We arrived at Damanti Devi Bhandari’s house in Baliya, Lamki amidst the scorching heat of midday in July. As we entered the one storey concrete house, the heat subsided and within a few minutes we had settled on wooden chairs, across the bed on which she and her husband sat with smiling faces. Damanti Devi, member of Kisan Cooperative received a business loan of 5 lakhs with the help of which the family of four started a beekeeping enterprise. The sum, however, was not invested entirely on the beekeeping business and was also used to purchase land. The family expanded their land from 3 katthas to 5 katthas where they now do some farming. As for beekeeping, what initially started with about 10 bee hives has expanded to more than 50 spread across their home and forests nearby; and while they have to wait for several months to reap the profits of beekeeping, the business seems to be doing remarkably well. The honey from the forest is more expensive and sells for Rs. 400 a kilo while the rest sell for Rs. 300 reports Bhandari making for a profitable business.
With the technical support provided by Sakchyam, Kisan Cooperative rolled out its distinct business loan product now disbursed with higher ceiling and also collateral free upto Rs. 2 lakhs opening the possibility for poorer families like Damanti’s to start small enterprises of their own without restrictions. The business loan product ensures the loan disbursed is utilized to its full potential by asking for prior training on business proposed and a devised business plan from their clients. It also requires the purchase of micro-credit life insurance for loans over 150K. Had it just been the loan, however, the story would have been like any other. But Damanti Devi’s is one exceptional family. Beekeeping, it turns out, is solely being looked after by their 15 year old son. Currently studying in the 9th grade, the couple expressed proudly that it was their son who took the initiative to go to Dang for training and insisted that his parents let him get started. “I got interested seeing my uncle who has been in the beekeeping business for more than a decade now,” he told us. When we inquired about whether this affects his academics, he replied it was just a little more work that he mostly manages to cover on Saturdays.
Beekeeping is also not the primary source of income for the family. Bhandari’s husband has been making and selling furniture for the last 36 years. “Just engaging in one business is not enough for us so we all do our own thing,” exclaimed Damanti Devi who additionally does buffalo and goat farming. Pointing towards her son she added, “What he makes is enough for his education right now. I manage for the household and what remain in loan payments and other expenses are covered by what we get out of furniture.” Bhandari’s husband further expressed that having an established business like beekeeping by the time their son is out of school meant that he would have the means to earn for himself immediately, preventing him from opting for foreign employment as the only choice. What particularly stood out to us was how the family collectively believed in making the best out of what was available and in working towards that, they had formed a team. We inquired if Damanti Devi was also involved with other MFIs to which she said she never felt the need to do so.
As we prepared to head out, their son showcased some of the beehives in the house backyard. “This kinship he has developed with bees has served us well. It keeps him busy while others his age have so many things distracting them,” said his father laughing as we waved goodbye.
Sakchyam partnered with Kisan Cooperative in 2015 to help design and develop innovative financial products and services such as the business loan. It has reached over 12,000 beneficiaries through 6 branches and over 13,800 beneficiaries through financial literacy programmes by the end of the project in July 2018.