In 2004, Mira DC opened her first agricultural tools store, Janata Agrovet, where she sells vegetables, maize, and rice seeds as well as rice, insecticides, fertilizers and other farming equipment.
At first, sales were slow, in part because she had few relationships with farmers, wholesalers, traders, other organizations and the local municipality – and many were men. As a woman entrepreneur in a country where women business owners are not taken seriously, this was a big challenge.
That’s when Mira partnered with a Feed the Future project called USAID Knowledge-based Integrated Sustainable Agriculture in Nepal II (KISAN II). USAID KISAN II aims to increase resilience, inclusiveness and sustainability for more than 200,000 agribusiness owners like Mira. Soon after, Mira’s sales—and confidence—increased from the business management skills she learned from the project.
“Many people in our society still think that women cannot handle any business and top positions in organizations,” Mira said. “I feel proud to be a woman entrepreneur in our community, which is basically a male-dominated society. I hope I am playing my part as a role model and inspiring other women of our society who are planning to do business in different sectors.”
About 74 percent of the farmers reached through USAID KISAN II are women entrepreneurs. In addition to struggling with building relationships with male suppliers, women business owners lack access to capital and traditionally are expected to perform more household work than men.
To help these businesswomen, USAID KISAN II provides feedback on business plans, assists in locating good areas to set up stores and educates on diversifying products. Women like Mira also receive training on how to lead and grow their business. USAID’s support helped Mira learn about the power of digital technology to form online partnerships that aligned with safety protocols. The results, especially for Mira, have been stunning.
Since learning these new skills in 2018, Mira’s total sales grew by 172 percent. Mira has since opened another location and now serves nearly 10,000 customers. From the knowledge she’s gained, Mira was also able to digitize her business records to increase employee efficiency and reduce storage, even adding a branchless banking system through her outlet.
“Through USAID KISAN II support, I have become more capable and learned a lot about business management and leadership, which has helped me in my personal [life] as well as for the growth of my business. I also learned how women’s empowerment benefits society,” says Mira.
There is a special meaning behind the name of her store, Janata Agrovet. In Nepali, Mira’s native tongue, janata means “people” and agrovet means “store.” Mira said she plans to continue serving the people of her community, especially women. At her store, they receive a five percent discount.
“In my opinion, women’s empowerment means to make women more capable and determined to make their own choices and act on them,” Mira said. “In a male-dominated society like ours, women’s empowerment is more of stepping out of our household chores and doing something for our own living.”
This story was originally published by Feed The Future on March 1, 2022; to see the original click here.