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Reaching the Poorest of the Poor: Ashook’s story

I spoke in a previous blog about how surprised I was to learn that WWF-Nepal’s supports both people and nature. One perfect example of this is the Reaching the Poorest of the Poor, or RePoP program. Along our travels, we met one of the people who have benefited from this program and heard his story. His name is Ashook.

Ashook © Heather Crochetiere

Ashook © Heather Crochetiere

A few years ago Ashook couldn’t find work to feed his family. He was so desperate that he left his home to travel to India and learn about mushroom cultivation. The skills he gained there were invaluable but there’s only so much education can do when you don’t have any resources to apply what you’d learned. Because he was from a household that was considered one of the poorest of the poor in his community, when he returned to Nepal he was eligible for a loan under the RePoP program. He took out an initial loan of 20,000 Nepalese rupees (~$200 CAD) and started up his own mushroom enterprise.

I’d never seen mushrooms grown like that before! © Heather Crochetiere

I’d never seen mushrooms grown like that before! © Heather Crochetiere

He was so successful that he paid it back within a year! But he wasn’t going to stop there. He took out a second loan to expand his enterprise. Again, he was so successful that he paid it back within a year.

Ashook standing with his highly successful mushroom crops © Heather Crochetiere

Ashook standing with his highly successful mushroom crops © Heather Crochetiere

These days his enterprise has expanded so much that he needs to hire some staff to help him out. He’s going to hire people specifically from other very poor households, to help pull others in his community out of poverty. And now he’s now even starting venture into other enterprises like vegetable cultivation.

The interest collected as people pay back the loans increases the pool of money available to lend to more people – people like Ashook’s brother who is also starting his own business.  He bought some goats and started a stall feeding program, selling the meat to generate profit. He is well on his way to paying back his loan as well. I found Ashook so inspiring because it just goes to show that with access to start up resources, people from the poorest households are ready to pull themselves and others out of poverty. And, when the people have sufficient livelihoods, they rely less on over exploiting the forests. It’s good for the people, and good for the tigers!