Mr. Govinda Kami

Mr. Govinda Kami, 30 years old, is one of the shareholders of the Malika Handmade Paper Enterprise in Kailash in Nepal’s Bajhang district.  The Malika enterprise was established in 2000 as a result of ANSAB’s “Creating Economic Incentives for Poverty Stricken Local Communities Biodiversity Conservation” project. Aveda, an important member of the Private Public Alliance that promotes Nepali NTFPs, extended its support by buying and promoting Forest Stewardship Council Certified handmade paper products from the Malika since 2007 in the US market.

Govinda belongs to the traditionally categorized untouchable caste – “Kami” – which is occupationally assigned to do metalwork to fulfill local needs for agricultural equipment. There are, altogether, 252 families in the village of Kailash and 42 families belong to the Kami community. A separate drinking water tap is assigned for people of untouchable castes as they cannot intermingle with so-called upper castes. The caste discrimination situation was so severe that nobody from the untouchable caste could even enter to the kitchens of upper caste families.

In a bid to introduce inclusiveness in the society, ANSAB asked Govinda to participate in the enterprise activities first in 2000 and, later, in 2002, he was promoted to be a project employee in Bajhang. Govinda worked hard at the Malika enterprise while continuing his studies, which he stopped for two years before coming to Malika. The small income of Rs. 25,000 per year from Malika helped him to further his studies. Most importantly, the encouragement he received from the people visiting Malika enterprise and the enterprise leaders strengthened his desire to continue his studies. He is the first person in his village who is working on a Bachelor’s degree.

Govinda’s family was also at the mercy of local lenders that provide loans to local people at high interest rates – more than 60% for six months. Govinda was able to pay off a loan of Rs. 150,000 (US $ 2,300) after working at the paper enterprise.  He also invested in and built a house for Rs. 250,000 (US $3,800). Afterward, Govinda married Aasha and now they have a 3 year old son – Aabiskar.

He has now gained good social status and he is frequently requested by people in Bajhang to join various forums and local institutions. He is currently on the board of the Malika enterprise and is also the Chairperson of the school committee in his village. Moreover, he is affiliated with three more NGOs and a cooperative. He is requested frequently to provide advice and services for enterprise development to local organizations in his district. He says that “the most important achievement I made from the paper project is the capacity building for community development works.  Trainings and advices I received from ANSAB enabled me to understand enterprises, community leadership and success factors for community development. The confidence raised by the project is very important for people like me which are from untouchable caste because it requires high courage to deal with those people who feel superior because of birth in the higher caste.” People from other castes do no longer hesitate to eat dinner with Govinda and he has become a role model for youth in his community.