Chitra Kali metamorphoses from micro-entrepreneur to a millionaire

Asking her fellow women to prepare for a meeting, Chitra Kali instructs the weavers opposite her house on knitting patterns. She was also preparing food for a couple of guests in her small eatery-cum-shop. Chitra Kali lives a very busy life. From dawn to dusk, she has a very busy schedule. Yet she wears no signs of weariness. It seems that her preoccupation with the work does not allow worries to consume her.

Born to a poor peasant family of farming Magar community, Chitra Kali Budhamagar suffered from depravation even during her childhood. Fortunately, she was married off at the age of 24 in 1986 with Khim Budhamagar. Perhaps, it was the grinding poverty that goaded her into doing something different.

It was only since 2003, she began collecting the yarn made of Allo – Himalayan stinging nettle – going door-to-door. At the beginning, she used to sell yarn in Kathmandu and buy readymade garments from there and sell them at Bahane.

A resident of Lung Village Development Committee (VDC) ward no. 6  Bahane in Pyuthan district, the 45-year-old outspoken woman, received a three-month skill development training in micro-enterprises in 2005 from Micro-Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP), UNDP. She began her journey in business with a small hotel. MEDEP supported her to secure an 8,000 rupees-loan from Agricultural Development Bank (ADB/N).

She initially invested Rs 50,000, borrowed from ADB/N, in buying allo yarn from local collectors, mostly women. Within a span of 6 years, she has diversified and expanded her business. She has borrowed more than 1.3 million rupees from various financial institutions and individual lenders. 

Chitra Kali used to sell 50 to 60 kg of yarn 8 years ago. Now she sells 3-6 quintals of yarn. She buys the yarn at Rs 550 and sells at Rs 700 a kg. This fetches her a profit of Rs 150 per kg. Her monthly income hovers around Rs 45,000 to 90,000 and the total annual profit at the lowest is Rs 540,000.

Her property has doubled over the period compared to her borrowings. Now she owns a house at 6 Bahane worth Rs 2.2 million and another at Syaulibang VDC worth Rs 500,000. This apart, she has yarn, caps, bags and other products of allo worth Rs 300,000 in her Kothi Himal Allo Cloth Industry at Bahane.

She has not only improved her financial condition, Chitra Kali has employed 12 rural women and has been helping nearly 2,500 rural women by purchasing their allo yarn and handmade goods. “The training in skill development for micro-entrepreneurs and guidance provided by MEDEP, my perseverance and continued support from family members have brought me to this position,” she shares. 

Syaulibang VDC lies in the border of Rolpa and Baglung districts where Allo is available in abundance. Taking advantage of availability of this wasted renewable natural resource, she provided Allo processing and yarn making training to several hundreds of women of adjoining VDCs of Syaulibang falling in Rolpa and Baglung districts and has encouraged the poor women residing in the VDCs of these districts. These women mainly spin yarn of Allo and sell yarn to Chitra Kali and some of them also sell her small products like mobile phone covers, tea coasters, wrist bands, and ladies bags among others.

Chitra Kali also has another incarnation. She is a social worker. She is the Chair of Kothi Himal Savings and Credit Cooperatives; Chair, Kothi Himal Group’s Association; Chair, National Allo Entrepreneurs’ Association supported by MEDEP and represented by Allo entrepreneurs of 26 districts; Treasurer, District Micro-Entrepreneurs’ Groups Association; Member, National Micro-Entrepreneurs’ Association Nepal (NMEFEN) all organizations supported and promoted by MEDEP; and Member of Pyuthan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Her meaningful participation in those institutions emboldens other women from the marginalized communities to assert their rights to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives. With her unfailing commitment to the organizations and networks she is involved in, Chitra Kali has become an advocate of women’s rights.

 “Women’s participation in such processes not only makes them aware, but also enables them to claim their basic rights,” she asserts. 

She has been advocating with the VDC, Community Forest Users’ Groups, Department of Cottage and Small Industries and MEDEP to allocate budget for destroying a killer weed locally known as “forest killer” to enhance the cultivation of Allo, to provide training, to increase funding, and to provide collateral-free soft loans to the rural women in order to develop them as micro-entrepreneurs.

Behind her rise as an exemplary entrepreneur lies the unwavering support from her husband Khim Budhamagar and her sons Deependra and Tilak. Speaking about her future plan, she said, “We need to diversify and expand our business. The women involved in the Allo business should be trained in diversifying their products and enhancing their quality.

She says that raising awareness among the people, holding the concerned government and non-government agencies accountable to the poor people, allocating budgets for capacity-building of aspirant women entrepreneurs, protecting existing Allo fields, growing Allo in additional places, establishing backward and forward linkages could sustain the business.