“The gift of material goods makes people dependent, but the gift of knowledge makes them free.” The capacity building and skills development programs carried out by the Woman Initiative Fund (WIF) helps vulnerable and disadvantaged community members, like Sabita Devi Chaudhary, improve their livelihoods by starting their own farming businesses.
After serving as a Kamiya (bonded laborer) for years, Sabita and her husband acquired four dhur (approximately 0.008 hectares) of land from the owner. On it, they built a small house and grew crops in their tiny garden, selling them to the market to earn some extra income for their family. Her husband simultaneously acquired skills to drive a tractor. This produced enough income for their daily needs, so they then took a 20,000 NPR loan from the land owner and bought one kattha (approximately 0.03 hectare) of farmland. With the smile on her face, Sabita recalled this time, “I felt blessed because for the first time I owned something.”
Despite this, due to their lack of technical skills and knowledge they could not fully benefit from the land. However, things began to improve when Sabita received banana farming training carried out by WIF, under the Managing Risk through Economic Development (MRED II) project supported by the Nepal Red Cross Society.
Desu Ram Chaudhary, Social Mobiliser (SM) of Nepal Red Cross Society, Kailali, explains, “The Agriculture sector plays a critical role in Nepalese economy. After abundant research, we came up with the banana farming training program. Bananas are ideal for climate-risk-sensitive agricultural practice. Bananas can grow under poor soil conditions and can tolerate flooded conditions for up to ten days. Also it provides a weekly income year round.”
Sabita and 11 others were provided with training in crop management techniques and were taught about risks associated with banana farming. The participants also received banana plants, fertilizer, and pesticides to encourage them to cultivate bananas in their own farmland.
In 2013, Sabita cultivated bananas in one kattha land and has continued cultivating bananas on it ever since. Initially, she sold them at the local market, with an average profit of 500 NPR per day, which helped start her banana farming business. With this, she gradually settled her loans and bought an additional kattha of land, expanding her production and enabling her to purchase an auto rickshaw with her saved money she had sat aside over the years. Now she drives the rickshaw to collect raw bananas from Tikapur village, Baidi village and Satti village, and once those bananas get ripe, she sells them at the market profiting her 15,000 NPR a month.
Not only does Sabita make a smart investment, she also saves a portion from her income in a community co-operative bank, depositing 6,000 NPR a month. She says, “The training on Banana farming by WIF was very helpful to us. Since it leads to a more profitable business, my husband and I invest most of our time in the fields rather than in labor work. We also have decided to buy an additional kattha of land next year during the banana harvesting period.”
“I earned my reputation through my success in farming that I never earned as a labor worker,” concludes Sabita Devi Chaudhary.