“I now have my own money to spend on my children’s school supplies and school uniforms. I am empowered to give them a better life.”
These were the inspiring words spoken to ACI staff by some of the women beneficiaries of our High Mountain Agribusiness Livelihood Improvement (HIMALI) project in Nepal. The High Mountain Agribusiness and Livelihood Improvement (HIMALI) with the grant assistance of Asian Development Bank is intended to increase the income and employment of rural household livelihoods living in the high mountains of Nepal through value chain development and a grant program that assists farmers in improving the quality of their products and reducing risk exposure to businesses investing in the high mountain districts.
One such group that is benefitting from a HIMALI grant is a women’s cooperative called the Muktinath Seabuckthorn Industry. These women grow Seabuckthorn berries (locally known as tora fruit), a special berry shrub that only grows in high altitudes with full sunlight making the high mountain district of Mustang a perfect location for this enterprise. The women use the berries to make a delicious, nutritious juice as well as a special oil that provides several benefits to the skin. Through their HIMALI grant, the cooperative was able to construct a processing unit, purchase new equipment and enhance its already established orchard.
When interviewed about how their lives have changed since receiving the HIMALI grant, the women spoke of the freedom they felt in no longer having to depend on their husbands for money. “We are now free to make our own choices in how we use our money.” And these women are choosing to invest their money in what is most important to them – their children’s future. It is beautiful to see how this business has made them independent. “We do not have to ask our husbands for money anymore.”
Even with a language barrier their pride in the success of their business and their passion for improving the lives of their children was evident in their faces. By investing in these women and this cooperative, the project enhances not only the lives of the women, but the lives of the children’s, their family, and their community. And this perfectly captures the purpose and goal of the HIMALI project. And this perfectly captures the purpose of HIMALI, and the spirit of what ACI strives to achieve in our development projects.