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Sanaka Sardar used to migrate to Kolkata to find wage labor working on road construction. She is a 32 year-old mother of two living in West Bengal, and in order to earn an income, she had to perform back-breaking work while leaving her family behind.
When Sanaka was selected as a Trickle Up participant, she received six sheep, materials to build a shed, and training in sheep rearing. She also received a subsistence allowance of 12 rupees (25 cents) per day for several weeks in order to help cover her family’s expenses until this new livelihood activity would begin to turn a profit through offspring. Sanaka already had some experience with looking after sheep, and with additional training from Trickle Up, she made huge progress. She learned to keep the animals in a shed separate from her house, keep them clean and provide them with proper food and medicine. At night she keeps the animals under a mosquito net to prevent illnesses.
“We never used to have separate housing for our animals to keep them clean. Earlier we used to keep them within the house. We never used to treat our animals but now we know what the best practices are to keep animals and how the different diseases affect the animals,” Sanaka explained. Thanks to improved care, her sheep gave birth to ten lambs. The animals are a valuable source of income and provide the means to save. When her daughter became sick with appendicitis, Sanaka was able to pay for the treatment by selling two sheep. She also used her income to build a toilet for her home.
Sanaka enjoys not having to migrate for work anymore and being able to look after her 14 year-old daughter and 12 year-old son, who both go to school. “I like to be home and look after my business and family; I can pay attention to my children’s education,” she said.
In addition to raising her sheep, Sanaka also engages in agricultural labor in the village for three months a year, keeps some chickens, and does fishing for household consumption. The family’s nutrition has improved since Sanaka learned about the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet during her trainings. “The situation has changed since TU because we used to spend the money on rice only, but now we are also eating daal (lentils) and some vegetables and fish 2-3 times a week, whenever possible,” she said.
Like all participants, Sanaka joined a self-help group (SHG) in which she started saving. Sanaka saves 10 rupees (21 cents) every week, and has saved 620 rupees ($13) so far. Being part of the SHG provides her with a financial cushion for dire times, and it also made her creditworthy. When the pond next to her house flooded during the rainy season, four sheep died and the family had to take shelter at someone else’s house. They met the expenses by taking a loan.
As a member of the SHG, Sanaka is empowered to expand her livelihood activities. She explained, “Now, when I want to expand and diversify my business, I can take a loan.” At the group meetings, Sanaka has learned to sign her name and has come to know her rights. This gives her confidence when talking to outsiders and has prompted her to participate in village meetings.
Sanaka now has the goals of owning a house and pond of her own and leasing land for agriculture. She also wants to educate her children and continue to have a steady earning in order to be less vulnerable. She knows she has to work hard and to earn an income from different sources to fulfill her goals.