Sita Pandit is a farmer who lives in the Sindhupalchowk District of Nepal, a poorly developed area in the north central region of the country bordering Tibet. Residents of this region depend almost entirely on agriculture for their livelihood, but the mountainous terrain has poor quality soil and crop yields tend to be low. Five years ago, the situation for Sita’s family—and indeed, her entire village—was dire. There was not enough food to feed all nine of the family members living in her household, and most nights Sita, age 49, went to bed without food. Sita and others in her community were desperate to change their situation.
That’s when BBP-Pariwar (Groundswell International’s partner organization in Nepal) visited Sita’s village. BBP-Pariwar supported Sita and 13 other women in her village to start the Koletol Women’s Savings and Credit Group, which helps the women leverage their collective savings to provide low-interest loans for members to use for income-generating ventures, as well as provide a platform for the women to discuss issues they were facing and brainstorm solutions. Koletol members decided to save 20 Nepali Rupees (NRs., or approximately 21 cents U.S.) apiece each month and to provide loans at half the interest rate of other local lenders.
One year after Koletol formed, BPP-Pariwar held a five-day vegetable gardening training, and Sita participated as Koletol’s representative. She learned about many aspects of successful vegetable gardening including the importance of seed quality, how to make compost-based fertilizer, proper seed storage techniques, land preparation, calculating business costs, and effective marketing techniques. Within eight months of the training, Sita was producing beautiful cauliflower, garlic, onions, radishes, and other crops to feed her family and was making a substantial profit by selling the rest of her produce at the market. She also helped six other families in her village to produce and sell vegetables, and in 2013, the seven families sold enough vegetables to earn a combined income of NRs. 350,000 (US $3,608.70). Their village is now known for producing good quality vegetables. Sita has also been chosen by the local government agriculture office to serve as a vegetable gardening demonstrator and participate in a 21-week farmer school, where she will learn about improving farming systems through organic production methods and other techniques.
Sita says she is happy because she could successfully convince other women to produce vegetables for personal consumption and sale, which allowed them to earn money to provide education for their children and purchase necessities. She says if she had not participated in the vegetable gardening training, the living condition of her family and the other families in the village would not have been like it is now.
“We were actually degrading the productivity of our land because we used to spend a lot of money [on] chemical fertilizer,” Sita says. However, Groundswell and BBP-Pariwar’s training on organic agriculture techniques is helping the village to restore the quality of the soil. Sita says BBP-Pariwar also helped her and the other women in Koletol discover their potential as entrepreneurs. “We are mobilizing our own funds to improve our income generation programs. We have nearly NRs. 64,500 (about US $655) of our own funds. Because of BBP-Pariwar, we have improved our solidarity. We have developed our skills to analyze the situation and find out the alternatives to solve the existing problem.”
Learn more about Groundswell’s pilot project in Nepal to spread ecological agriculture, strengthen community organizations, and build connections between farmers.
Please consider supporting farmers like Sita to learn ecological farming techniques so that they can increase their income, better feed their families, and share their knowledge with other farmers. Empower a farmer today by making a donation to Groundswell.
This blog post was written by Emily Kujawa, one of our amazing volunteers. Emily is a dietitian and public health consultant with a diverse background in public policy, program development and management, and public health research and evaluation. She has expertise in food access, food policy councils, childhood obesity policy, and school-based nutrition. Emily is passionate about advancing sustainable food systems that bolster local economies, improve the health of diverse communities, support social justice, and preserve natural resources. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina.