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Empowering Women through Agricultural and Non- Agricultural Livelihood Options

This success story written by,Bidhya Shrestha  an agricultural graduate and a former Livelihood Coordinator at World Vision Nepal,  is part of the "Young women and Youth's Gender Perspectives in Agricultural Development" series that spotlight young professionals' experiences for women's empowerment in agricultural development. From research to private sector, mass media to civil society work, YPARD 2015 Gender series features, every month, young "gender champions" from different regions of the world. This series is part of YPARD work as special youth catalyst in the GAP : Gender in Agriculture Partnership.My name is Bidhya Shrestha. I was born in small village of Chitwan district in Nepal and my house is next to the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS) in Rampur, Chitwan. I grew up with aspirations to graduate from this institute as it was considered prestigious to be a part of it. As luck would have it, I successfully completed my Bachelors’ of Agriculture Science in the Institute in December 2010.In 2012, I started working as Project Coordinator for a Livelihood Project that was funded by World Vision International and implemented by Nucleus for Empowerment through Skill Transfer, a Pokhara based NGO. The livelihood project dwelt with provision of multiple livelihood options for community empowerment to bring about positive change in the living standards of the people. It covered both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors for income generation which is generally overlooked in most of the livelihood initiatives.Group governance, skill transfer, revolving fund and linkages of groups to the national system were some of the prioritized activities.The project operated in the rural areas of Kaski district in Nepal which among other rural regions of Nepal its already deprived of infrastructures and access to government services. The situation is even worse for women, children and people from lower caste. As such, individuals belonging to the economic and social minorities groups were the focal point of the project and this resulted to the project covering large beneficiaries with different livelihood initatives. I would like to present some successful women entrepreneurs who led by example getting most out of the support received from the project.Women Entrepreneurs in Kaski District of NepalAmbika Budhathoki from Kaski District was one of the beneficiary for the trainings on off-season vegetable and poultry farming. Along with her group members, she received material support , incliding high quality plastic, to construct two plastic tunnels. By then, her husband was working in Saudi Arabia rendering the siatuation daunting for her to make use of the supported materials. However,she decided to venture into production of  vegetables like tomato, green beans, cole crops and crucifers targeting the off-season market. Its through the financial support of her husband and the profit made out of vegetable production that she started poultry faming. Currently, she earns as much as 20,000 Nepalese Rupees per month which is much more than what her husband can send from Saudi Arabia. This did not go unnoticed as she  not only received praise from the  the project team, but also from her her neighbors and the community in general.Durga Nepali (Hansapur-4, Kaski) belonged to the lower caste of the country. She has two small children and her husband is currently working in Malaysia. Her family has very little land too feed her family and thus depended on the remittance from Malaysia to feed the family which wasn't sufficient  to buy food or cover other family expenses. In addition, she had to repay a loan she had been granted by a local money lender for her Appendicitis operation. Despite all this, she was making an effort to make money by collecting the vegetables grown in community and transporting and selling  them in nearby market. In the process, Mrs. Nepali caught the attention of local staff from livelihood project, Mrs. Devi Silwal, who provided her with entrepreneurship training and vegetable farming in 2011.These two women are a representative of many more. Lots of female farmers are also involved in other income generating activities like sewing clothes, rearing pigs, poultry and goats. Apart from this, the project supported other initiatives like water harvesting tanks, collection centers, training on village plant and animal health worker and vegetable packaging materials which directly benefit the people of project sites. There were model home gardens being constructed in the several locations of different project sites which encouraged farmers to establish and manage their own home gardens. This initiative made significant contribution to the nutritional security specially children, women and elderly people.Similar to other rural areas in the country, the project sites of Livelihood Project were worst hit by the labour shortage due to youths migration in search of employment opportunities. Due to this, most of the household decisions, taking care of children and elder ones and social relations are the responsibility of the women. Nevertheless, the women from these areas were very active and hence knowingly or unknowingly continue to set a good level for other rural women from the country.Currently, I am attending my Master’s in Agriculture Resource Management in Tropics and Sub-tropics at theUniversity of Bonn, Germany with the support of German Academic Exchange Program. Upon completion of my degree, I shall continue to work in the field of women empowerment in the region of my origin.