Field Trip Diaries — Villages Becoming Old Age Homes in Rural Karnataka — July 2016

August 1, 2016
By Rang De Team

We regularly conduct field trips to ensure Rang De loans are making a difference in rural India and to find out the problems and challenges faced by our borrowers

We visited a few villages near Mysore in the first week of July. Our field partner Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) facilitated the trip in the villages of Duddgere, Ramnahalli, Marogowdanahalli and Gayanahalli and we met over 20 borrowers in order to find out whether a Rang De loan has made a difference in their lives.

Inspired by our efforts, SVYM also now carry out their own impact assessment two months after a loan disbursal to make sure the loans are used correctly. Earlier, this used to be done through informal verbal communication.

In Duddgere, we particularly liked Preeti, a young girl who was our translator and guide in the village. Duddgere is a village where most girls get married at the of 16 (soon after they start menstruating). When we asked Preeti, who is now 15, if she would get married, she laughed in response. Her mother, Asha, intervened and said they are ready to get her married (i.e. they can afford to) but Preeti wouldn’t stand for it.

Many girls get married at the age of 16 but Preeti is an exception

Preeti wants to study. She is currently in the ninth grade and goes to a government school with her sister. Apart from being good at academics, she is also an accomplished folk dancer; she pulled out an album and showed us photos of her receiving awards for folk dance in local competitions and she is also a painter.

Her mother jibes that Preeti is good at everything except housework but she says it with a hint of pride. Asha, Preeti’s mother, is planning to take an education loan in the near future to send Preeti and her sister Nishu to college.

As a parting shot, Preeti told us she will come to Bangalore one day, visit our houses and ask use to pose for photos!

The borrowers of Ramnahalli

In the village of Ramnahalli, the borrowers we met have only two meals every day because they have odd working hours. None of them have toilets at home.

Chikkathyie is a grandmother at 36. Her daughter Geeta, 20, used to take loan from moneylenders at 60% per annum but stopped after getting support from Rang De and they now save Rs 500–1000 per month.

Another borrower took a loan to improve his hotel (making a seating area with tin sheets to accommodate more people) but ended up buying a cow with the loan amount of Rs 25k because it was not sufficient to buy all the materials required. Luckily, he can use the milk from the cow for his hotel (5 litres per day) and sells the rest (4 litres per day). His income from selling milk is Rs 60 per day and his profit from the hotel is Rs 300 per day.

Located on a main road opposite a bus stop, his hotel is quite popular. It also faces a small lake so the customers enjoy snacking on his masala vadas — which are super tasty — while taking in the pretty sight.

Born into an agricultural family, Karunesh was the only one out of the four sons to give up farming and start his own petty shop. Three months ago, he borrowed Rs 2 lakhs (Rs 25k from Rang De, Rs 50k pooled from his savings and the rest was borrowed from a bank). He is now getting a steady income and makes a profit of about Rs 5k every month.

His wife is a B. Com graduate who is planning to pursue M. Com via correspondence. Although Karunesh discontinued his studies after completing a pre-university course, he is fully supportive of his wife’s desire to pursue further studies and possibly an independent career.

Driving down to Gayanahalli, with thick coconut grooves on one side and lush green tobacco fields on the other, Mahadev Swamy, a social worker who works with SVYM, made a pensive observation about the current condition of Indian villages. Most young people who complete PUC or an undergraduate course move to the cities in pursuit of jobs and modern lifestyles.

Many villages have become like old age homes, he said.

Unlike many others, Umesh has chosen to stay behind in his village

Umesh, however, was an exception in Gayanahalli. Umesh finished his pre-university course and had every opportunity to move out of the village but stayed back to take care of his elderly parents and works on the wetland that has been his family’s property for several generations.

Unlike many farmers in his region, he practices crop rotation. As a rule of thumb, he changes the crop every few months to preserve the health of the soil, preventing exhaustion, pests, diseases and weeds in the process. His education played a role in making him a smart farmer.

Meeting people like Umesh reminds us that perhaps we need to go beyond the linear narratives of education and upward mobility when it comes to something as complex as rural development.

Impact team members Rachana, Chiani and Srividya visited the villages near Mysore in July 2016. You can invest in over 100 small-income borrowers serviced by SVYM on the Rang De website.

We regularly carry out field trips to ensure that Rang De loans are making the desired impact on the poor communities we seek to empower. You can see the upcoming field trips on our Field Trip calendar and join us or you can sign up for audio evaluations by filling up the form here.