Micro businesses lift rural Nepalese out of poverty

22 Nov 2011

imageUNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited a micro business fair in rural Nepal, where she met entrepreneurs who have benefited from UNDP's assistance to the country. (Photo: UNDP)

Nepalgunj - Stalls at a fair in Nepal bulged with traditional textiles, art, spices, jewelry, bamboo furniture and food.  The proud owners of these businesses are supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has helped to build up micro businesses in rural areas like Nepalgunj, southwestern Nepal.

More than 80 percent of Nepal’s population lives in rural areas where the lack of income-earning opportunities remains a central cause of the widespread poverty and worsening food security.  Since 1998, UNDP’s micro business project has created jobs for more than 50,000 new entrepreneurs, many of whom are women, young people or Dalits – a marginalized group in Nepal.  The project also targets people with HIV, injecting drug users, and ex-combatants.

“UNDP always promotes what we call inclusive growth, and that growth should reach the furthest corners of the community,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, who went to the Nepalgunj fair with Goodwill Ambassador Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway on the second day of their joint official visit to Nepal.  “What I liked about this particular initiative is that is has been reaching people who had had very low incomes and had been very marginalized.  It’s about making sure that the growth strategies bring everybody’s living standard up, not just the people at the top.”

“It was fantastic to see all of the work that has been done here,” said Crown Prince Haakon. “It is very impressive to see how you all are able to take an idea and make it real through relatively small investments and make it into a viable small business.”

The programme has been so successful that the government has implemented it in 45 districts, with plans to double that number in the next few years.  A 2010 assessment found that this initiative has had a large economic and social impact on its beneficiaries, with 73 percent of its participating households moving out of poverty. About 80 percent of the enterprises begun under the project continue to do business today, and nearly 500 of these micro enterprises have grown to become small enterprises.

Helen Clark and Crown Prince Haakon also inaugurated a new maternity centre in Kamdi Village that began as part of a grassroots project to improve maternal health through female community health volunteers.  The centre was constructed earlier this year with support from UNDP as part of the joint UN local governance programme.  The center will assist nearly 1,800 households in the village and neighboring villages.  UNDP has been at the forefront of programmes supporting local governance and community development in Nepal for two decades.   

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Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway visits Nepal, where he inaugurated a new maternity centre in Kamdi Village. (Photo: UNDP/Kristian Andersen)