During my first week in Nepal as an MBAs Without Borders Advisor for READ Global, I conducted a number of site visits in the Chitwan district of Nepal, a lowland area famous for its tigers, national park, and sweltering heat. This was my first opportunity to see firsthand READ’s work. My assignment was to research small business models in rural areas, and find out if they could be replicated across the country as “sustaining enterprises” that create local jobs and generate income to support READ Centers.
I met with many entrepreneurs who live in villages in which READ operates who produce health food products like turmeric, honey, organic vegetables, and farmed fish.
Unfortunately, most of these entrepreneurs were producing only enough for their families to consume, and sometimes to sell to their neighbors. Although 60% of Nepalis are engaged in some kind of agricultural production, most are limited to selling within their village.
Many of these small-scale farmers told me that they would be able to increase their production if they were able to sell to customers in bigger cities like Kathmandu or Pohkara. In urban areas, they can charge higher prices for products and reach more customers.
Now that I knew that the supply was there, I needed to investigate what the demand was for these types of agricultural products in Nepal.
I interviewed a number of restaurateurs who focus on local and organic products who are unable to consistently find high quality local produce. Often these businesses are not able to offer certain menu items due to lack of ingredients. One restaurateur has someone from his home village in rural Nepal mail him packages of honey, because he can’t find high quality honey in Kathmandu.
Currently, domestic production of vegetables in Nepal does not meet the increasing demands of consumers. Local business owners are eager to source high quality, local products.
Connecting rural agricultural entrepreneurs to larger markets in urban areas proved to be a viable and important business opportunity in Nepal.
READ’s team in Nepal is currently working with the entrepreneurs in the villages in which they operate to strengthen these value chains, assist with marketing, and facilitate distribution networks for their products.
Improving value chain efficiencies in Nepal will not only increase income for entrepreneurs and build wealth in their villages, but it will also contribute to the economic development of Nepal as a whole by reducing reliance on food imports.
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About the guest author:
Kathryn Svobodny, MBAs Without Borders Advisor
Prior to joining MBA Without Borders, I worked in community and economic development in the San Francisco Bay Area for a number of years. I received an MBA from the University of San Francisco and a BA in International Studies from the University of Oregon. I am passionate about small business development, microfinance, and volunteerism.