Migrant worker returns to Nepal to build new business and rebuild life

Man in Nepal smiles in front of his factory
After years of working as a wage labourer, carpenter Dhal Bahadur Karki started a successful furniture factory with the help of a micro-enterprise programme in Nepal. (Photo: UNDP Nepal)

Dhal Bahadur Karki, 37, spent much of his adult life working as a wage labourer. A skilled carpenter, he worked at various furniture factories in Kathmandu and Banepa, Nepal. Frustrated by being underpaid and having unstable employment, he paid a local human resources agent a hefty sum to help him travel to the UAE as a migrant worker.

Highlights

  • The Programme works in 38 of Nepal's 75 districts and has helped develop more than 8,000 enterprises and 62,000 jobs.
  • The initiative has led to 73 percent of participating households moving out of poverty.
  • About 80 percent of the enterprises created under the project continue to do business.
  • Almost 70 percent of new micro-entrepreneurs are women, and more than half are youth.
  • The programme has been extended until 2017, with funding from Australia and a total budget of US $34.2 million.

But when he reached Dubai, he didn’t get the carpenter job he was promised. Instead, he was forced to work as a labourer for low wages.

More troubles followed when, after more than a year of work, he had not earned enough to repay the approximately US $1,200 he had paid to the employment agent.

“I thought, in any case, my life was not going to be better, and therefore, escaped from the factory and started working on my own,” Karki says.

Not long after, local authorities detained him for working illegally and deported him back to Nepal. Back home, he was faced with more troubles: no job, a family of six to take care of and the social stigma of returning from abroad without having earned any money.

“I was almost depressed,” Karki says.

At this point, an opportunity from the Micro-Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP), the government of Nepal and UNDP’s poverty reduction initiative, came as a beacon of hope.  The programme provides training in skills and business to the poor and disadvantaged, helping them set up small businesses. The programme works in 38 of Nepal's 75 districts and has helped create about 62,000 sustainable jobs.

“I had carpentry skills but had no idea about entrepreneurship, loan facilities and market linkages. MEDEP helped me realize the potential of starting up an enterprise in which I could work as well as own an enterprise,” Karki added.

The initiative also helped him develop a business plan for a furniture factory in his neighbourhood. He and four others joined to create the Developed Micro Enterprise Group and started a furniture factory. MEDEP helped the group to purchase equipment for the factory, acquire and update their skills, secure a loan for the start-up and create market linkages.

Karki now employs five staff members at his furniture factory at Namdu, some 150 kilometres from the capital city of Kathmandu. In less than four years, his factory has earned a reputation for quality furniture, including tables, chairs, sofas, cupboards and other products. His products have found a market as far away as Kathmandu.

The average MEDEP micro-entrepreneur earns more than twice what they earned before joining the programme. Phase 3 of the project, which ran from 2008 to 2012, had a budget of US $14.1 million and was funded by UNDP, Australia and Canada. The project 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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