A Nepalese woman’s story: Growing business in seed production for export market


A woman-run seed production company networked with ordinary women folks in the remote hills of Nepal is giving well-established seed producers and exporters tough competition. How she does it is a story she offers to share with other women working in the farms of mountain communities elsewhere.

At a global summit of women, Jamuna Kayastha made a presentation of her company’s development from a mere idea to a successful business enterprise. A teacher by profession, Jamuna extended the walls of her classroom to the communities around the typographically gifted hills of her country. With faith in the capacity of women in the communities, she nurtured her vision of a company that processes and exports vegetable, fruit and cash crop seeds.

Nepal’s natural environment, with its wide range of climate and altitude, provides seed production opportunities. Traditionally, a sector dominated by men, seed production is dominantly run by men. But Jamuna defied traditions and ventured into seed production, in cooperation with other women folks in remote hillside communities in Nepal.

The idea dawned on Jamuna when she took note of the perennial oversupply of vegetables, fruits and other cash crops that usually found their way into the market for feeds for local farm animals. Why not grow these plants for seed production for export? And why not? She started a project for teaching local community farmers new techniques in seed production, particularly hybrid varieties, and processing these for export.

Good climate, fertile soil, wide hillside areas untapped for farming, available labor and big market outside of Nepal are ingredients of a sleeping opportunity All it takes is one person to get the idea going and make it bloom into big bucks business.

“Given the vast opportunities for seed production, the number of people living in remote areas and their need to go into livelihood activities, I picked up the challenge to create a seed industry run and managed by women,” Jamuna explained how the vision got started. A language teacher, she knows that all it takes is teaching the women folks the technology for seed production, introducing to them entrepreneurial values and opening their eyes for greater potentials as productive members of society.

“At first, people doubted my venture. In fact, people ridiculed me by saying it was impossible for a woman to go into a very tricky and troublesome business,” she related. “The hurdles were awesome because of their social dimension, but I was not discouraged. If a woman could give birth, why couldn’t a woman give birth to a business?” she explained.

From a handful of women producers, the company now has hundreds of women in 25 seed production sites all around Nepal. Nurturing the transformation from home-based farmers to new seed entrepreneurs, her company is now giving the big businesses tough competition only women can give. “I am a firm believer in women’s power to transform their lives and to take important decisions outside of the traditional role as care-givers and family nurturers. As empowered women, we now can take control of our lives and be equal partners with the men in improving the quality of life of our society,” Jamuna declared.

The great oak tree sleeps in its acorn, the saying goes. The seed of success has awakened the full potentials of big seed business for women of Nepal, thanks to a lady teacher-turned-entrepreneur, Jamuna Kayastha, for showing the way.

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Ethnic foods cater to international market, Filipinos overseas


Few have the time, energy and inclination to prepare a dish that takes hours to prepare. One such dish is laing, a staple of Filipino cuisine that has gained wide acceptability throughout the world.

Owners of Moondish Foods Corp., Anna and Rufino Manrique decided to make available the goodness of this native specialty to Filipinos residing overseas at any time they desire.

The ready-to-eat laing was launched during recent Asian Ethnic Food Exhibition. Local as well as international wholesale buyers were tickled by the idea of canning one of the national food favorites. Almost all major supermarkets in Metro Manila now sell all six variants of ready-to-eat laing.

Laing is a native Filipino dish that has coconut milk and taro leaves as its main ingredients.

Before setting up a food business, Moondish owners Rufino and Anna Manrique were social workers, helping poor families in depressed communities. The couple decided that setting up a business is another way of helping the urban poor by providing them with employment. They set up a small business that catered to the needs of people in their neighborhood in Las Piñas City (Metro Manila).

“We heard that the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology had already developed several products that were ready for commercialization. The institute was only looking for individuals who are willing to invest some time and money to bring these products to market,” related Anna. “Of these ready technologies, what appealed to us was the technology of canning laing,” she confided.

“Right there and then, we realized that canned laing has great potential not only locally, but also overseas. There are many Filipinos living abroad who would like to have a taste of Philippine cuisine as often as they can,” Anna Manrique said.

“Short of advertising in media, we tried to get as much exposure for our canned products as often as possible. For instance, we have information about our products placed in the WINNER global portal, thus foreign buyers can view them and contact us for orders. So far, our efforts have paid off. Aside from the local market, which is basically Metro Manila, we have also managed to get orders from importers from Guam, Saudi Arabia, Canada and the United States,” Anna said.

The Moondish normal production capacity for laing is 2, 400 cans per day. It can be scaled up when big orders come.

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Global Summit of Women 2016 – building an inclusive economy in the Digital Age


Around 1,000 women leaders in business and government from every corner of the world are expected to join the Global Summit of Women to be held on 9 – 11 June 2016 at Warsaw, Poland.

With the theme, “Women – Building an inclusive economy in the Digital Age,” the global forum of women leaders will tackle challenges and critical issues impacting women and the global economy.

The 2016 Summit will salute women’s achievements while continuing to explore practical strategies and best practices in improving women’s economic status, whether these are corporate initiatives, public policies or NGO programs.

The leading economy in Central and Eastern Europe, Poland is the host of the 2016 Global Summit of Women. Over the past 25 years, Poland has become a leading symbol of regional stability, having transitioned to a vigorous democracy, while advancing its political and economic profile on the international stage.

Serving as a magnet for multinational companies both as a manufacturing and growing consumer base, Poland has emerged as gateway to emerging markets in the region. The booming Polish economy has grown tremendously, more than doubling its GDP over the past two decades, despite the global financial crisis which staggered growth throughout the recession. Poland is recognized as the only EU economy to sidestep an economic decline.

The global forum of women leaders will have unique engagement of the three critical ‘legs’ of change – government, business and civil society – which is reflected in the line up of speakers , presenters and partners. Over 60 international organizations representing women from five continents will be part of the event, along with women government officials and multilateral agency executives.

The theme of the global forum spotlights women’s influence in creating stronger economy in this era of new technologies affecting the way governments and corporations do business. In addition, it will inform participants on how to access the central and eastern European market, showcase women business and government leaders from the region. It will also provide skills-building sessions, as well as establish networks among women leaders.

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Women learning from woman on bamboocraft techniques

As resilient as the native material she uses to create fine handicrafts Moring Aberion, owner of a small enterprise that bears her name, never limits her reach for markets and partners. In fact, she challenges the limits of her capacity to share skills as well as her knowledge of the material and its many use.

The women producers in the remote mountain region of Nepal have been coming up with a variety of traditional souvenir products for tourists. Little did they know that the abundantly-growing bamboo in their mountains could be used to produce finely-woven bamboo products such as hats, houseware items, nested trays and bags that appeal to the export market. Until they were introduced to women in the Cordillera region of the Philippines that they learned of new possibilities to make more products of the perennial bamboo.

The Nepalese women indicated the need to acquire technical skills as well as experience in developing business on bamboocraft. They showed interest in the Philippines as source of technology and business experience. Aberion Bamboocraft Enterprise, one of the enterprises that the WINNER Project supports in gaining access to markets, came out as the best choice for technology transfer cum consultancy to serve the needs of the Nepalese women.

Moring Aberion (owner of Aberion Bamboocraft Enterprise) at first did not entertain the thought of sharing her skills and experience through consultancy for a group so far away from her place of operation. Several weeks after the first contact with Moring, a follow-up call from the coordinator of the WEAN (Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal) announced that two of its members would come to Manila to meet with Moring to open discussions on the terms of engagement.

Overwhelmed by the prospects of working for one month in a remote village up on the slopes of the Himalayas, to train 28 women from the communities, Moring sought a briefing from the WINNER office on what to expect in Nepal as well as what was expected of her. With all her apprehensions and doubts clarified, she finally agreed to take on this first-ever consultancy work.

More than the technical aspects of bamboo processing and weaving, Moring brought to Dhankuta, Nepal her business experience with the view to sharing with the trainees insights on dealing with buyers from abroad.

“I am thankful to WINNER and the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal for having given me the chance to share my experience with the mountain women in Nepal. This was the first time for me to travel to another country. It was an enriching experience. Certainly, we can collaborate when the time comes for us to fill a huge volume that not one producer alone can meet,” she said.

The Nepalese training coordinator, Shyam Shrestha, wrote: “Our women have started to formally go into business. Four have registered theirs and are now marketing their products to buyers in Kathmandu. I would like you to know that your training these women is very much appreciated.”

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A Woman’s homebusiness – Working at home, connecting to markets abroad

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Women are a driving force in national economic development and their share in the labor force and the business sector continues to rise. They are involved in enterprises at all levels as managers and owners, and have made an important contribution to the growth of the national economy.

Such is the story of a woman entrepreneur from Talisay City, Cebu Province. Being a full-time mother and a businesswoman, Epie Labajo juggles the tasks of being a wife, mother to four children, and entrepreneur of her own native fashion accessories business.

As a businesswoman, she is entirely hands-on in her business. “I personally handle my business. It’s difficult to entrust the responsibility to someone else. If you want to profit, you must work hard,” she said.

Labajo started her business in 1991. Out of mahogany shells, dried banana trunks, coconut shells, and rice straw, she creates fashion earrings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and ornaments that have kept her family business alive and booming. Trained mainly by experience as worker of an exporter of fashion accessories in Cebu, Labajo has managed to run her own. She has a steady stream of local customers and buyers abroad. To cope with huge capital requirement for producing the fashion accessories, Labajo said she requires an advance payment of 35 percent from her overseas buyers. “This way, I am able to buy the raw materials and pay the workers,” she explained.

With her bullish attitude, she has earned the reputation of being the neighborhood’s superwoman. Most of her hours are spent working, especially since her work shop is just in her house. Her days are well spent to the last minute because of the seemingly endless tasks: customers coming in to press for their orders, her children vying for some attention, deciding on what food to prepare for the family. But of course she has time to unwind and be with her friends. As the regional organizer of the Pambansang Tagapag-ugnay ng mga Manggagawa sa Bahay, Labajo encourages other housewives to be like her. “You can’t just be a full-time housewife, you also need to think of earning.” Her organization, the national network of home workers, recognizes the need to seek means to protect their rights as small-time business persons. While capital assistance and trainings are an external help, the key really is persistence, including external support. WINNER (Women in the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement), an initiative of UNDP with assistance from Italian Cooperation, has likewise helped Labajo in promoting her products through the Internet. “Our counterpart organization in Iloilo participated in training on e-commerce and gained access to overseas buyers,” she said WINNER aims to showcase the women’s products in the Internet for business matching and to consolidate suppliers for volume and quality as well as to strengthen the micro enterprises’ bid for global trade.

As a home-based entrepreneur, Labajo feels gratified to see that she has provided well for her family. “You strive on your own; you don’t reap what you did not sow.”

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Natural, organic farming practices engage community enterprises

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A community-based people’s initiative to promote the use of environment-friendly technology and innovative ways of caring for and conserving the resources in the environment has caught the imagination of micro and small-scale enterprises in the southern Tagalog region (Luzon) of the Philippines.

The initiative is known by its acronym, F.A.R.M.S.(Farmers’ Agricultural Resources and Management Services). Participating in this program are community farmers of selected towns in the provinces of Laguna, Batangas and Quezon.

Recently, the group of micro and small-scale farmers’ enterprises that are dedicated to advancing natural and organic farming practices have showcased their products (including fresh farm produce) at the F.A.R.M.S. resource and training center, which had been set up at a property located at San Fransiso highway, Tagaytay City (province of Cavite).

The two-hectare land property is ideal for locating training and demonstration workshops as well as other related activities, including ‘one-stop market place’ for organic and naturally-grown vegetables, fruits, spices and herbs.

Conceptualized and designed by Ms. Aleli Pansacola; president of Daila Herbal Community Enterprises and woman-leader and innovator of various wellness products, the F.A.R.M.S. resource and training center is hub of activities conducted by and for community enterprises and women from rural communities.

Participating in the development of the land property are various community-based farmers and enterprises by contributing materials and labor as well as ideas in setting up an integrated area for showcasing products and spreading the practical ways of farming without harming the environment and use of chemical inputs. The first-stage of land development which was recently inaugurated includes: Kiosks for selling/merchandising products and produce from backyard farms; pavilion which serves as business center and training hall for trainees from the communities; bamboo huts for accommodation; campsite for those who wish to set up tents instead of using the bamboo huts; activity center for socials and bonfire parties; and gardens for showcasing practical ways of natural and organic farming.

According to Ms. Aleli Pansacola, “the place will promote the use of environment-friendly technology and advance the women’s advocacy for natural and organic farming practices, environmental resources protection and management.” She added that through the Daila network of community enterprises, she hopes “to bring to the awareness of more people in more communities the benefits and advantage of natural farming methods as well as the need to take care of the environment which is an important capital of future ganerations.”

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Nepalese woman wins business prize, wows market at international fair

captionOne of the top business awards given by Nepal’s business community went to a woman entrepreneur who dreamt of becoming an employee but ended up as an employer instead. Sharada Rijal, who owns and runs her company called Milan Garments, also serves on the board of WEAN (Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal). She bested other entrepreneurs, mostly men, for the national recognition in Nepal’s Search for Top Ten Best Entrepreneurs.

“I am honored to be selected as one of the best in the business in Nepal. Truly, an honor I share with all the women working for their rights in a society dominated by men,” she said.

“Why be an employee when I can be an employer instead? I can employ myself, for starters, then as the business grows my family, then others,” she quipped, provoking thought.

By that attitude alone, there is already the spark that makes a person suited to business. Indeed, quick thinking and bold decision making are characteristics of one who runs an enterprise. This is the measure for pitting one against others in the competitive field of business, tough and straight talk in cutting deals and keeping the wheels of production turning.

When Sharada led a business mission to the Philippines, as participant in Manila International Fair, she brought with her representative products of companies belonging to members of WEAN. Many fair visitors were impressed with the variety of items, from herbal products, gems and fashion accessories, food delicacies and crafts, including Milan Garments’ product line of pashmina shawls, stoles, jackets. She was pushing for the products of her fellow women entrepreneurs at WEAN like they were hers, more than she did her pashmina shawls.

“The clients here in the Philippines do not go for warm garments, so I had to promote more relevant items from Nepal. But garments and hats are really my line and these are destined for the west,” she explained. Very intricately woven, colored with vegetable dyes and with typical Nepalese designs, the pashmina shawls could easily be on the shelves of high priced boutiques in Manila and Hong Kong, elsewhere.

Balancing the roles of wife, mother and entrepreneur is the biggest challenge of all. She does not consider the role of wife and mother an extra burden, but rather as an inspiration that keeps her going in her business.

“While I am attending to business, half of my mind is on household matters. But somehow, I can give both a hundred percent attention. It’s not a choice between one over the other. Both are important responsibilities I have to meet.”

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A woman-led Philippine company pioneers in Asia-Africa technology cooperation

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A shipbuilding project in Ghana, West Africa, involving a woman-led Philippine company, has been implemented with the training of Ghanaians at a shipyard facility in General Santos City, Mindanao in Southern Philippines.

A first-ever interregional technical and economic cooperation, the project is a multi-party private sector initiative for the purpose of upgrading and modernizing the fishing industry in Ghana. The project was packaged by Rainbow Fish Consultants of the Netherlands, which was introduced by the Technological Information Promotion System to the Philippine fiberglass-hulled boat maker, Stoneworks Specialists International Corporation.

The initial discussion on the terms of cooperation and the subsequent negotiations resulted in an exchange visit of the principals of the major business partners from both the Philippines and Ghana. These activities culminated in the signing of an agreement at a ceremony held in Accra, Ghana, where major partners and associate partners were present to seal the arrangements for implementing the project. Participating in the implementation of the project are: DaySeaDay, which will export fish catch to Europe; SARFABLES (San Roque Fishermen Association/Bigkis Lakas Eastern Samar), which will train the Ghanaian fishermen; and a Ghanaian NGO, Gratis Foundation, which will recruit the shipyard personnel for training.

According to Stoneworks Chief Executive Officer / President Marilyn Ong, “the role of the Philippine company is to transfer the technology in building fiberglass-hulled fishing boats and to provide the skills in fishing operations. On the other hand, the role of the main Ghanaian partner, Inter-Seas Fisheries Ltd Ghana, is to help modernize the inland and marine fishing fleets and upgrade the fish processing industry in Ghana.”

“Together, these partners, along with associate partners, will engage in a major effort to address the need of the fishing industry in West Africa while contributing to environmental sustainability of the Ghanaian forests. It is noted that building of wooden dugout canoes in Ghana has taken a heavy toll on the forest resources of the country.”

“Under the project, it is envisaged that 9,000 wooden boats will be replaced within 5-6 years, with a projected replacement rate of 1,500 – 1,800 per year. For commercial fishing vessels, about 500 will be replaced with modern fishing vessels made of fiberglass, at a yearly construction rate of 30 – 40 trawlers,” Ms. Ong said.

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A success story: skills training brings hope, self-worth to women in rural communities

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Busy with cross-stitch work, a group of mothers in their early twenties to late thirties engage in hush-hush talk about problems of family life and how they are coping with it. In the background, cries of babies being given nutrition care by visiting health workers distract the attention of mothers. Now and then, they cannot help but give a hand in pacifying the fretful children. Such is the scene of a typical day at the Children’s Clinic of Kasipagan, an association of mothers’ clubs in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental (Philippines).

For many women from these communities in once was land of sugar plantations, it means doing livelihood work while taking care of their little ones. Thanks to the leadership of June Villarante, the prime mover of Kasipagan, this has been made possible. Making the most of the time at home while attending to their young ones, mothers can produce something for which a market need can be identified. All it takes is the production skill to start with, and the support services to see the products through to its buyers. The latter is what June does as business manager and marketing agent of Kasipagan for the mothers/producers.

In the 1980s, sugar prices collapsed worldwide and spelled disaster for the sugar-producing provinces of Negros. Families were badly affected as the fathers/breadwinners soon found themselves without any incomes. Some of the unemployed men were able to eke out a living ferrying passengers in pedicabs, but the daily income was not enough for their families. Oftentimes, to augment the family income, the wives took jobs as laundrywomen, househelpers or caregivers in more affluent neighborhoods in the community. But such work took its toll as it kept the mothers away from their children who soon became malnourished, even sickly.

Desperate, various women’s groups or mother’s clubs banded together and sought help for their malnourished children. Thus, the San Carlos Children’s Clinic was established to give venue for extending much needed health care and nutrition supervision to children in these communities.

Someone suggested that some skills training be given to mothers who frequented the clinic. Since it had been established that the major cause of malnutrition in the communities was poverty, it was hoped that the mothers can gain from learning new skills, such as embroidery, and use this new skill to augment their families’ incomes.

“The Clinic has fully rehabilitated around 1,000 malnourished children to date. Of the mothers who went through the skills training on hand embroidery, 300 became the core producers of Kasipagan. Most of the products we make find demand from overseas buyers. It merely shows how competitive our cross-stitched products have become. For the women who broke into entrepreneurship, this means a lot, in terms of self-worth and confidence to face the future,” June Villarante reported.

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Local government units support women’s economic empowerment, small business start-ups

PhotoThe participation of local government in the economic empowerment of women, particularly in developing their capacity to engage in livelihood activities, is an important factor in building sustainable and transformative communities.

Women have embraced the triple bottomline concept in nurturing their small business start-ups, at the local level, and linking up with other like-minded individuals to introduce their products to larger markets.   These women form associations to improve their negotiating skills in dealing with financiers, buyers and suppliers.

In the training courses for women, WINNER has emphasized not just the financial benefits from business, but also their social and environmental responsibilities, which together characterize a transformative business venture.

WINNER-Philippines has conducted over fifty training sessions in various localities around the country, in partnership with selected local government units. These directly benefited thousands of women in rural and depressed urban communities.

The local government plays an important role in these training programs as they provide the logistical resources, physical venue and facilities and even resources for mobilizing, and sponsoring qualified  women to participate in the capacity-building exercises on such subject  as enterprise-creation, availing themselves of trade opportunities and reaching markets as well as e-commerce tools.

Some of the local government units that joined hands with WINNER along with local people’s organizations of women are: Meycauyan (Bulacan), Buhi ( Camarines Sur), La Trinidad (Benguet), Sta Barbara (Iloilo), Kabacan (N. Cotabato), Sorsogon City (Sorsogon), San Pablo (Laguna), Batangas City (Batangas), Las Pinas  (National Capital Region) Tagbilaran (Bohol), Santiago (Isabela), among others.

From the start of WINNER in 2000 up to present, more than 12,000 women from Asian and African countries participating in the UN Women-sponsored program received technical assistance and guidance in developing their enterprises as well as in gaining access to trade opportunities. Some 10,000 women’s products are currently promoted through web portals.

 

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