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Improving women’s involvement in business for strong and sustainable outcomes

High Value Agriculture Project in Hill and Mountain Areas (HVAP) is a International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) funded project implemented by the Government of Nepal/Ministry of Agricultural Development (MOAD) with technical support from SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and Agro Enterprise Centre (AEC) of Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI). The project aims that rural poor especially women and marginal groups are integrated in high value agriculture and non-timber forest products (NTFPs)/medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) value chains and markets and have improved income, employment opportunities and ability to respond to market demand and opportunities based on marketing agreements with private agribusinesses. 

Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), an umbrella organisation of the private sector established at the district level, leads in promoting small scale business and industries. It provides information, advisory, consultative, promotional and services to businesses.
 
Assessing the capacity of CCIs
“There can be no significant or strong transformation in societies and no significant reduction in poverty until women lead private business. They need to take their rightful place as equal partners in business.”
 
With an emphasis on improving gender and social inclusion (GESI) situation in business, HVAP conducted the organisational capacity assessment and capacity development planning of the district chambers of commerce and industry (DCCIs). It is expected that this will improve the organisational performance and will support on HVAP implementation. Strengthening and expanding the engagement of agri-business in the DCCIs is an important part of the project modality. 
 
The objective of DCCIs capacity assessment and capacity development action planning was to assess strong and weak aspects of the DCCIs as a starting point for the identification of areas of improvement by themselves, to involve DCCIs in a participatory assessment and monitoring procedure which ensures ‘ownership’ of the procedure and the outcomes of it by them and to monitor the effects of support provided by the HVAP to particular DCCIs. Strengthening of CCIs and expanding the engagement of agri-business in the CCIs is an important part of the project modality. 
 
The process 
The capacity assessment consisted of a toolkit having nine indicators with five sub-indicators that use four parameters each in the form of an inquiry. Depending upon the answer of the DCCIs to the standard questions posed by the facilitator, each item and category under review is given a score.  The total points accumulated by the DCCIs, determine the overall impression on the capacity of the DCCIs. Where the assessment is low or moderately low, the capacity strengthening plan is developed on the low scored indicators. 
 
The CCI members and staff from six districts of Nepal i.e. Achham, Dailekh, Jumla, Kalikot, Salyan and Surkhet organised workshops with support from SNV and AEC/FNCCI, the implementing partner of HVAP/MOAD. The workshops were held for three days in each district and assessed the capacity and identified the strengths as well as areas for improvements. 
 
Results and recommendations
Based on conversation among the DCCIs members and staff, they were able to rate the performance of the DCCIs in each item and category. The scores of the individual components were then transferred onto a spider web, a graphical representation of the organisation’s institutional capacity. Through the model, it was easy to identify where the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation lie. The web consists of a skeleton of nine radiating arms, each representing the chosen component. Each arm is equally divided into marks representing the scores of 5 to 20 which increase outwards. Once scores of each component are located onto the arms, a line is drawn connecting all the scores to form a web.
 
One of the aspects of the CCI assessment was to plan to improve the gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) in business. The CCIs in the six districts scored the below on the gender and social inclusion aspects: 
The spider web above represents the CCIs’ GESI capacity. 
 
Finally, an action plan was prepared to address the identified issues. During action planning, the indicator scores that needed an improvement were revisited. Where the assessment was low or moderately low, the capacity strengthening plan was developed on the low scored indicators. The action plan consists of the major areas for improvements and the activities to be implemented were as the following:
The capacity assessment and development action planning exercise is expected to lessen the gender disparity in the CCIs. However, there is need for a more intensive and sustained capacity building of the CCIs and the agriculture units, in particular in providing business advisory/business plan development services to local enterprises, traders, cooperatives and producers interested in partnering with the project. 
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