Breaking Stereotypes; Building Successes
Their stories exemplify how important it is help poor and marginalized people who are dependent on forests. Armed with a little financial help and motivation they can develop and manage enterprises, prospering so that they no longer need to exploit forest resources. Also, as their living standards improve, they can afford to shift to alternative energy sources such as biogas rather than depend on firewood.
Padma Dhami lives with her three sons and husband in Chetana Tole-3, Geta, in Kailali district. Earlier, her husband used to drive a truck, a perilous job with minimal returns. He quit the job in April 2013.
To supplement their meager income, Padma started selling vegetables about five years ago. She earned around NRs. 2,000 to NRs. 3,000 a month but was unable to scale up her business.
Things changed when she attended a meeting called by the CFUG. “I was an active member of the CFUG and participated in several activities conducted by the Hariyo Ban Program in the last two years. During a meeting, I was informed that Hariyo Ban planned to provide livelihood improvement plan (LIP) support to poor and ultra-poor households to improve our livelihood alternatives.”
With the support of a loan Padma could scale up her business, though it was risky as she would have to repay the amount in two installments within two years. She shared the proposal with her husband, and they decided to take the opportunity. “This was the time for me to prove that I could earn enough for my family, and hence we decided to go for the Rs. 10,000 support,” explained Padma.
The first thing she did with the money was to renovate her bicycle. “I had a very old bicycle, which I used to transport vegetables from wholesaler to my home and while vending them around the village. My earnings were barely enough to fulfill our basic needs. But with the cash from the LIP fund, I spent NRs. 2,500 to paint the bicycle and replace the old tires. With the rest of the money, I bought more vegetables from the wholesaler – the more I purchased, the cheaper the rates. Earlier, I could only purchase and store around 20-25 kg of vegetables within my limited budget. These days, I can store up to one quintal of vegetables. I can now sell a greater volume and thus earn more profit. My elder son estimated that we now earn around Rs. 6,000-7,000 month on average, which is about Rs. 4,000 more than earlier,” Padma said enthusiastically.
Padma feels that a little support is all one needs to get ahead in life. “My husband helps me with the household chores, as my work keeps me busy all day,” she said. The woman who struggled to make ends meet is now saving Rs. 600 per month in a saving and credit group and even helps others by lending them money.
Ishwori Kadal has been running a small grocery shop for five years near her home, on her own land. The income from the shop was minimal, and barely complemented her husband’s income. One and a half years ago her husband left his job, and this placed a financial strain on the couple. Ishwori was worried about her family of four children, brother-in-law, husband and herself.
It was around then that Ishwori was informed about the livelihood improvement plan (LIP) support provided by the Hariyo Ban Program. “In a meeting, I was asked whether I was interested. My husband and I discussed it and decided to scale up our shop as a tea and snack plus grocery store. Our house is located near a school on the highway and there are no other stores that supply quality snacks,” Ishwori shared.
“I received Rs. 20,000 from Hariyo Ban Program, and was informed that I had to pay it back in two installments, by the end of the second year. We invested the amount on furniture, utensils and ingredients. Then my brother-in-law and husband visited my father’s place at Kohalpur where he runs a tea-snack shop. They were trained to make pakauda (fritters), samosas, chow mein and other dishes.”
With the scaled up ingredients, furniture, utensils, and skilled human resources, their lives have seen a transformation. “Before, we would earn Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 in a day, while we now make a daily profit of Rs. 1,000-1,200 per day. The shop is housed in a temporary hut but if we keep on earning like this, we plan to build a permanent structure.”
Ishwori has not forgotten that it was her involvement in the community forest that led to this wonderful transformation. “As I am an active member of our women-led CFUG, I have to be present at all meetings and activities. My husband and brother-in-law are very supportive. Thanks to Hariyo Ban, we have become more conscious about conservation and biodiversity,” she concluded.
Helping communities living near community forests will ensure that their livelihood options are diversified, and they will not have to use the forests to meet their needs. With an increased standard of living they will also be more likely to involve themselves in conservation activities. This will directly help reduce threats to biodiversity and drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, a major aim of the Hariyo Ban Program.
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.