The new scales for livelihood

Noorjahan weighs mangoes for her clients
Noorjahan weighs mangoes for her clients. Photo: UNDP Nepal

Noorjahan Khatun of Fatwa Mahespur village in Rautahat, starts her day with a basket of mangoes, as much as 35 kilos, on her head. "The burden will get lighter by the day as much of the mangoes will be sold by then," she said as she set off to sell the mangoes in the neighboring villages. Carrying and selling mangoes has become a way of life for her these days.

The newly founded business has reaped her good profits. "If I am lucky, I make as much as Rs 400 a day," she said.  She has started to save Rs 100 in a local micro-finance institution on a daily basis, and her savings in the past four months is already Rs 23,000. She hopes to collect enough money to buy a small piece of land where she can build a house of her own. This is a very special dream of hers as she has not had a permanent place to live in – in the last 29 years, she had to move 13 times because the Lal Bakaiya River destroyed her dwelling and forced her to move almost every year. "How can we ever think of stability when we have no land and are forced to build a house every year?" she questioned. Her new business is finally going to provide the long sought stability to her family.

Highlights:

  • Through LRP's support, 6003 disadvantaged households have received seed grant to start income generation activities such as vegetable farming, poultry, livestock, retail shop, tailoring, local transport etc.
  • In 2001 only 16.8% of women were literate in the three LRP districts compared with 41.3% of men and 34.9% of women in Nepal. LRP is empowering the area’s women, in coordination with other UNDP projects and agencies, by improving their access to livelihood assets, involving them in decision making (80% of leadership positions in the newly formed groups are held by women) and forming women’s rights forums (WRFs).

For her, and many others like her, UNDP's Livelihood Recovery for Peace (LRP) project has made the change possible. LRP has been concentrating all its efforts in Mahottari, Sarlahi and Rautahat districts to empower the most vulnerable and excluded communities and help them build their livelihoods through social mobilisation, women's empowerment and gender equality activities, community infrastructure support and grant for income generating activities. As of today, 12,361 utterly poor households, including Noorjahan’s, have received grant for starting income generating activities.

94% of the members in the community groups formed by LRP are women and over 60% of them are Dalits. Women, conflict affected people, youth, persons living with disabilities and other socially excluded and disadvantaged communities are the priorities for the project. Most of the beneficiaries have opted for goat, pig and calf rearing, tailoring, bicycle maintenance, trading of ration, vegetable farming and vendoring various commodities for income generation.

For Noorjahan, a member of Durga Jibikoparjan Samuha (Durga Livelihood Group) formed by LRP, the scales and bamboo basket that she bought to start her business are the most prized possession. "The scales have changed my life," she said, with a smile.