Lessons about donations in Nepal

By September 24, 2015 General 2 Comments

If i have to believe the local stories, the number of millionaires that have sprung up in Nepal since the earthquake is staggering, and saddening. Money that has been sent to help has often stayed in circles of people who do not need it, but took advantage of their connections. Whereas people who do need a helping hand where/are literally left in ruins. Conversations I have had here have reinforced my belief and feeling that foreign aid, donations and government are not the way to help the Nepali peoples (and likely other underdeveloped economies).

Trying to better understand the current needs, I spoke with several local business owners and an entrepreneurship lecturer. Lots of interesting insights but in terms of development, it all comes back to one thing; the need for more employment opportunities. Every day +/-2000 young workers leave Nepal for Malaysia, Qatar, UAE, etc. to join the labour force to earn money to sent back home to support their families. Knowledge and skills are literally flying out of the country. People leave because there are little to no opportunities in the cities or villages they come from. This is why I strongly believe (perhaps still naively so) that entrepreneurship is a way forward and out of poverty. If through entrepreneurship additional employment opportunities can also be created, it is one step closer to independence and a sustainable way of living.

On that note, I visited a Paper Factory in Dulagauda about an hour outside Pokhara. The factory was started 7 months ago by Santos, who recently graduated university in Kathmandu. The factory employs 24 people, mostly women who have been cast-out of their villages or families. People work 6 days a week and are free to fill in their own working hours. They are paid on a commission bases depending on the number of sheets of lokta* (paper) they produce per day. At the moment the factory (which is basically a line of manual workstations) produces about 3000 sheets (A1) of handmade Nepali paper per day. Santos is looking to expand to 5000 sheets per day this coming week by expanding the workstations. Seeing what Santos has build up with the help of his family really inspired me. What would be needed to create more of such businesses?
Santos has put me in touch with some young entrepreneurs who have set up a micro-venture capital firm that invests in social entrepreneurship business plans rural areas in Nepal. I am meeting with them later this week. Looking forward to hear more about what they do and if there are any opportunity there, to be continued…
*What is Lokta?
Lokta is handmade paper from the bark of Daphne Bhoula or Daphne Papyracea bushes that grow in the himalayan range between 1600 – 4000m. When harvested, the lokta bush automatically regenerates to a fully grown 4-5 meter plant with in 5–7 years. It is Nepal’s indigenous paper making processes.
Lokta paper’s durability and resistance to tearing, humidity, insects and mildew. Today the handmade paper industry in Nepal is growing at a rate of 15% per year.
  • Postcard: May 2003 – Birthday card – sprout blooming up, time for new ideas and opportunities 😉
  • Photo: September 2015 – Dulagauda – Employees of Suklagandaki Paper Company hard at work
  • Inspiring book: The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits – C.K. Prahalad

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