Sahara Nepal – Project 1

SCALING UP ACCESS TO FINANCIAL PRODUCTS AND SERVICES IN RURAL NEPAL

Background

UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme (Sakchyam) is committed to connecting the rural poor, disadvantaged groups, and women to formal financial products and services in order to enable them with choices to save, borrow, invest, and earn. Appropriate design of financial products and services is one of the pre-requisites for meaningful access to finance, especially for the poor living in remote and unbanked regions. Sakchyam believes a paradigm shift is needed in the microfinance sector with innovative and client need based product design and delivery that ensures viability of the products and hence supports competitiveness and sustainability of the institution.

Challenges

Despite a mission to serve the poor, rural, and unbanked populations, many microfinance institutions (MFIs) are heavily concentrated in accessible areas. Unavailability of basic infrastructure and high operational costs in remote areas are the main challenges.  Additionally, financial institutions normally offer industry products and services that may not match the needs and preferences of the specific clients and also the capacity of the institution. This results in less effective demand for the product, often misuse of the product, and poor portfolio quality. A lack of competitive products adversely affects efficiency and sustainability of the institution as well. Moreover, lack of proper information on the available financial options, including the products and services, to the target population limits access. As a result poor people are often using costly and inappropriate products and services due to inadequate financial literacy.

Sakchyam’s Intervention

Sahara Nepal Saving and Credit Cooperative Ltd. (Sahara), registered at Jhapa District Cooperative Office, is one of the largest cooperatives in Nepal. Sahara offers various financial products as well as socio-economic services including insurance, remittances, renewable energy, skill training, awareness and empowerment programs in six districts in Province 1. With Sakchyam’s support, it plans to open seven new branches in Jhapa, Ilam and Sunsari districts; develop/refine innovative products like loans for alternative energy; housing construction and climate resiliency; rural micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) development; and other financing needs across the value chain. It also aims to offer its members with savings and micro insurance products along with a comprehensive financial literacy package. Sahara also aims to get SMART Certification, adopting globally-recognized client protection principles. These interventions will improve access to finance for the poor by i) reaching the remote and unbanked areas; ii) providing appropriate financial products and services to the clients; and, iii) supporting clients to make informed financial decisions.

Impact: As of September 2018 Sahara has,

  • Established 7 branches, reaching over 9,700 beneficiaries
  • Disbursed over 5,500 loans valued at GBP 4.3 million and collected GBP 650K deposits from the members
  • Using 65 tablets in 27 branches, reached 25,000 clients
  • Disbursed 153 Commercial Agriculture loan and 129 Renewable Energy loan valued at GBP 242K and GBP 11K million respectively
  • Financial literacy to over 19,000 clients through PGT/ Center meeting/ Training/ Drama/ Video