Developing Community & Economic Self-Sufficiency
In 2021, the Tibet Fund launched a new multiyear initiative, the Tibetan Women Micro-Entrepreneurship Project, in partnership with the Tibetan Women’s Association. The primary goal of this project is to improve the livelihood of Tibetan families in India by increasing micro-entrepreneurship. The project allows entrepreneurs to generate sustainable and better incomes – which, in turn, is expected to benefit their families and the families of their employees.
In collaboration with the CTA Departments of Home, Finance, Health and Education, the program aims to design and introduce a multi-sector, multi-partner initiative to improve the livelihoods of the most economically disadvantaged Tibetan households. The most vulnerable households were chosen based on a participatory community self-appraisal tool. The tool was trial tested in three settlements, where groups of household heads evaluated and ranked other households based on a range of vulnerability parameters. These parameters include income, debt, livelihood skills, health, education, mental well-being, and social support. Through this process, the most vulnerable households were identified for targeted assistance and support.
In Nepal, The Tibet Fund partners with Hope and Challenge to provide multi-sector livelihood support to households in jeopardy, seed grants, financial literacy training to female-led vulnerable households, and child allowances to qualified households with children under 12.
To promote entrepreneurship and small enterprise development, the Micro-Small Enterprise (MSE) development initiative works with vulnerable micro and “nano” enterprises in Bylakuppe, Delhi and Dehradun, with the aim to help them become more self-reliant, profitable, and financially stable. Personalized mentoring and guidance including assessment of their business models and unique challenges and group sessions on the importance of savings, investing and protecting money is given in addition to monthly visits to business sites.
Enterprise Resource Centers (ERCs) are set up in settlements providing personalized guidance through a coordinator who is hired specifically to assist with marketing and branding, product development, raw material procurement, quality control, packaging and distribution, legal and tax compliance, accessing finance, and basic financial management.
In Nepal, The Tibet Fund partners with the Snow Lion Foundation to identify Biruwa Advisors as a business-development service provider to lead the MSE program. Biruwa Advisors supports both aspiring and existing entrepreneurs.
In Nepal, MSEs receive support through the CMRF program implemented by Lodrik Welfare Fund. CMRF provides financial literacy training, basic business coaching, and access to micro-loans and savings. The financial literacy sessions cover a wide range of topics led by trained social mobilizers.
The goal is to have community-based groups manage their own funds independently over time. Microlending and savings mobilization are carried out in settlements through community-based savings and credit groups. Once microloans are arranged, quarterly repayment schedules are established with modest annual interest rates. The most successful savings and credit groups can increase their minimum savings amounts, building trust among members. The program continues to evolve to accommodate settlement residents’ changing needs.
In parallel with microlending and savings mobilization, the CMRF program disburses additional loans to MSEs through settlement-managed revolving funds administered by settlement loan committees. These loans also have quarterly repayment schedules, with modest annual interest rates. Since the program’s inception, disbursements have grown to include more settlements, with the repayment rate above 95%.
The Tibetan Women Microentrepreneurship Project (TWMP) in partnership with the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) was conceived to improve the livelihoods of low-income women by helping them generate higher and more sustainable incomes. To achieve this, the project provides targeted financial support and personalized handholding services to women-led microenterprises with a focus on assisting them to grow their businesses and improve market access.
Since 2021, a total of 35 low-income women have received support to implement their respective businesses in five Tibetan settlements in the Dehradun area, including Clementown, Dekyiling, Delhi, Gepheling, and Herbertpur. Most enterprises continue to run their businesses successfully and generate revenue to support their families. They will continue to receive marketing and handholding support over the next two years.
The Tibetan farmers in India and Nepal benefit from cash crop cultivation guidance, as well as improved farm technologies and management practices through the Agriculture and Agribusiness Development Program.
The program supports a new multi-year citrus development initiative for high-value fruit cultivation. These farmers earn income from the sale of farm produce. The agriculture settlements continue to establish public-private partnerships to process and market value-added produce.
Farmers also benefit from training on tree management, cash crop plantation and care, hydroponic cultivation, orchard oversight, kitchen gardening, soil health testing, and cultivating new cash crop varieties.
In Nepal, the program continues to support cash-crop cultivation in a handful of settlements. Community cash-crop farms and households receive aid to grow kitchen garden vegetables.
Beneficiaries receive technical guidance, seeds, organic manure, and irrigation systems to grow these vegetables. In addition, farmers receive saplings, bio-fertilizers, organic micronutrients, and technical support to cultivate high-value trees. Additional farmers receive household greenhouses or milking cows with calves.
The Dharamsala Tibetan Career Center provides a variety of short-term vocational training, career awareness, employability skills, and placement services to youth in India. Training includes mechanical and electrical skills, food and beverage, secretarial, spa and cosmetology and carpentry courses.
In Nepal, unemployed youth receive short-term vocational education scholarships from the Himalayan Society for Youth and Women Empowerment (HSYWE), where trainees get help researching and gaining admissions to institutes of their choice.
The Vocational Education Fund (VEF) is administered by the Youth Empowerment Section of the CTA Department of Home (DOH). Students can either apply for enrolment in the Industrial Technical Institute or they can pursue skills training at an institute of their choice. Other long-term vocational courses are administered by Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) and are affiliated with the National Skill Development Council of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. Courses include digital marketing, 3D animation, web design, tattooing, wood carving, sound engineering and hotel management. VEF provides unemployed Tibetans up to age 45 with opportunities to study at institutes of their own choosing.
A new public-private partnership between Orbit Future Academy, The Tibet Fund and the Department of Home provides youth with cloud-computing skills training. Curriculum, soft-skills training, and placement services enable those who pass the exam to secure related employment opportunities. Additionally, The Tibet Fund partners with the Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education to provide a diploma course in full-stack application development for graduates, along with supplementary certificate courses for the institute’s Bachelor of Computer students.