The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched a new Business Literacy project under which it aims to build skills of 48,000 Nepalis in the west, mid-west and far-west regions.

The US$ 4 million project, which will continue for three years, will cover topics like literacy, numeracy, entrepreneurship, financial management, and life skills.

The project is part of the US government´s five-year ´Feed the Future´ initiative in Nepal that aims to raise incomes and improve livelihoods for vulnerable households. USAID is spending $66 million in the five-year project.

According to USAID, the Business Literacy project builds upon its previous efforts and expands on trainings that empower women, youth and marginalized communities. “From 2008 to 2012, USAID´s entrepreneurial literacy training established livelihood foundations for more than 32,000 youth, women, and marginalized people in Nepal´s mid-western region. Of these, some became entrepreneurs, while others attended additional training in agriculture or vocational training,” it said.

Finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat (right) speaks during the launching of USAID’s new Business Literacy project at Durbar Marg, Kathmandu, on Friday. (Dipesh Shrestha/Republica)

Beth Dunford, USAID Nepal Mission Director, said linking health, nutrition and entrepreneurial literacy activities to agriculture greatly increases the chances of lifting people out of poverty as many in Nepal depend on agriculture for livelihoods. “It is crucial to food security. There is also consistent and compelling evidence that when status of women is improved, agricultural productivity increases, poverty is reduced and nutrition improves for their entire family,” she said, adding, “This will also complement to the government´s priority of making all Nepalis literate by 2015.”

According to USAID, every year, more than 550,000 Nepali youth, who make up more than 50 percent of the country´s population, join the ranks of those looking for work, with many either striving to go abroad as unskilled labor or languishing as part of the unproductive workforce. By launching the project, USAID aims to provide a platform for those youth to earn enough money back in their country.

Kailash Rijal, program manager of the project, said the program will have 2,000 community trainers and 150 master trainers to train 48,000 Nepalis which will help improve agricultural productivity in the long run.

Saying that poverty and illiteracy are among the major problems of Nepal, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said the Business Literacy Project will help raise productivity of Nepalis. “I am happy that this program aims to make Nepalis productive by involving them in income generating programs. Different types of skills provided in the training will help disadvantaged group to be entrepreneurs thus helping to wipe out poverty,” added Mahat.

The project will be implemented by Nepali NGOs DEPROSC-Nepal and Samjhauta Nepal. The project will work closely with government agencies like Non-Formal Education Center and concerned District Education Offices and Village Development Committees.

"A computer does not substitute for judgment any more than a pencil substitutes for literacy. But writing without a pencil is no particular advantage.” -Robert S. McNamara