Fostering Entrepreneurship in the Kailash Sacred Landscape

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Participants and organizers of the Capacity Enhancement Training on Entrepreneurship Development 

As a student of commerce and management, I have heard the word ‘entrepreneurship’ being thrown around quite frequently. Often, the word is associated with billionaires such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, who are famous for having been persistent about doing what they loved, and for having found great success in business as a result. I realized that my understanding of entrepreneurship has always been closer to enterprise than anything else. We have gotten so used to using the terms ‘entrepreneurship’ and ‘enterprise’ interchangeably, we have forgotten that the two words represent entirely different concepts. 

The stories of these men couldn’t be more different from those of women and men living in Dadeldhura in far-western Nepal. However, as I learnt on a trip to the district  last September, the men and women of Dadeldhura have the potential to be every bit as entrepreneurial. I travelled to Dadeldhura to be part of the Capacity Enhancement Training on Entrepreneurship, conducted by the Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation and Development Initiative (KSLCDI), from 20–24 September 2016. And it was during the time I spent there that I realized that while enterprise represents business and corporate houses, entrepreneurship represents an idea. And one doesn’t need to be affiliated to a large business or corporate house to have a good idea, and implement it successfully.

The five-day training in Dadeldhura was facilitated by R&D Innovative Solutions Pvt Ltd, company based in Kathmandu. The focus was on helping the 30 participants  (16 women, 14 men), who came from different parts of the Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL) across the Indian and Nepali borders, gain confidence in terms of figuring out how to utilize their knowledge of indigenous resources to start up profitable businesses.

The concept of entrepreneurship was clarified first. Only then did the focus move towards the building of enterprise. It was really interesting to see how R&D Innovative Solutions made ‘entrepreneurship’ an achievable ideal for participants who came from rural areas with limited resources and infrastructure. Simple, jargon-free language was used to communicate to the participants the importance of leadership, of working as a team, and of taking up responsibility in a group. More directly business-related concepts such as problem identification, and target market and customers/consumers were also discussed. Participants learned how to prepare detailed business plans, and how to keep records of income and expenses. Videos, games, lectures, and a field visit  were the principal teaching tools.

The participants started getting more involved as their training progressed. They identified vegetables, chiuri-honey, and beans and legumes, as possible investment opportunities. Participants from Nepal were glad to learn that the beans and legumes they currently grow on their lands for subsistence have tremendous business potential. An increase in production could lead to the development of an enterprise. The workshop encouraged most participants to begin thinking of themselves as potential entrepreneurs. They realized that they could start businesses of their own by putting locally available resources to smart use. 

I was impressed by a comment of Jay Singh Mahar, a participant from Nepal, made on the workshop. Mahar, a resident of Ranishikhar VDC in Darchula, returned to Nepal some time ago after having worked at a fruit store in India for over 10 years. He had come back home with savings amounting to NPR 600,000 (equivalent to USD 6,000), and had bought land in his village with the money. “Had I received this training earlier, I would have invested in a small business instead,” he said. “The business would have yielded me good returns by now. I really wish I had received this training some time earlier.” As he told me this, without explicitly stating it, Mahar told me he was already  beginning to think like a businessman.

It was heartening to see the workshop participants express enthusiasm regarding the entrepreneurship opportunities available in their respective villages through poetry. These poems encapsulate their emotions, and the expectations they harbour as potential entrepreneurs in KSL. One of their poems, translated from the Nepali, reads something like this:

Let us, men and women, together
do something good for our villages.

We must plant chyura on our barren hills,
harvest the honey yielded, take them to markets beyond our villages.

We must learn to work as entrepreneurs,
and dream of big, bright futures for ourselves.

There is potential everywhere we look in our land
Chyura, nigalo, and other plants with which we can do so much.

We must remember to work with confidence, whatever we choose to do,

we must trust our trainers, and set upon the path on which they have led us.