Commercial farming empowers women from a Musahar community in SirahaSelf-employed women from the community are now able to send their children to school.
Anita Devi Sada, a squatter from a Musahar settlement at Kalyanpur Municipality-9, Siraha, used to work as a daily wage worker until last year. The meagre income she earned was barely enough to feed her family of five.
But things have changed now. Anita, who is in her early forties, started her own commercial vegetable farming last year. She now makes good money producing and selling vegetables in the local markets.
“Initially, I grew ladies’ fingers and sold them in the local market. Now I grow different types of vegetables and sell them. I even take my neighbours’ vegetables and sell them in the market,” said Sada. “I go to the market every alternate day and earn around Rs 800 to Rs 1,200 a day. It is a good income for an uneducated woman like me.”
Another 41-year-old woman, Aaso Devi Aada from the same community, has also been making a living by selling vegetables. She used to work in a field earlier but the earnings she made was not enough to feed her family, she says.
“After I started farming and selling vegetables commercially, my economic condition got better. Women in the community, including me, have developed the habit of saving money, which was next to impossible while working for somebody else,” said Aaso Devi.
Not only Anita and Aaso but the majority of women from the Musahar settlement at Piluwaha in Kalyanpur Municipality-9 are now involved in commercial vegetable farming. This has been made possible due to the vocational training and assistance provided by Mukti Nepal, a social organisation, to the Musahar women.
Mukti Nepal formed Gulab Women's Group to conduct vocational training for the socio-economic development of the marginalised community and provided three months commercial vegetable farming training to the women of the village. After receiving training, the women leased 18 kathas of land (around 65,610 square feet) near their settlement and started growing vegetables. As all the vegetables grown by them could not be consumed in the local settlements, the women started selling their products in the local markets in Dumari, Kalyanpur, Mirchaiya and Radhopur.
According to Manju Kumari Sada, chairperson of Gulab Women's Group, women from the Musahar community have saved nearly Rs 40,000 from selling vegetables. The group invests the savings in vegetable farming and also provides loans at cheaper interest rates to those in need. The women have also started sending children to school and are raising awareness in the community to ban the consumption and sale of alcohol.
“After the women in the community started growing and selling vegetables, they did not have to go to the landlords and contractors for employment,” said Manju.
Ashok Kumar Kamati, district coordinator of Mukti Nepal, said that the entire Musahar settlement has benefited from the commercial farming training.
“The women have gained independence and this has brought about social and economic changes in the society,” said Kamati.
There are 34 houses in the Dalit Musahar settlement.