Ganga Gharti, like any mother, wants a better life for her children. “I didn’t go to school past the 5th standard, but I want my son and daughter to be educated and become successful when they grow up,” she says. Ganga lives in Hardwa Village, a rural community in Dang district. Her life revolved around rearing goats and other cattle from a young age, but little did she know that this very ‘mundane’ task would one day become her bread and butter and help her put her children through school.
When Heifer International Nepal’s (Heifer) “Strengthening Smallholder Enterprises of Livestock Value Chain (SLVC)” project with “Passing on the Gifts” model came to Ganga’s community, she was one of the beneficiaries to receive two goats as a gift. “I am a member of Karmath Social Entrepreneur Women’s Cooperative, and I was chosen as one of the recipients of the goats,” she shares. Slowly, she increased the number of goats and goat rearing became the family’s main source of livelihood. However, the income was still not sufficient to provide her children with the type of life she wanted to. In the midst of this, her husband left to work in Qatar. “It was a tough decision for my husband to leave us, but it had to be done. But I also knew that I could also do more.” Unfortunately, her enthusiasm was short lived. “To have a steady income, I needed around 30-50 goats but I couldn’t afford to buy them, and borrowing from money lenders or relatives meant that I would have to pay a minimum of 36% interest per annum,” recalls Ganga. Taking loan from few nearby cooperatives in the region was another option but their requirement for granting sizeable loan was immovable assets such as land and building as a collateral – something which she didn’t have. “My dream for a better life for my children was fading away”, Ganga recalls.
Despite its decades of efforts to improve the livelihoods of its farmer’s, one key challenge Heifer in Nepal and its farmers consistently faced was the lack of funds. Which means, despite the increased knowledge and capacity on account of Heifer’s interventions, these farmers, and micro-enterprises (all women-run) struggled to scale up their operation. Though Heifer’s support enabled farmers of the cooperatives to gain practical and theoretical know-how to upgrade their existing ‘subsistence focused’ livelihood activities into ‘semi-commercial’ or ‘commercial’ level, their cooperatives didn’t have required financial strength to provide required funds.
To address these issues, and to help small holder farmers and entrepreneurs like Ganga, UKaid Sakchyam Access to Finance Programme (Sakchyam) conceptualized a model of lending involving Machapuchchhre Bank (MBL), the cooperatives and Heifer International Nepal. Under the model, Heifer identifies ‘viable cooperatives’ continuing technical assistance and other supports, the cooperatives screen out and recommends capable and interested farmers to the bank and the bank then provides loans to such recommended farmers without any additional collateral requirement. This model was ‘pilot’ tested in Dang district involving four cooperatives and their member farmers in late 2017.
Ganga was one of the first beneficiaries of this pilot intervention. Ganga received a loan of NPR 300K from the bank’s Ghorahi branch. It didn’t take long for Ganga to increase the number of goat flock from 12 to 50. “Because of the increase in goats, our income has increased as well,” Ganga explains. “I was able to make income of NPR 200K this year. This has not only helped in the day to day life of our family but we were also able to invest some money from the income to build a new house,” she shares happily. “I am happy that my husband does not have to go abroad for work anymore. We are both involved in goat rearing and now we are planning to expand the flock size to 90 goats. But more importantly, I can now imagine my children living the life they deserve.”