They borrow at nominal interest rates while also learning basic accounting skills. In some countries savings and credit groups have developed into formal bank cooperatives, but in many of Nepal’s villages, loans are used to invest in vegetable farming, livestock raising, and other small businesses. Some are also used to pay childrens’ school fees.
The result: a path out of poverty and increased participation in local leadership.
Lalu Maya in Udayapur district is an example of a woman who has augmented her income, and become self-reliant despite the fact that her husband left for an overseas job.
At 19, Lalu found herself in an arranged marriage. This ended her dream of getting a high school education. Her husband was the single wage earner, and Lalu had to do the house chores, tending the family’s paddy and corn patch, and take care of the goats.
To obtain fodder for the goats, Lalu had to walk hours to and from a jungle. Even as she worked from dawn to dusk, the couple had barely enough to live on. With the arrival of two daughters, their economic situation declined further.
Lalu’s husband felt he had no option but to leave for an overseas job, like nearly 3.5 million other Nepalis, 10% of the country’s population. This left Lalu at home, two children and a small farm on which the family depended, while her husband first paid back the loans he took to pay the recruiter with the first six months of his salary.
Then Lalu heard about monthly meetings held by HANDS Nepal, a local non-profit supported by my organisation, World Neighbors. She was intrigued by the first training she attended about kitchen gardens, vegetable patches using sustainable techniques.
The gardens provide a variety of vegetables and fruit that enhances nutrition. When families apply other techniques, including water storage ponds and tunnel greenhouses, kitchen gardens can scale to a commercial level. The surplus is harvested nearly year-round and sold in local markets.
Lalu started a kitchen garden, involving her daughters in the work. She next learned how to produce organic fertiliser and natural pesticides, including a traditional liquid made from livestock urine. Using these inputs increased the output of both her kitchen garden and her small corn and rice fields.
She also attended agroforestry trainings where she learned how to grow grass and trees that can be used as animal fodder. After three years, Lalu’s fodder farm has grown, and she no longer spends hours walking to and from a jungle to collect feed for her goats. Lalu obtained the capital to expand her fodder farm through participation in a local savings and credit group.
Aid rarely aids agriculture in Nepal, Ramesh Kumar