Nepal: Boosting entrepreneurship among poor rural women

 Chitrakali weaving material out of Allo yarn in her hometown. Photo: UNDP Nepal
Chitrakali weaving material out of Allo yarn in her hometown. Photo: UNDP Nepal

Chitrakali Budhamagar began her career in 2003 collecting yarn made out of 'allo' (Himalayan nettle) and selling it in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu. With the money she made selling yarn, she bought readymade garments to sell in her home village of Pyuthan, in the western part of the country.


  • Since its creation in 1998, the project has helped more than 60,000 impoverished people become entrepreneurs.
  • Nearly 3 quarters of programme participants have moved out of poverty (73.1%).
  • The cost of helping 1 beneficiary become an entrepreneur is just 19,875 rupees (US$ 272).
  • The government of Nepal has embraced the model and plans to expand the programme to all of the country's 75 districts.

Born to a poor peasant family, Chitrakali had few other options. However, in 2005, opportunity knocked.

She enrolled in a three-month skills development training programme supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other bilateral partners, and learned how to make a variety of allo products, including cloth materials, bags, tea coasters, mobile phone covers and wristbands.

“We micro-entrepreneurs need to expand our business,” Chitrakali said. “The women involved in this business should be trained in diversifying their products and enhancing their quality to survive in a competitive market.”

She was also able to secure a loan of Rs. 8,000 (U$105) from Nepal’s Agricultural Development Bank to start her own weaving business. An additional loan of Rs. 50,000 (US$ 655) helped her expand her business.

Chitrakali now has 12 employees - all rural women - and her monthly income ranges from Rs. 45,000 to 90,000 ($589 to $1178). She plans to expand her business even further by sourcing allo products from 2500 other women.

She has become a respected business leader and plays an active role in industry associations, traveling often to Kathmandu and other cities to participate in handicraft exhibitions that promote her business.  She hopes that by establishing strong marketing links at home and abroad she will cash in on the allo export market, which is currently small but has potential for growth.

Most importantly, Chitrakali is a motivator for other women. She provides training in allo-processing and yarn-making to hundreds of women in neighbouring villages, opening the door to gainful employment for them as well.

“The training and guidance provided by the programme, my perseverance and family support are the reasons behind my success,” she says.

In addition to Chitrakali, the programme has helped over 60,000 entrepreneurs (68% of them women) enhance their careers since it began in 1998. More than 70 percent of the participating families moved out of poverty and about 80 percent of the enterprises started under the project continue to do business today.

The programme currently covers 38 of Nepal’s 75 districts and its success has led the government to allocate substantial funding to local government bodies to replicate the model across the country under its new Micro-enterprise Development for Poverty Alleviation Scheme. The initiative has been extended until 2017, with Au$32.3 million in funding from Australia and a total budget of US $34.2 million.

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