Sustainable Businesses and Farming
Part of our role is to share experience and ideas with the families in our community on how to turn the skills they have into a sustainable source of income.
We are always keen for our families and communities to become independent and so if they develop a sound business plan (sometimes with our support, other times on their own initiative), we do our best to help them get the skills and capital to start the businesses. We have had several families do that including tailoring businesses, chicken farming and mushroom farming.
The families work together to share their experience and ideas and we have been working with some permaculture experts to give us ideas on organic, natural ideas. As we are working directly with the farmers, we have been able to cut out about 3 levels of middlemen and so we have paid the farmers the rate the middlemen get. Farm fresh spinach and coriander for our families in Kathmandu, extra money for our farming partners – happy teams all round. In fact, the demand for their products has been so high that often we miss out! We also added some fruit trees which help with water retention as our villages had been facing water shortages after the water table moved following the earthquakes in 2015. One of our farmers attended 3 days of organic farming training and was keen to try this out with some fruit farming. The families in this cooperative have also been supporting each other in different ways such as reconstruction of their homes which they all lost during the quakes. The community spirit and sharing of ideas, time, expertise and support between the families has been fantastic.
With winter looming and lots of cold feet around, we aimed to help them establish a sustainable knitting business by placing an initial order for 150 pairs of woollen socks for our kids. This gave the women the confidence to get started and some capital to get going without us simply giving it to them. We brainstormed their business model, target market and route to market with some of our class 12 marketing students as a practical project for them to test out the theory they were learning.
One unexpected side-effect of the business was the energy levels and overall health improvements of the women as they essentially created “knitting circles” to deliver the order in time. It changed their conversation from the challenges they were facing to excitement for the business and we noticed a significant increase in their positive energy.
Our kids now all have very warm feet for the winter and the women are working on continuing to grow their business.