KATHMANDU, Nepal — The U.S. Agency for International Development recently launched the Business Literacy project in Nepal. This $4 million project will teach 48,000 people living in 20 districts in the West, Midwest and Far-west regions of Nepal business skills such as literacy, numeracy, financial management, entrepreneurship and other life skills.
Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat launched the project as a three-year program part of the Feed the Future Initiative, a five-year, $66 million initiative that will raise incomes and increase business opportunities for those in vulnerable communities in Nepal.
Even though the Business Literacy project was only launched earlier this month, the idea itself is not completely new. USAID has already provided more than 32,000 youth, women and other members of Nepal’s midwestern region with entrepreneurial literacy training.
Due to the success of that training program, USAID is now expanding on that program with the Business Literacy project to continuously empower youth, women and developing communities within Nepal.
“We know from experience that linking health, nutrition and entrepreneurial literacy activities to agriculture greatly increases the chances of lifting people out of poverty,” said Beth Dunford, USAID’s mission director to Nepal.
Nepal faces challenges such as poverty, disease and illiteracy, especially after the decade-long civil war this nation endured from 1996 to 2006.
According to USAID’s estimates, Nepal’s gross domestic product per capita is $524, making Nepal one of the poorest nations in South Asia. With the international poverty line equaling $1.25 a day, approximately 25 percent of the entire population in Nepal lives below this poverty line.
Disease often accompanies high levels of poverty, and chronic malnutrition is a serious health issues that many Nepalis face. According to the 2011 Nepal Demographic Health Survey outlining children’s nutritional status, 41 percent are stunted, meaning they are too short for their age, 11 percent are wasted (too thin for their height) and 29 percent are underweight.
Although malnutrition is highly prevalent all across Nepal, differences can be seen among socioeconomic groups. For example, 42 percent of stunted children live in rural areas while only 27 percent live in urban areas.
Literacy is one of the many essential skills required to succeed and grow in business, but with the illiteracy rate so high in Nepal, especially among women, the entire nation is limited in its economic development capabilities. About 75 percent of women living in Nepal are illiterate.
Nepal has one of the highest illiteracy rates among low-income countries.
As evidence suggests, agricultural productivity and nutrition levels increase while poverty decreases when women’s status is improved. This program will work to empower both developing communities and women to yield strong and sustainable results.
Along with USAID, the Business Literacy project will be implemented by two non-governmental organizations in Nepal: DEPROSC-Nepal and Samijhauta. USAID will also work alongside the Nepal government’s Non-Formal Education Center, Village Development Committees and District Education Offices.
With assistance from these organizations, USAID is working to combat those economic and social structural barriers in Nepal that prevent many from accessing education and a productive livelihood.
– Meghan Orner
Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, The DHS Program, E Kantipur