If you define poverty as the state when a mother has to wonder what to feed the child next day, you can find that in Datiya in Madhya Pradesh. In Kerala, Assam, Jharkand and Maharashtra, we have seen people struggle but not to the extent of starvation.
There is little rainfall in this barren district and the local people cannot cultivate anything. Our Impact partner VAMA has thus decided to promote the cultivation of soya bean as it does not require a lot of nutrients.
Rice cultivation is just not possible.
The people in this village live so far away (they are 78km away from Gwalior) that there are limited earning opportunities available to them. Even micro-finance institutions refused to work in this area because of the very low literacy rate.
Like in many other areas that we have visited, there is a caste divide. Female foeticide is also fairly common. We were informed that 40 children had died because of malnourishment in a nearby village.
Rang De loans have been of immense help in this area as it has allowed some spirited women to take control of their lives.
Moving On From Aggarbatis — Phoolvati’s story
Phoolvati Khushwah is a differently abled individual. She cannot walk because of polio in her childhood but she has organised a mini-factory of women that make aggarbatis which are collected by men who sell it in a nearby town.
Over four days, they make 500 aggarbatis but they only earn Rs 100 per person for the effort.
“Aur kya karein didi, kuch hain hi nahi?”(What can we do? There is no other opportunity here) was her response when we asked why she would carry out such a labour-intensive but low return activity.
Complete empowerment and financial independence is a far-off goal but by investing in their businesses, we are giving them the belief that they need.
“Abhi mujhe yeh maloom chala hai ki us jaga bhi packaging ka kaam detey hain. Kya ham ko kaam milegey?” (Now that I know that people earn money by packaging goods, can we do it too?)
Phoolvati is now pondering a better source of income for her group while in the past, she had been resigned to her fate.
“Ek machine le jaake, ham bhi packaging karenge.” (We will buy a machine and carry out packaging on our own as well). And they know they can turn to a source of fair credit for that machine as well.
Moneylenders are powerful here as well. They charge over 100% interest rates to these women because they know they have no other alternative.
But with affordable micro-finance, investment and credit facilities being provided, the moneylenders are slowly disappearing.
Apart from earning their daily bread, these women are beginning to think about educating their children as well. VAMA, our field partner in the area, runs a school that offers subsidised and good-quality primary school education.
With education, we earnestly hope the next generation won’t fall in the cycle again and they might even rise above the caste dynamics and not be resigned to a state near poverty.
Dairy farming, like in many other areas, is one of the few vocations that can give these women a respectable and fair source of income so a lot of our loans have been towards helping them set up such businesses.
Borrowers from these poor communities have always repaid their dues. All they needed was mentoring from an organisation that showed them the way and they are moving forward as a community.
We are very keen to intervene more in Datiya and the nearby interior villages and go deeper into the heartland of the country.
Right now, we are supporting nearly 500+ Self-Help Groups from Datiya district but this number should surely increase in time.
We hope a day can come when Phoolvatis of Madhya Pradesh should not have to worry about where their next meal will come from.
It should become the norm for them to start new businesses of their own and even provide employment to the other women in their communities.
Impact team member Manjita visited the villages of Madhya Pradesh in September 2016. You can invest in over 180+ small-income borrowers serviced by VAMA 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.