This is the story of Renu Devi. She is aged around 40 years and belongs to Kasturba Mahila Mandal, group no. A-2 of Belha village. Due to extreme poverty, her parents were not able to provide education for her and that’s why she bounded to marry a widower man having four children. Her husband Mr. Indradev Mahto’s first wife too died due to his impoverish poverty. Mr. Indradev is a laborer and he migrates for six months to Panipat, Haryana to work on wages. During his stay at Panipat for six months, Renu Devi faced a lot of problems on housekeeping, care on children and ill health issues of her mother in law. She always thought of giving education to her own son and step children. But time passed by on a woe and her only son Mr. Prakash Kumar also migrated to Haryana for wages.
The sudden turn around came into Renu’s life when she joined Kasturba Mahila Mandal a SHG supported by Heifer project. As a group member, she started saving Rs.25 per month in group fund. She received SHG management training. During training she came to understand the importance of group management and small savings. She thought herself that she got the way how to fight the devil of poverty and thus make up her mind to open a grocery shop. During training she reflected her thought before trainer and group members. All participants appreciated her thinking and in a group meeting it is decided to give Renu Devi Rs.1000 loan at the interest of 3%.
After getting loan from group, Renu Devi was very happy but a question was always revolving in her mind on how to start her business. Earlier she was in practice of selling vegetables in a rented shop. A thought came in her mind and she talked with the owner of that shop and acquired it on a rent of Rs.200 per month. She started selling vegetables with the help of Rs.1000 from group’s loan and Rs.1000 from her own savings. Her hard work and constant efforts in this petty shop business her income started to grow up to 100-150 Rs. per day. Her husband came in wonder on her effort and earning when he came back from Haryana state where he went on migration. Finally he decided to not to go again to Haryana and help Renu on her business. He assisted her on growing green vegetables on their small field they have with a view to grow more profit making vegetables. Gradually as demand arise by the villagers, Renu also attached with this shop tea and snacks. This step almost doubled her per day income from Rs.100-150 to Rs.200-250. During festive season her shop’s income recorded Rs.1000-Rs.1200.
In these days, her shop has stock of around Rs.5000. She also paid back loan Rs.1090 to group fund. After seeing her income more shops opened by other villagers but Renu’s shop is running in its flame and progressing day by day. After fulfilling all basic household needs she has also saved Rs.8000 in her own account.
Thus with the help of group and her own intelligence, she brought back happiness for her family. Her husband and son left totally migrating to Haryana for wages. Now she is thinking to fulfill her own fervor desire of reading, writing, and understanding text, in true sense the desire of knowledge and education for herself and her only son Mr. Prakash.
Project families in general have changed their lifestyle through change in social behavior. Some specific examples - Leelamaya Ramtel from the original group earned NPR 54,000 as the highest income from buffaloes rearing during this reporting period; while Yava Karki and Tulasha Bhujel from pass on groups earned a highest amount of NPR 63,000 and lowest amount of NPR 25,000 from same. It shows that on an average each project family has earned at least 10,000 from buffaloes rearing. Similarly, 270 project families have earned a total sum of NPR 453,100 by selling off-springs of original and passed on buffaloes and goats. Further, those 270 project families have also earned a total of NPR 218,100 from kitchen gardening; while some of the project families earned up to NPR 6,700 by selling fodder and forage as well. The entire Self-Help Group (SHG) members are also increasing their saving funds from various activities like group laboring, retailed shops, handful grains donation campaigns etc. and have added their funds by NPR 449950 in total. Similarly, 6 SHG members have earned up to NPR 155,500 in total from collective ginger farming and by selling at nearby markets.After receiving different trainings, community members have maintained social harmony being united and supporting each other. Similarly, project families have cultivated vegetables by using organic manures and have been consuming fresh vegetables daily. It has supported them to be healthy. Besides, they have applied improved animal management technology. Discrimination based on caste, race, gender and religion has remarkably reduced. Community members appreciate each other’s feelings, thoughts and ideas and share for betterment of themselves.Increased group leadership has come up with increased and effective coordination and collaboration with different stakeholders regarding to the developmental activities. Increased awareness about the sanitation, health and hygiene has supported to undertake sanitation campaigns, keep the surroundings neat and clean.
“This club you have embraced and are married to will never help you out of poverty!”
“People would mock us,” said John Mulwanda, 49, thehusband of Belinda, 51, of the Kamisenga Dairy Group. Belinda said, “These discouraging remarks continuedfor a long time. This was a very trying moment for us but we managed to endure the mockery, though at a certain point my husband stopped attending club meetings because he could not stand the torment.”
The community could not understand why members of Kamisenga believed in Heifer International when several organizations had been there before and did not fulfill their promises.
“Deep down in my heart, I was firm in faith because I had heard and seen what Heifer International had done in the neighboring Kampelembe community, and that gave me strength to be even more committed to club activities,” Belinda said.
She said the Kampelembe group members were given dairy cattle about six years ago and this made her not waiver in faith. “My friend Omelly and I were not discouraged in any way because we had invested a lot of time and resources preparing to receive the animals. We knew it was a matter of time,” Belinda said, “We were encouraged to attend group meetings and training weekly because our desire was to know how to look after animals.”
“Our families could not afford more than a meal a day and the only meal of the day would be taken in the evening when all the family members were present,” Belinda continued. “We would go to nearby farms to exchange labor for food, and my husband would also try to sell charcoal, but that was not sustainable because the work demanded a lot of energy and time. When I look back it was quite shameful and those are memories I would wish to forget.”
“I will never forget the day we received our dairy cattle from South Africa. When we saw a big truck approaching our communal holding pen, everyone ran to the track ululating (a trilling howl), yelling and some clinging to it. People shouted, ‘Shaisa ing`ombe twalelolela,’ or ‘the cattle we have been waiting for have finally come’ in Bemba.”
“Through the knowledge and skills we acquired from the training we were able to look after Elanco, the cow (named after project funder Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Company), adequately and she gave birth to a beautiful female calf. This brought joy to our family and we made sure everybody in the community knew exactly what had happened. The income from milk sales helped us in improving our lives and we are a very very happy family.”
“We no longer go out looking for food because it is our turn to also help other families with milk. My husband has already started buying iron sheets to improve the roof of our house. It is no longer a dream but a reality that soap, cooking oil, lotion… which were a myth, are now abundantly available. When schools open in January, I will not avoid visiting the head teacher’s office because I have what it takes to be a grandmother. I will walk straight in and pay for school fees directly just like Omelly did last year. The head teacher could not believe that Omelly, once a defaulting parent, could pay cash for her children’s school fees! It had even become a custom negotiating for her children to remain in school, promising to settle the fees immediately after she sold off charcoal or vegetables. Our monthly income from milk is 800,000 kwachas ($160) and with part of this money, I buy Elanco a bag of dairy meal.”
“We used to feel really ashamed of ourselves mixing with other people because we rarely had bathing soap. No matter how hard we tried to look our best, we felt like outcasts. We could not even afford clothes because that was far beyond our reach and the death of a calf simply amplified our poverty because we thought we were not fit to own an animal. But with all this, I now know that we were in the school of patience.”
With much joy, Belinda’s husband, John, said, “We were too desperate to find a solution to our poverty, especially since I only reached my seventh grade and my wife grade four, but now that Heifer has come to our aid, we are now well able to conquer and win any battle!”
“Most of all we are very grateful to Elanco, Heifer International, Village Water Zambia and government staff like Mr. Widney Munsaka for their support,” Belinda concluded.