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Growing and selling vegetables is a very reliable and sustainable way of earning an income in Nepal and as people get to learn about healthy eating there is more interest in organic vegetables. Some times people think that in Nepal we much grow all our vegetables the organic way and in the old times our forefathers did. More recently though there has been widespread use of pesticides and fertilisers and we have to learn the old ways over again.
I (Kopila) was so proud of three of our ladies Deepa, Ranjana and Ganga who established a flourishing vegetable plot on a small piece of land. They had one day theory course but thought this was not enough. Even so they enthusiastically implemented the lessons they learnt. They started with little amount and starting months of planting the seeds and organically fertilising and looking after the growing vegetables. It was not easy and there were lots of challenges like testing soil, and watering and using natural fertiliser like cow dung.
Even sometimes I was a little sad when i looked at the vegetables and was not sure if they grow or not. Wendy didi and I had been thinking how to make it easier and to give these hard working ladies more confidence and knowledge in Organic gardening. Then Wendy didi found out about Khumultar Agricultural Training Centre in Kathmandu and we decided to send these three very interested ladies for three days theory and practical training.
After doing the training they came home with ideas to apply to their previous garden. They kept looking and using the tools and techniques they learnt and now their small plot is so productive! They have grown 50kg of tomatoes, different kind of saag (like spinach) and 5 kg of chillis. They are still growing beans and pumpkins and so many more ideas to plant more efficiently. They have learnt about seasons and temperatures and what are the suitable crops for the different seasons.
Now they have a wish list for things like water piping, bamboo tunnel and shades. They are planning on building a glass house and we would like to support them. We want to say a special thank you to two people. Firstly to Sarah Bartram who donated many packets of the seeds that the ladies planted. These turned into our productive garden. And also we want to say special thank you to Binod Basnet. In my role, can’t do what I do without the support of this man, my husband. He encourages and helps me. When I am worried, he is always with me and uplifts me. And now, when we are dreaming about having some more land for the ladies to grow their garden, he gives us access to some of his land without rent to turn our dreams into a garden! Dherai Dhanyabad!!!
Sometimes people ask me why I do the work that I do. Why not be a lawyer to earn more money? Are you worried that you are hurting society when women divorce? Here is a story that might give some answers:
A little girl had beautiful dreams about her life. During her childhood she wants to go to a private school and she wants to become a doctor or a medical person. But because she is a girl, she and her sister have to go the government school and her two brothers go to the private school. Because she was from an indigenous family she felt discrimination from outside her family. Because she was a girl she felt discrimination from in her family. But she felt sure that her father will one day realise how keen she was to study and let her study continue.
But while she was waiting for her results to come from the Year 12 exams her father arranged her marriage. She begged and begged him to let her achieve her dreams but he denied her and forced her to marry a man who was working in the Gulf country. To obey her father she dropped all her beautiful dreams and happiness and went to marry this man she did not know. She told me that this is what happens in the adivasi* community with the girls. During the pressured environment of the marriage days where a ceremony goes on for many days she fainted at the groom’s house. After some hours she regained consciousness and everyone in the groom’s family was asking her what was wrong with her. They suspect that she was previously sick and she tried to convince them the truth that she had never fainted before and that she was never ill before. In-laws don’t want ill daughters-in-law because they want very active workers in their house and the groom wants his bride to be strong and healthy and bear lots of children. That is what they want, nothing to do with a lovely relationship. Arranged marriages are like a business deal.
The family decided that she was in depression and called her mad. She tried to convince them she was normal and could do all the housework but they began to torture her. After spending two and half years with the husband’s family she had suffered so much she could tolerate no more so she decided to go ahead and train for a job as a lab assistant with 12 months training in the hospital. She asked to her father for help but he was so rude and said she had to ask her in-laws. She talked with her mother but her mother had nothing to help her with and she was dependent on her husband, Deepa’s father.
She knew her in-laws would never agree so she sold all the golden jewellery that she was given on her wedding day and used this to buy her training and rent a room. She registered her property and her divorce case in the court. She was staying in a rented room but now with three months of her training to go she has run out of money and has nowhere to go. She is now extremely vulnerable and is being threatened by both families.
A female lawyer referred her to Samunnat and when she started her story to me she burst into tears. I felt her pain and know how hard it is to suffer without any source of living. As we heard about this poor girl’s story one lady who had visited us told us that she was donating some money in memory of her mother. Thank you Sue because your generosity will heal our Deepa’s pain and mean that in future she will achieve her dreams.
*Adivasi communities are our indigenous communities. I have changes some details of this story.
Last week I went to Kathmandu. I made a plan to meet with Smriti from Asha Nepal.We have thought that one of our lady could get the Psychology counselling course in Kathmandu where Smriti is helping us to find good organization. We also discussed about the cost.
While i was there i also want to meet our little girl whom we are supporting at School. After I met Wendy Didi it was very exciting moment to meet with Rochelle from Yakkity Yak. She has been selling our jewelry from three years but we had never got chance to meet her. This was a very lovely meeting and i felt like we have been meeting from long time. I saw that she is a very kind hearted person and so beautiful.
Our meeting was in Gaia Restaurant for dinner and i thought may be this was it for now.
Next morning as we were looking for our breakfast and we also have to get ready for coming to Birtamod. We set on our table with some food than surprisingly a lady came asking are you Wendy and kopila? We said yes and she said she is a friend of Rochelle. Her name was Sara Parker and she is from Fair connection. It was a very useful meeting with her and we hope she will come to the east where Samunnat belongs to. I feel after having a very interesting and useful conversation with Sara that in education sector could be more effective if people followed her suggestions.
Our Catering group is going from strength to strength. They are such hard working and determined ladies and have had lots of repeat business and jobs thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations. Tonight Kopila and I visited them at Arjundhara Temple where they had been employed by a local community group, the Womens’ Entrepreneur Organisation.
Four of the ladies were cooking chiya, see rotis and subji (Vegetable curry of potato, chick peas, peas and tomato). Thousands of people will be visiting the temple over the next few days for the balachaturdasi – the festival where people throw seeds (rice, corn, wheat, barley) in the name of deceased parents. Our ladies will be working in one of many food stalls set up to feed the masses!
They are hired by the Womens’ Entrepreneurs Organisation of Jhapa. The organisation runs the food stall to raise funds for training and resources. Our catering ladies turn up with their pans, gas, cooker and supplies and have three days of work. They will be working hard!
Recently ladies from the Samunnat Cooperative had Organic Vegetable Implantation Training. The trainer was very experienced in organic gardening and very supportive of the ladies. He is keen to help with this job creation activity and encouraged the ladies that they could even begin growing vegetables in pots. They are going to start with keeping seeds and the Cooperative gave the ladies a loan of NRs5000/- to buy seeds to start growing vegetables and flowers.
Once the flood waters had dropped enough, the ladies wasted no time in setting up their garden at the Samunnat building. It was a group effort as you can see. We will keep you posted on how are garden is growing!
*I had to quote Paul Kelly in this post!