At The One Year Mark: UKaid Sakchyam’s Post-Earthquake BLB Initiative

After the Gorkha Earthquake of April 25th, 2015, there was an urgent need to restore much of the services that were in place before the devastation caused by the earthquake. Among others, an immediate need was felt for the restoration as well as expansion of financial and banking services in earthquake-affected districts, to empower local communities to get back on their feet as soon as possible.

To this end, UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme worked to map out the most viable areas in the 14 earthquake-affected districts keeping in mind factors such as population density, presence of small market places, connectivity as well as dependable electrical power. Sakchyam then partnered with 7 prominent commercial banks through a competitive process to launch the ‘Sakchyam Earthquake Response BLB Programme’. Sakchyam’s partner banks for the BLB Programme are Citizens Bank, Global IME Bank, Nepal Investment Bank, NMB Bank, Rastriya Banijya Bank, Sanima Bank and Siddhartha Bank.

The programme will launch 173 Point of Sale (POS) machine-based Branch Less Banking (BLB) touch points across the 14 districts. These BLBs are allowing people in the districts to access funds from family, government and donor agencies through these agent points. The same channels can also be used to receive social safety payments, salaries, insurance coverage and other payments in a safe manner. The introduction of this alternative delivery channel will help these communities become financially capable, and better prepared in the face of natural disasters.

As of date, 126 BLBs are already in operation throughout the 14 earthquake-affected districts, with over 10,800 transactions. Locals in these areas have opened more than 7300 new bank accounts with total deposits of NPR 16.24 million. Additionally, BLBs have also started to issue micro loans, aiding among others, the expansion of local MSMEs as well as increase capital for agricultural work.

The services available through the BLB touch points include deposit and withdrawal facilities, balance enquiry, money transfer, printing of mini statements, mobile phone top-up and utility bill payments. The availability of BLB services at nearby places has been very beneficial to the locals as it has saved time and money spent on travelling to and from town centres and village hubs to avail simple banking facilities.