(A partnership between UKaid Sakchyam and Bank of Kathmandu)
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 labours. The main source of income is either agriculture or remittance. Aslo presence of Financial Institutions (FIs) 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 6 physical 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.
Introduced ‘Sugarcane Invoice Discounting’ and ‘Kisan Karja’ targeting smallholder farmers which were also covered under our guarantee program.
All of the 6 branches opened in mostly agro-dominant economic locations, these branches reached break even within two years of opening the branches (Branch in Bellauri reached BEP witin first 6 months).
The new bank branches cater to the various 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.
Under this partnership, BOK has disbursed GBP 11.81 million in loans, collected GBP 6.42 million in savings and expanded outreach to 23,884 customers.
Lessons Learnt & Sustainability
- Support from Sakchyam helped the bank to establish branches in rural areas, which are often termed as risky markets. After operating six branches in rural areas the bank has developed the confidence to operate in areas which were cited not suitable for operating bank branches.
- The bank has replicated the specific model of branches established in partnership with Sakchyam to other rural parts of the country.
- The bank has adopted in its core strategy to continuously develop and refine banking products which were developed especially for those 6 branches.
- More resources need to be mobilized to monitor borrowing accounts in a regular interval as the rural customers are from far-flung areas.
This project has successfully concluded.