For more than a decade, development in much of mid-western region of Nepal was arrested by a civil war that used its scenic villages as its headquarters. Infrastructure such as schools, health posts, bridges, and numerous government and non-government offices were destroyed. Agricultural and animal husbandry were disturbed as able youth (between 18-39 years) were recruited as guerrilla soldiers. And education took a backseat as schools became command centres. Access to essential services such as education, health and finance were cut off.
One of the essential elements required to recover from such destruction is access to financial services. The challenges related to access to finance faced by these communities are: a lack of financial services in rural and remote regions – financial institutions are more likely to open branches in district headquarters than in rural areas; marginalized groups remain as backward as ever; women are overburdened not only by their household chores but also with micro-finance services. Most microfinance institutions target women as their clients – however in many cases, they borrow the cash and transfer it to their husbands. Other challenges are a lack of financial products targeted to remittance-earning Nepalese migrant workers; lack of basic financial skills on the part of rural households; lack of technical skills; absence of use of modern technology to promote inclusive finance; and limited impact assessment of developmental works as and when they happen.
UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme (Sakchyam) has supported Nepal Women Community Service Centre (NWCSC), a financial non-government organization (FINGO) to enhance financial access in remote areas of Dang, Rolpa, Rukum, Salyan and Pyuthan. Through this partnership, 5 new branches have opened in those districts targeting women and marginalized groups such as DAGs and households affected by the civil war. The branches have continued to provide NWCSC’s various savings and loan products, adapt existing product and or design new products depending on specific client needs. To align their beneficiaries with improved financial services, financial literacy campaigns – to help beneficiaries make informed financial decisions, as well as technical training – to allow locals to start SME/MSMEs, have also been launched as part of the project.
Sakchyam’s support to NWCSC in its various initiatives has resulted in improved access to financial services for beneficiaries who were out of range of available financial institutions. NWCSC’s understanding of the needs of beneficiaries in the region coupled with innovative financial services has helped boost economic activity, support real needs such as for remittance earners, and help launch multiple small enterprises as a result of the financial literacy and skill training. Such a holistic approach to access to finance has been a step towards helping the region recover and move into a more sustainable and secure future.
As of September 2018 NWCSC has,
- Established 10 new branches reaching over 9,700 beneficiaries
- Disbursed more than 14,600 loans worth at GBP 2 million and collected more than GBP 766 K in savings
- Designed and launched Migration Loan product; disbursed more than 400 Migration Loans valued at GBP 346 K and performed over 12,300 remittance transactions valued at GBP 2,799K
- Started implementing EDS Activities, with the technical support of Berendina Microfinance, and issued more than 1200 coupons and trained over 60 clients