by Shreya Thapa
Sitting outside her home, Radhika Dhakal surveys the stretch of land directly below her. Verdant plumes emerge from the earth and the soil extending from the house to the main road is a patchwork of brown and green.
“The cooperative didn’t have a lot of money at first. Each woman contributed Rs 20 per month,” Radhika says. “When we had a small collection, the cooperative was ready to make the first loan.”
The system is simple: When a sizeable fund is collected, each member is at liberty to petition for a loan. Depending on the circumstances of the women, a decision is made, often based on whose need is the most urgent. Beyond loans, the coop also guides members on agricultural matters from tools to farming tips and trainings to optimizing production.
“They were considering giving the money to another lady and I knew if I didn’t get it then, I would have to wait longer for the next opportunity.” Some of the cooperative members were hesitant to give Radhika the first loan, seeing as she had no means of earning. But she convinced them she would pay it back within two months.
The sum she had sought was a modest Rs 2,600 but it was enough to make significant changes in her life.
“At that time, I didn’t even have a house. We lived in a hut made from sticks. But with my first loan, I was able to make a house for my family.”
“Having our own land made this all possible… from there we were able to move up,” she says.
With a combination of her earnings and more loans, Radhika has been able to acquire a cow. Her excitement of being able to make such a purchase is almost tangible, her voice grows louder as she points to where the cow is tethered. And the same sense of fulfillment is evident when she mentions the new roadside stall she recently opened.
Originally published in República newspaper