The official launch of Sahaj Challenge Fund (SCF) took place on Thursday, 25 May 2023 at the Hotel Ambassador, Lazimpat in Kathmandu, bringing together various media houses, thematic experts. and representatives from Swisscontact, CEAPRED and Practical Action Consulting.
With disruptive innovation at the core, Sahaj Challenge Fund will support service providers with innovative solutions to solve existing bottlenecks in branding, packaging, and distribution channel services in the value chains of maize, cardamom, vegetable and dairy products. During the press meet, Mr. Rick van der Kamp- Team Leader Sahaj Challenge Fund gave a brief description of NAMDP and their work in the Koshi Province.
“Through Sahaj Challenge Fund, NAMDP aims to stimulate innovation in the agricultural sector”, says Mr. van der Kamp.
Ms. Subhechchha Shrestha- Manager-Agriculture Services- NAMDP also spoke about SCF, its importance, the different rounds that have been implemented and the impact created by it.
“SCF is designed for service providers in agricultural processing as improvements in processing would be advantageous to farmers in the form of value-addition, resulting in higher income and employment generation”, Ms. Shrestha adds.
From Practical Action Consulting, Mr. Adhish Karki, Team Leader for the Challenge Fund spoke about how Round 3 of the Challenge Fund will be taken forward and the kinds of support that can be received by agribusinesses. With financial support ranging from NPR 5 to 50 lakhs per project, SCF will co-finance the costs involved in developing and piloting business models and solutions tailored to the Koshi Province. However, the Challenge Fund will not support purchase of equipment and machinery, though it will provide technical assistance to applicants if required. The project’s branding and packaging theme expert Mr. Anuj Shrestha and distribution channel expert Mr. Dibeev Bhakta Shrestha also spoke about the challenges in their respective themes and how the Challenge Fund will work to create sustainable change through disruptive innovation.
“Not many companies in Nepal are working in sustainable branding and packaging solutions. This Challenge Fund would be a beneficial step towards helping local producers innovate such solutions”, mentions Mr. Anuj Shrestha.
“SCF supports service providers to use new trade channels, benefit from new strategic alliances, and utilize product placements and digitalization to improve their channel of distribution”, adds Mr. Dibeev Bhakta Shrestha.
With applications now open for the Challenge Fund, the call for application will end on 20th June 2023. After completion of the application period, applicants will undergo the first round of screening and will be asked to submit a full proposal. Applicants who reach the second round will undergo further screening and winners of the second round will be provided support from the Challenge Fund. SCF Round 3 seeks to support a maximum of 5 business in this round.
Sahaj Challenge Fund organized the event, bringing together key media houses and stakeholders and facilitating the discussion to disseminate the relevant information regarding the Challenge Fund such that more agribusinesses are aware of the opportunity to develop their innovative ideas into successful businesses. With its bespoke financial and technical service support, Sahaj aims to improve access to services and foster innovation for service providers and contribute to a higher level of commercialization and economic value-addition in the agricultural sector.
“Rounds 4 and 5 of Sahaj Challenge Fund will focus on product development and quality improvement, focusing on service providers working to link production with consumer demand through analyzing the existing markets and supporting private sector to invest in market development”, adds Ms. Subhechchha Shrestha as her final statement.
Sahaj operates under a bilateral agreement between the Government of Nepal and the Government of Switzerland. Sahaj is a SDC project implemented by a consortium of Swisscontact (as the lead agency) and CEAPRED. Sahaj aims to build a thriving and inclusive agriculture sector in Nepal by catalyzing income and employment growth in Nepal’s rural population. While NAMDP has already implemented Sahaj Challenge Fund Round 1 in logistical services and Round 2 in the dairy value chain, Round 3 will focus on innovative branding, packaging and distribution channel services within the dairy, maize, cardamom and vegetable value chains. In Round 3 of the challenge fund, Practical Action Consulting will work as the implementing partner for Swisscontact.