The project provides small business training through the Self Help Group (SHG) model that enables the beneficiaries to turn their newly acquired skills into viable livelihoods. The MEAL project’s households (HH) are given training in life skills and gender awareness to build capacities of SHG members and their families and foster their social and personal development. Acquiring life skills aids the participants’ further learning and enhances the capacities of managing SHGs and running their small businesses. Small business training is also provided, focusing on financial management and business planning. The MEAL project is providing capacity building with each SHG to assist the cooperatives to develop targeted business plans suitable for their local context, it demonstrate and helps to understand small business management as well as marketing techniques. The project agronomist advise about product harvesting, handling, packaging and quality standards, where women are particularly focused on as they are primarily responsible for this aspect of the agricultural process. In addition, MEAL is continuing to carry out market studies, and disseminates these results to the SHGs throughout the project. This is done in order to update the program on consumption trends and to identify any new marketing opportunities. From the initial situation assessment, the project has identified leafy greens and broccoli as potential cash crops for SHGs to market and did thus initially supply these seeds for the HHs. In order to support an increase in production and an improvement in accessibility to markets, the MEAL project supports the establishment of a local market within each project’s khoroo (the smallest administrative unit of Ulanbaatar).
An important aspect of business development includes community education activities which deal with incorporating vegetables into home-cooking and gaining community interest and demand. The Harvest Days are held at the end of harvest every year in each khoroo. They are used as an opportunity for project’s participants to promote and market their produce in their local communities. There are cooking competitions, with food being prepared using ingredients from the project participating HHs gardens which are available for community members to try, as well as awards for best produce, games and activities to promote the fruits and vegetables currently being grown by the project participating HHs, and enhance the sales of their agriculture products in the local communities. The project also links SHG members to vocational training providers according to their needs and availability. This is providing them with income-generating opportunities during the off-season. Successful and interested SHG members are referred to ADRA’s Micro Economic Development Division in order to expand their activities via small grants.