n early 2017, Mitra Path visited schools in Nepal’s Dhading District to see how we could partner with Shaping Young Minds Foundation to support the school children. We were welcomed with bright smiles, while witnessing a severe lack of resources in these communities.
After our visits, Mitra Path decided to expand our attention to enhancing the livelihoods of the school children’s parents. Many of them had no means of income. We spoke to parents who were once cobblers or blacksmiths, but with the introduction of industrialized commodities, their skills had become obsolete. We saw that the ability for these parents to earn a steady income for their families determined whether or not they could send their children to school.
In response to Mitra Path’s interest in helping the parents, a local NGO in Nepal conducted a research assessment on what kind of business training would be ideal for the parents in this community. The report included this quote:
“Although people may be interested in starting a business, without having any knowledge in business management, most will never initiate one. The following microbusiness business training was designed for men and women with basic education from the marginalized Dalit community in Dhading District, where most make their living as wage laborers and there is scarce farmland in the area. This program first determined the most suitable and appropriate microbusiness based on the local market, available resources, interest, skills, etc. And then it provided training so the community could become more self-sufficient and raise their life standard of living.”
Objectives of the NGO’s Program:
- To teach the participants about suitable businesses they can adopt
- To cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset and skills in community members
- To make marginalized communities self-sufficient with better livelihoods
- To end unemployment and create self-employment
Contents of the Training
- Introduction of business
- Qualities of a successful business person
- Identifying business opportunities
- Business selection & marketing
- Business service providers
- Business cycle & planning
The NGO had initially suggested poultry farming, but after conducting the assessment report, they concluded that mushroom farming would be the best choice.
The NGO created a proposal, and Mitra Path provided funding for mushroom farming training to the parents of the schoolchildren.
The following is a description of the NGO’s 3-year Commercial Mushroom Training project, which taught the parents of the Dalit children on how to grow and sell mushrooms as a way of generating income.
Part of this project included a two-day mushroom growing workshop for the parents. This training was organized by a local non-profit (Dalit Welfare Organization), and was supported by SYM and Mitra Path.
Description of the mushroom training:
The Program Assistant of Dhading District, Mr. Bishnu Pariya welcomed all the attendees (parents of students) with opening remarks. The facilitators Mr. Som Praja and Mr. Ramhari Shrestha started the training session with an explanation of the different types of mushrooms and which would be easiest to grow at home.
The training was designed to be less theoretical and more practical, so after a brief lecture, the facilitators took the trainees outside to give a step-by-step demonstration on mushroom farming. The attendees were very engaged in the training and followed the facilitators closely.
The first step in the demo was to cut the straw in a specific way. The second step was to pack and soak the straw in water and let it dry, avoiding sunlight for hours.
The training required a second day because the straws needed to dry before moving onto the next steps. The trainees were provided lunch and everyone ate together before adjourning for the day.
On the second day, the facilitators proceeded to the third step in the demo, which was to boil the soaked straw for about an hour and then let them fully dry. The fourth step was to tightly pack the straw in a provided plastic bag and put seeds across one layer, and continuing to do the same for four to five layers. The bag was then tied at the top, and a few holes were made around the bag using a pencil or needle-like object. As the last step, the bag was placed in a cool place inside the house and kept there for 22-25 days for the mushrooms to sprout.
All the parents showed enthusiasm in the training and were pleased that this could be done in their own home, making it feasible and realistic as a sustainable source of income.
In the closing session, the trainees reflected on their experiences together. The facilitator said, “Our training has ended, but the real training starts with you.” The parents enjoyed snacks together, and at the end of the session, the facilitators distributed mushroom seeds to each of the parents (photo above right) – their very first step in earning generative income through mushroom farming.