Krishna Shrestha

From Landless to Shopkeeper

Posted on: 4/1/2016

By: Srijana Paudel, Pashupati Chaudhary and Pitambar Shrestha, LI-BIRD

Sanita Nepali, 30, a Dalit woman from Agyauli Nawalparasi, believes nothing can substitute hard work. A landless but diligent family comprises 11 years old son, 9 years old daughter, husband and Sanita herself. Her husband and Sanita herself used to labour dawn to dusk in others’ farms to make a living. A small help from Community-based Biodiversity Management (CBM)-Nepal changed destiny of Sanita’s family – Sanita is no more a wage labour but a shopkeeper.

Earlier Sanita’s family found it difficult to make minimum earning to fulfil basic needs, which mired the family in persistent poverty and rendered it incapable of investing in children's education and profitable economic activities. Sometimes, want of basic needs dragged Sanita into conflict with her husband, who used to do the dishes in a hotel and then later worked at a brick factory, none of these rewarding jobs. Sanita’s husband flew to Malaysia for employment, with the borrowed loan at a high interest rate, but ended up getting 50% less salary than he was assured of (NPR 16,000 per month). This nightmare led to a dilemma in Sanita’s family and her husband returned home after 11 months, but with insufficient money to pay back the loan they had burrowed, which rendered the family helpless and frustrated.

Sanita and her husband decided to start their own small shop, but again remained wandered and desperate as nobody trusted the family for loan as they lacked income source and were already on loan. The fortune took a turn. When the family learned about farmers’ groups, CBM fund and other CBM activities from their neighbour, the family approached the CBM group and became a member to qualify for loan application. Finally, they managed to get a loan of NPR 15,000 from the CBM fund, which they invested in two she-goats, thanks to recommendation made by her group. This decision proved to be a major turning point in Sanita’s family.

Sanita with her goats. Photo: Krishna Shrestha

After 6 months, the goats gave birth to four kids, two from each goat, and in next 6 months the family was able to sell 3 males bagging NPR 25,000. The family invested that money in a small shop of fresh vegetables and some grocery items in a rented room. Good fortune continued as their goats kept producing 4 kids every year from each adult goat. Over the last two years, the family earned NPR 55,000 by selling 8 male goats. With the income from goat and borrowing some loan from bank, the family has now bought a small tractor (power tiller) for transporting goods and renting it out for extra family income. With the increased income, the family is fulfilling the basic needs and sending their kids to a high quality and more expensive school. Sanita proudly says, "My children study in English medium private school, which was beyond my imagination before due to abject poverty. Now we save small amount of money for the future and there is no more conflict with my husband”. Those turning their back on Sanita’s family when approached for loan now praise Sanita and her husband as a hardworking couple. ''My status has now changed from a landless Dalit woman to a shopkeeper and people seem to be impressed with our hard work and dedication'', she adds.

This story can stimulate many other disadvantaged families that are making a living on wage labour or on other difficult job and those who are enticed by jobs in foreign countries, some of which are nightmare like what happened with Sanita’s husband. Moreover, small investment in right business together with hard work and dedication can change one’s destiny like what happened with Sanita and her family. In essence, what Sanita believes is true – nothing can substitute hard work, but what is also true is ‘Fortune favours the brave’, the brave people like Sanita and her husband. 

Community-based Biodiversity Management (CBM) in Nepal is a programme funded by the Development Fund, Norway. It aims to enhance biodiversity-based livelihoods security of local communities through empowering farmers' institution.