Sahaj Chips in to Consolidate Local Agri-enterprises

Sustainable agriculture
Kavya Biswokarma11.05.2022
Purnima Upadhyaya, Smita Timsina and Shanti Bhattarai of Bhadrapur, Jhapa were homemakers before they decided to start an enterprise, Shreeji Food Udhyog, producing pickles. They invested four to five hundred thousand rupees each to start the industry and had initially gathered 15 local women to make carrot pickles.

Like many other businesses, Shreeji Food Udhyog faced initial hiccups. But, with a strong determination and hard work, the Udhyog gradually established as a small scale industry that produces various types of pickles; ‘Zaika’ and ‘Maijuko’ are their two pickle brands. With the purpose of expanding their work and motivating like-minded people, Shreeji is trying to promote preserved raw materials to micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs).

A platform for entrepreneurs

Leading by example, Shreeji Food Udhyog organized a two-day networking event with various pickle entrepreneurs on April 27 and 28 in Ilam and Panchthar of Province 1. The event - ‘Interaction Program with Pickle Entrepreneurs’ - provided a platform for the entrepreneurs in the region to get an idea about the types of preserved raw materials that Shreeji can supply and to reflect and work on the challenges that arise during sourcing and storing said raw materials. In Ilam, 35 participants (90% women) took part in the event on April 27 in coordination with Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Nepal (WEAN). Chairperson of the Local Chapter of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCCI), Ishwor Chipalu graced the occasion as the chief guest. The same event was done in Panchthar on the 28th of April, with 21 participants (80% women), graced by Nabaraj Khadka, Chairperson of LCCCI in Panchthar, as the chief guest.

Both the events were attended by participants who were pickle processors, people who had recently started their own pickle enterprise and farmers who provide raw materials for pickles.

Sharing experiences

All the participants shared their experiences and raised questions regarding the problems they had been facing. One of the issues discussed was around purchasing and storing raw materials which is an essential step in the process of making pickles. Some of the other problems raised were related to the quality of packaging as the seals used now were weak and in storing the product, as the pickles get moldy and decay in a short time. This impacted their market access and sale. The majority of participants said that they will be able to run businesses smoothly if they received more knowledge on ways to store raw materials and the produce.

In response, in order to avoid the aforementioned issues, Purnima shared various ways that can be adopted and the exact materials to use to store raw materials and the pickles. “When we were at the starting of our journey, we faced a lot of losses as many of our pickles would decay and go to waste. Today we have food technologists who help us avoid this problem and we want to extend this knowledge to you so that no one has to struggle like we did”, added Purnima.

How to grow the business

Shreeji Food Udhyog is among the very few who are working on a new business model by processing and storing raw materials. Many of the MSMEs in Ilam have been producing pickles at a small level due to lack of variety and inaccessibility of raw materials. If they were to diversify their products by making pickles from different raw materials, rather than just ‘Akabarey Chillies’ which is already popular all over Ilam, the business would flourish tenfold. Shreeji, with their new business model, aims to supply a variety of processed/preserved vegetables and fruits to the local vegetable producers. 

An official of Sahaj project, attending the event, shared his thoughts on how the usage of different raw materials can help the SMEs compete with each other and grow their business more, as currently everyone in the market has similar products. All in all, this networking event helped everyone gain a new perspective altogether and create an opportunity for future business prospects. The participants also came to know that they can purchase preserved raw materials from Shreeji for supply chain management.

The Nepal Agricultural Market Development Programme (NAMDP) Phase II, also known as Sahaj, operates under a bilateral agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Government of Switzerland. Sahaj is a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project, implemented by a consortium of Swisscontact (as the lead agency) and the Center for Environmental and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development (CEAPRED). Sahaj provides financial and technical support towards improved access to services and innovation for agri-businesses in Province 1 Nepal. This will increase demand for smallholders’ produce, including them in value-added supply chains, and build resilience in rural communities through higher employment and income. 

To help grow the business and sector, Shreeji and Sahaj established a partnership in September 2021. Under this partnership, Shreeji will be supplying preserved raw materials and services such as transportation and vegetable expertise to small and medium-sized enterprises in Province 1.

Sustainable agriculture
Sahaj - Nepal Agricultural Market Development Programme
In 2017, agriculture contributed around 27.04 per cent to Nepal's GDP. Agriculture is a major source of livelihood in the country. However, the agriculture sector is still in a nascent stage as far as technology and modern cultivation methods are concerned. Agriculture mainly engages smallholder farmers who continue to use traditional methods of...