Farmer with produce
Dear Friends of ETC:
We are pleased to report that our project to help women in rural Nepal start their own small businesses continues to flourish, thanks to YOU!
ETC supports 42 women's groups (total membership: 843) in rural Dolakha, Nepal. Groups hold monthly meetings and are now forming into legally recognized cooperatives, each comprised of several geographically contiguous groups. Cooperatives are the structures that will endure long after ETC's time in this part of Dolakha is finished. As mentioned in previous reports, group members have already been trained in basic literacy and numeracy, and in important business practices such as how to set appropriate prices for their goods and services, how to track income and expenses, etc.
During the first quarter of our 2012/13 program year (July 1 - September 30, 2012), the microcredit funds controlled by the women's groups grew by nearly 9%. All women's group members contribute on a monthly basis to their groups' funds, even if they can manage only a few pennies. Total funds under the women's groups' management exceed $29,000 at the present exchange rate - and keeping in mind that the Nepalese rupee is presently quite weak, and that the cost of living in rural Nepal is very low, $29,000 is a very substantial amount of money!
Since we began working in Dolakha a few years ago, more than 750 women have taken out small loans for "income-generating activities," meaning that these funds have enabled them to start or expand their small businesses. During the first quarter of this program year, 537 women took out loans; more than three-quarters of all these loans supported livestock farming. Goat and chicken farms are especially popular, because they produce milk and eggs as well as meat. Also popular are small retail establishments and tea shops, and semi-commercial vegetable farms. The latter result in income of about $33 per woman per growing cycle, which doesn't sound like much to you and me, but when you consider that most families have been living on a few dollars per day at most (and sometimes on a dollar or less per day), $33 goes a very long way indeed!
As always, the on-time loan repayment rate is extremely high, and the default rate is virtually zero.
The skills and confidence these women have gained is translating into other areas of their lives as well. Not only are they successful entrepreneurs, they are also becoming community leaders. Dozens of women have become engaged in school management committees, rural economic development agencies, and other civic organizations, often in decision-making roles. This would have been unthinkable for them before ETC arrived in their villages and helped them to believe in and develop their own potential.
Thank you again for your vitally important support of this life-changing project. On behalf of all of us at ETC, I want to wish you and your families a very happy holiday season.
Sincerely, Lisa Lyons, Executive Director (U.S.)
Winter melon: a popular crop