Manoj Thakur, a Nepali migrant worker, toiled in the Gulf state of Kuwait for 10 years. But, the hard-earned money was never enough to support his family.
“I left my family and went abroad to earn some money. But, I could not make enough money even after working in temperatures that reached 50 degrees,” he said. Having spent a decade in Kuwait, he returned home with a resolve to start his own business.
Thakur first returned to his village of Salakpur in Morang district. Then, he moved to Mai, a small town of Ilam district, about 150 kilometres far from his home, where he opened a hair-cutting salon
But, it was not easy to raise funds for his own business. He did not have the money. But still, he did not have to look very far to find it. Sahara Savings and Credit Cooperative helped him realise his plans. As the saying goes: where there is a will, there is a way.
Thakur borrowed Rs 50,000 from the cooperative and started operating a hair salon in Mai municipality’s ward no. 2 in Ilam.
Though his business was off to a good start, he faced another problem. There was no electricity, an essential supply in his line of business. The lack of regular electricity supply dealt a body blow to his business. On most days, power outages went on for three to four hours a day and sometimes, it went for several days. He was worried about how to pay the room rent.
He hit upon the idea of installing a solar system for electricity so that he no longer had to worry about the supply. He went back to the cooperative, which provided him with a second loan of Rs 55,000 for a 160-watt solar home system.
Thakur used the money to buy three LED lights, an electric hair-cutting machine, and a fan. Soon, people started streaming into his salon for a haircut. He is glad that his income has doubled after the installation of the solar system.
“At one point, I had even thought of quitting my business. Now, I am no longer worried. My earning is good enough to pay off my debts and household expenses,” he said. As the word about his innovative solution spread in the area, he gained more clients.
Thakur now earns Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 a month from the salon.
The impact can be seen in his family’s growing financial expenditure. His two children go to a nearby boarding school. He has plans to upgrade his salon with modern tools and facilities. He is mulling over borrowing money from the cooperative to install an air conditioner to provide better service to the customers during winter and summer seasons.
“This became possible after Sahara (cooperative) issued a loan to me to invest in solar energy. Today, instead of toiling in a foreign land, I am working in my own country,” said Thakur. He said people had a misconception that money can be easily made abroad. “Even if you do half the labour in Nepal compared with what you do abroad, you can still earn more,” he said. He does not want to remember all the hardships he endured during his stint in the Gulf.
Thus, it was of great benefit to Thakur that he could secure a loan from Sahara Cooperative. The cooperative was enabled to provide this loan by a revolving loan fund (RLF) that has been set up by NMB Bank and the Renewable Energy for Rural Areas (RERA) programme.
Renewable Energy for Rural Areas (RERA) is a German-Nepali technical cooperation programme to improve the access of rural households to renewable energy in the country. The German contribution to RERA is provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). RERA is jointly implemented by the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), Government of Nepal, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.
The revolving loan fund facilitates cooperatives like Sahara Saving and Credit to provide concessional loans to people to use renewable energy. Under the programme, NMB Bank, through Sahara Cooperative, has provided a total of Rs 10 million to its members to run renewable energy and energy-related businesses.
NMB Bank and RERA joined forces to establish the RLF to offer affordable credit financing to rural households through local microfinance institutions as well as to larger renewable energy projects directly. Through this cooperation, NMB and – as a result – local financial institutions can offer discounted and affordable interest rates to rural people in order to acquire renewable energy technologies and invest in appliances for productive use of energy.
Thanks to the initiative, people such as Thakur, have made strides in their business. As tens of thousands of migrant workers return to Nepal following the global pandemic, they will struggle to find jobs. Schemes such as the RLF could provide them with an opportunity to set up or upgrade their businesses.