A Journey From Rita to Raangi Didi
Rita’s story is a fascinating one. A member of one of the most socially and economically underprivileged communities, she has now established herself as an entrepreneur and is supporting her family. A few years ago, Rita and her husband used to plough others’ land for a living, and provide half of their agricultural produce to the landowner. With no other resources at hand, Rita often turned to the forest to supplement her livelihood and fulfill the needs of her famiy. Saddled with the burden of providing for a large family with her husband and herself, their three children and two orphaned nieces, Rita even sought employment abroad. Although she repaid the loan from that venture and helped with family expenses it was difficult to save any money, and Rita came back empty-handed.
It was then that she became a member of the Devisthan Community Learning and Action Center (CLAC) run by the Hariyo Ban Program through FECOFUN. “Thanks to the weekly discussions, I learnt about issues related to conservation, climate change and governance. I became confident and began to speak up when I felt I should,” shares Rita. Her involvement in conservation activities led her to the meetings of the Devisthan CFUG, where she learnt that vulnerable users of the community forest like herself were being assisted through LIPs.
Plucking up courage, Rita decided to take up the offer of LIP support, and was provided with Rs. 12,000 by the Hariyo Ban Program through FECOFUN. A Local Resource Person (LRP) supported Rita in the preparation of the LIP that would best benefit her. “After a lot of thought and discussions, I decided to try my hand in trading buffalos. I bought my first buffalo at Rs. 13,000 in February 2013, adding savings of Rs. 1,000 to the LIP support.” Her risk paid off, as she was able to sell it for Rs. 16,000 after ten days. The second time, Rita invested Rs. 5,000 in a buffalo and sold it for Rs. 15,000. As buffalo meat is considered a delicacy in many communities, finding customers was not difficult.
By December 2013, Rita had dealt in 15 buffalos. “It is not as easy job, and I have to search far and wide for buffalos. In the beginning, it even felt a little awkward when I roamed around the villages looking for buffalos. But now I am used to it, and the villagers have started calling me Raangi1 Didi. I do not mind, for it has become my identity.” Rita is quite satisfied with her profits, which are adequate for her household expenses. She has even purchased a gold chain worth Rs. 30,000 for herself from all the savings. Owning gold is a matter of great pride, being an indicator of prosperity and security.
Prosperity has also brought confidence to Rita, and she now manages the household expenses while her husband is working abroad. Thanks to her household management her husband’s income is saved, and they now plan to buy land and build their own house. “My journey to this stage has been really fascinating,” Rita smiles, “and it all started when I began taking an interest in the outside world.”
While her business has given her a lot of happiness, Rita is a little wary of the competition that is creeping in. “Because of my success, a lot of people are now attracted to this trade, which might make it difficult for me to get good value for my buffaloes. So I am trying to scale up my business by contacting butchers in Besisahar, while exploring other ventures.”
Besides Rita, Jamuna Pariyar, Bhima BK, Chija BK and Sirkala BK were also provided with LIP support by the Hariyo Ban Program in Lamjung. All of the women belong to the most disadvantaged groups in the community, and were dependent on the local forest for many of their needs. But thanks to the livelihood opportunities provided to them there is a good potential for them to raise their living standards through alternative livelihoods, stop depending on forests, and become more involved in conservation activities, once they realize how active involvement in the CFUG is going to help them.
1 Raanga is the male buffalo. As a female trading in buffalos, Rita came to be known as Raangi Didi (sister).
By Anita Adhikari, M & E Associate, WWF Nepal, Hariyo Ban Program
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Disclaimer: The Hariyo Ban Program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the responsibility of WWF and its consortium partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.