Most rural and semi-urban areas in the mid and far-western districts of Nepal have small populations scattered over regions that are difficult to reach. The economic landscape of these areas is quite basic – markets consist of small retail outlets and eateries. Most of the youth work abroad as migrant labour. The main source of income is either agriculture or remittance. Energy is not available and presence of financial institutions is limited to district headquarters.
Due to the low footprint of formal financial institutions, especially commercial banks, local people have to rely on informal money lenders or local financial institutions which charge higher rates of interest, fees and have limited financial capacities. Majority of these rural populations also lack financial literacy to make prudent financial decisions to improve their livelihoods.
With UKaid Sakchyam’s support, Bank of Kathmandu (BoK) has established a total of 6 new branches in Belauri of Kanchanpur, Bhaluwang of Dang, Bijuwar of Pyuthan, Devdaha of Rupandehi, Lamki of Kailali and Rajapur of Bardiya district. Most of these locations have been recently upgraded to municipalities with a potential to develop as commercial hubs. BoK has also leveraged its experience of working with local FIs, cooperatives in the past to ensure the people living in remote locations have access to funds to invest in productive areas such as livestock farming, vegetable farming and small-scale entrepreneurships through such FIs/cooperatives.
The new bank branches cater to the numerous banking needs of the local population – a majority of whom belong to the Tharu and other disadvantaged groups. Women and farmers will have access to a number of segment-specific financial products that the bank will offer; agro business firms, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) will be able to benefit from existing and new financial products that will be designed to meet specific and seasonal needs; general households will have a trusted financial institution to receive and route their remittance, along with various saving options.
As of March 2018, BoK has launched 6 branches and 11 BLBs through which more than 22,000 accounts have opened collecting NPR 844 million worth of deposits and disbursing over NPR 1.4 billion in loans.