Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE) considers that  lack of Access to finance is a key issue for women entrepreneurs that negatively impact agro-businesses and ultimately ‘Brand Bhutan’. BAOWE is seeking both financial and technical support to develop a program that would support grass root entrepreneurs raise their product volumes and quality standards and more importantly establish agro-processing facilities to add value to agriculture products.

A key aspiration of the organization is to develop inclusive business practices with their innovative ideas for pump-priming micro and small businesses with investment for infrastructure, supplemented by skills development. Their business idea is to partner micro and small businesses, managed by young social entrepreneur’s along with rural self help groups  mostly women and disadvantaged youth.

The plan involves BAOWE taking on the role of aggregator creating effective links between small holders (primary producers) and social entrepreneurs in a unique module they term the ‘Fountain Effect’.

The Fountain Effect Concept was developed by BAOWE in response to the challenges faced by farmers including low volumes of produce and lack of marketing networks thereof.

The government has developed infrastructure including building farm roads and farm shops and provided connectivity however the gaps resulting from low volumes of primary produce and high labour cost does not promote effective commercialization of products. This could be one of the reasons leading to the inability to exploit the potential available vis-à-vis supplying the growing global demand for healthy foods. The lacks of volumes require targeting niche market, capitalizing on Bhutan’s pristine environment, fertile soils and fresh water. Value addition will not only fetch better prices but also provide employment and self-employment opportunities and reduce rural to urban migration.

The Fountain Effect creates synergies between small holders and social entreprenerus  aggregating small volumes of primary produce through collection linkages, building substantial, sustainable and economical  raw material supply chains.

To elaborate ,one can imagine a village growing mushrooms. A single farmer would perhaps harvest five kilograms of mushrooms a day, which she would sell sitting on the roadside. This would entail a whole day with no guarantee of success including the risk of her highly perishable mushrooms spoiling. Adopting the Fountain Effect method would include her in the supply chain involving a few hundred villagers meeting the raw material requirement of a social entrepreneurs. Since the manufacturing unit is located near or inside the village, logistics would be cost effective including planning, ‘Just in time’ supply chains involving the primary producers at inception creating  bonding and give a sense of ownership.

The entrepreneur would have consistent, cost effective raw material supply which would bring down manufacturing costs. She in turn would reward the primary producers with a share in net profits thereby creating the FOUNTAIN EFFECT.

Through its experience working with Self-Help Groups across the Country, building livelihoods and empowering through entrepreneurship, BAOWE is promoting  the Fountain Effect methodology to benefit rural community, building livelihoods and effectively main streaming them into the socio economic plans of the country.

It is clear that innovation could be at the core of its support program component and approaches should be designed both ‘top –down’ and ‘bottom-up’ to enable the testing of grassroots business development modules and sustainable solutions to address problems of Access to Finance; youth unemployment and women’s equality.

The Four Harmonious Friends

The “Four Harmonious Friends” is one of the beloved tales from Bhutan. The image of a bird, rabbit, and monkey standing on each other’s shoulders on the back of a patient elephant portrays social and environmental harmony.

Working together synergising their individual talents, the four friends enjoy the fruits and inspire the rest to join their journey (network) to make a collective difference, harmoniously.

The Fountain Effect Logo

The Green Elephant signifies small holders (primary producers)

The Blue Monkey signifies the aggregator and in our case BAOWE.

The Red Rabbit signifies the Social Entrepreneur’s.

The White Bird signifies the consumers and Space.

The Elephant, small holders create self help groups supplying to the aggregator who in turn supplies to social entrepreneurs who in turn value adds and sell to the consumer while ploughing back a small percentage of her profit to the small holders.