The People Making a Difference series of the Christian Science Monitor is a reliable source of worthy stories that don’t make the US headlines. I thought this one — about women in Nepal holding things together as their husbands pursue jobs in India — was worth sharing.
Zoe Tabary, of the Thomson Reuters Foundation writes, “Ratna Chaudhary delicately lifts the hem of her pink and green dress with one hand, while using the other to scoop up a batch of cabbages in her garden in the village of Phulbari, a dozen kilometers from the Nepal-India border.
“She calls three women to help, who join the dance-like movement, bending and swaying as they pick up vegetables and lay them in a basket.
” ‘Since my husband works in India now, I’m responsible for harvesting all our crops,’ said Chaudhary, holding two cabbages to her face before throwing the yellower one to the ground.
“Her husband, Chatkauna, is one of at least 2.2 million Nepalis – nearly 10 percent of the population – who work abroad, according to the Nepal Institute of Development Studies.
“For the past three years, Chatkauna has taken on seasonal work for most of the year as a miner in the Indian city of Haldwani. It pays more than the daily jobs he used to do in his hometown, and he returns to Phulbari every four months to see his family and hand over his earnings. …
“The outflow of male workers – in particular from rural areas faced with worsening climate conditions – has major implications for the country’s agricultural sector, believes Madan Pariyar, project director at International Development Enterprises (iDE), a non-profit group that helps poor farmers with work and income opportunities. …
“Chaudhary used to work on a sugarcane farm in India herself. ‘We just couldn’t earn enough in our village,’ she said.
“For the past six months, however, she has cultivated her own patch of land and leases the remainder of it – 1,700 square meters (18,299 square feet) – to other poor, low-caste farmers from the ‘tharu’ ethnic minority group, one of Nepal’s largest.
“In 2015, iDE helped Chaudhary set up a village vegetable co-operative, which she chairs, to boost local farmers’ incomes. The project is part of the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program, funded by the British government. …
“With iDE’s help, 25 subsistence farmers – 18 women and five men – grow vegetables on 68 square-meter plots of land, which they rent from Chaudhary, paying her in cash or in kind. They bring their spare produce to a collection center, which transports the vegetables and other crops to large markets or sells them to regular buyers.
“The co-operative also gives farmers better access to cheaper seeds, fertilizers and finance such as private investment and micro-credit. While the project is still in its early days, it is already yielding results. ‘Farmers now earn 50 rupees ($0.50) more a day than they did previously,’ said Pariyar.”
Photo: Zoe Tabary
Women farmers pick vegetable crops in the village of Phulbari, Nepal, May 18, 2016.