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Saving money is a challenge for the extreme poor who live hand-to-mouth, always wondering where the next meal will come from. Many of the most vulnerable poor families living in the Indian state of Jharkhand must migrate annually during the six-month dry period in which most income-earning opportunities are unavailable.
A critical component of the Trickle Up program is the formation of self-help groups, also known as savings groups, in which participants can save and access credit when necessary. For participants in Jharkhand, this access to savings and credit reduces the likelihood that they will need to migrate away from their homes and into dangerous, unstable situations during these lean months.
Five-month pregnant Etwari Oraon tells us she wishes for a son to join her family of four daughters, one son, and husband. This is because having four daughters means that Etwari must save for their future weddings as well as provide for her family’s food, education, and other basic necessities. Saving money seemed impossible for the Oraon family who frequently were forced to skip meals and migrate annually.
Before Trickle Up, the Oraon family had to make the two-day journey from their village, Mada, to Jainpur, where they worked at brick kilns for six months. To make ends meet, Etwari and her husband depended on high-interest loans and advances from the kiln contractor. They also had to mortgage their small, unfurnished home.
This year was different. Etwari’s husband was the only one who migrated while she and her children remained in their village to work on their livelihood activity harvesting vegetables. The family’s dependence on the kiln contractor further decreased when Etwari began saving in her savings group. When we spoke with her in March, she had 480 rupees saved and has taken three loans for food and health expenses from her savings group. She has already repaid two of her loans back to the group. Soon, she hopes to sell her vegetables at a bigger market, where she can make more money that she plans to use for food and savings. With the encouragement and support of Trickle Up’s partner staff, Etwari sees that it is possible to maintain savings and knows there is “no chance of losing the money now.”
Etwari says the savings group has also increased her confidence, mobility, communication skills, and leadership abilities. She now goes with other women from her savings group to the bank. She communicates with others more openly. Etwari told us she “was alone [and had] no unity,” but now she spends time with and learns from others. Now, Etwari has a chance to be a leader when she is selected to lead savings group meetings.
In the future, Etwari hopes to regain land that she has out on mortgage to someone else. She’d also like to buy goats and other animals to expand her livelihood and she hopes to save money for her children’s education. Before Trickle Up, these all seemed impossible but now there is hope.