ASHA, based in Nuwakot, Nepal
Funding was applied to a project implemented in Okharpauwa VDC that began in 2004. ASHA has been promoting linkages to local institutions as a way of helping poor women access the formal banking industry from which historically they have been excluded.
• Three groups of 64 women have taken part in trainings on group management and skills building.
• They have approximately $330 in own savings to loan to members. (This is a sum equal to one year’s salary for one individual. Approximately 10 women can take loans from these funds.)
• Purpose of loans: agriculture, small trade, and emergencies.
• Sustainable agricultural training: organic composting and fertilizing training, seed preservation demonstration, seed bank development, intercropping demonstrations, sustainable land management training, and a vegetable exhibition. (Details in downloadable report.)
Topics Addressed in Women’s Groups
The women were asked which topics were of interest to them in receiving training and support. The following issues were identified:
• Mobilization of the women’s group for social welfare
• Leadership development within the group to help play a larger role in the community
• Advocacy for women rights
• Accessing public funds
• Developing skills/ training in agriculture, pest management, seeds saving, manure and fertilizer management, increase productivity in sloping land
• Literacy classes (to read and write and perform simple calculations)
• Field visits to other sites to learn more organic farming techniques
• Fund management (group funds)
• Market linkages to sell crops
B) Savings and credit activity
• Savings are collected once a month and a loan is distributed at the meeting itself. Members who need a loan make a requisition prior to the meeting. All members are required to save. Approximately 20 women so far have taken loans from these funds.
• Average savings per month per person has increased from 40 cents to 80 cents, with some women indicating that they want to save even more.
• The interest rate varies from 18% in the Kurilo group to 24% in the Jalukeni and Jaleshwari groups. The repayment period is usually three months.
C) Sustainable agriculture
• Training on compost making, integrated pest management, agro-forestry, fruit and vegetable cultivation, fodder collection, and seed preservation.
• Provision of quality seeds for vegetables (cabbage, radish, mustard, pumpkins, cucumber, beans, etc.), cereals (maize), and fruit saplings.
• One-day demonstration visit to a sustainable farm and a one-day vegetable exhibition.
• Seed bank development- Farmers have limited capacity to select good seeds from the field for subsequent years. (Seed selection is a specialized skill. Not all farmers are adept at this.) For crops such as maize, which is cross-pollinated, farmers have no knowledge of purity. The objective was to provide technical knowledge on seed production, selection, drying and storage. If farmers are able to produce good quality seeds by themselves, they do not need to buy them from the market and can reduce their overhead costs.
• The program has helped to improve agriculture practices in terms farmyard manure management, cropping practices (multi-cropping and inter-cropping), and increase in utilization of available land. Many members were conversant in preparation of compost and manure, preservation of seeds, and farming techniques. The members together sold vegetables worth $2,750 in the local market.