land ownership records being in the names of male family members. We are also offered women leadership roles such as the CONNECT Yuva Vayus, who help commercial farmer groups have their voices heard within their community and beyond.
To promote youth entrepreneurship, we partnered with local colleges to establish satellite business incubation centres and the Future Entrepreneurs’ Clubs. These will serve as forums for peer to peer learning, business mentoring and raising awareness of arising opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs to hear success stories from the region and wider. As part of our partnership with Kathmandu University, Nepal’s number one-ranked business school, 10 students from the MBA programme completed a three-week internship in rural businesses.
What were we doing?
Reducing Risk to Investment
Strategic Planning: We were supporting the private sector to develop internal capacity for strategic planning, strengthening management capacity and systems and sustainability.
Capacity Building: We were offering customised assistance to enable successful outcomes that are jointly defined with the private sector partner. Our capacity building support spanned many areas including recruitment, technical, human resource and supplier mobilization.
Facilitating Access to Finance: We tailored financial packages to provide start-up and scale-up capital and supplementary financial support to partners while also reducing the risk to financing institutions.
Improving the Enabling Environment
Empowering Local Leadership: We facilitated smart empowering partnerships to benefit women in agriculture and in business.
Promoting Entrepreneurship: We worked with knowledge partners to increase business knowledge, self-confidence and aspiration for doing business, encouraging participation of youth and women because this as critical for equity as well as local economic growth.