In 2013, the Jamestown Rotary Club provided a loan to the Rotary Club of Jawalakhel in Katmandu, Nepal to fund a micro-finance project involving poor women in the Koshi Tappu wetlands and wildlife preserve area of southeast Nepal.
According to David Troxell, Jamestown Rotary’s project coordinator for this objective, the plan was to fund a weaving cooperative which would generate income from the sale of hand crafted, woven products to help lift impoverished women and their families out of poverty. The concept adopted by the cooperative called for training a selected group of 25 women in the use of sturdy and decorative native plant fibers in the manufacture of mats and other woven products to be offered for sale in the thriving markets of Nepal’s capital city, Katmandu.
Micro-finance plans, also called microcredit plans, extend very small loans (called microloans) to impoverished borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history. The small loans, however, are sufficient to capitalize an economically viable business providing both a living wage profit and sufficient income to repay the loans.
According to an international bank specializing in such micro-finance projects, as of 2009 an estimated 74 million men and women worldwide held US$38 billion in microloans with an outstanding repayment success rate between 95 and 98 per cent.
The original loan provided by Jamestown Rotary to the Rotary Club of Jawalakhel provided for the initial training, acquisition of papyrus, yarn and dyes and collaboration with a women’s’ cooperative (Nepal Knotcraft Ltd.) specializing in retailing of handmade goods.
A key objective beyond profit is to develop a business mentality in people who have neither formal education nor experience with quality and timely business practices.
Though only one year along, the Jawalakhel 3-year micro-finance initiative is experiencing increasing retail sales and now projects that accumulating profits will begin to make the program self-sustaining.