One small step: Empowering micro-, small and medium businesses across South Asia

©Alex Hudson/Unsplash

It is something of a paradox that, while there is broad agreement that micro-, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are an integral part of the economy in developing countries, they remain underserved.

MSMEs are vital to achieving decent and productive employment, particularly in the developing world, where they help keep economies afloat. In South Asia, on average, they account for over 40 percent of GDP. They also drive livelihoods – especially those of women and young people.

Yet millions of MSMEs don't have access to capital to grow their business. That’s why IFAD works with governments to invest in rural MSMEs and agribusiness, spurring productivity, improving incomes and livelihoods, and creating jobs.

Here are some stories of how IFAD investment has helped women and men across South Asia grow their businesses and build better lives.


©Reshma Begum

Reshma Begum had always wanted to rear goats. “Money was always short. My husband is a day labourer and we never had enough to take care of ourselves and our four children,” she says. “We did have some land that we weren’t doing anything with. So I thought, why not rear goats to support the household income. But they all died, and we were left with more debt than before.”

Things turned around when Reshma met a value chain facilitator with IFAD’s PACE project. In 2016, she received training on goat rearing through PACE, along with a loan of US$235 to buy four mother goats.

Within a year, Reshma’s goats birthed 13 calves. In 2017, Reshma turned a tidy US$1300 profit by selling 10 goats, enough to pay for her eldest daughter’s wedding. Now, there are never fewer than 30 goats on her farm.

Reshma’s goat business has been so successful that she’s gained some local fame. Her husband was able to leave his day labourer job and now works alongside her. There’s enough to send the children to school. And Reshma hasn’t stopped dreaming: emboldened by her success, she wants to double the number of goats on her farm.


©Sangay Jamtsho

Sangay Jamtsho, 32, quit his job as a primary school teacher to become a farmer. “I am the son of farmers. Ever since I was a young boy, all I wanted was to run a dairy farm,” he says. So, eight years ago, armed with a US$32,000 loan from the Rural Enterprise Development Cooperation and the Loden Foundation, he returned to his home village to start the business of his dreams.

That bought him six Holstein Friesian cows and some basic equipment. In 2018, thanks to the IFAD-supported