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“If many people save together, then there will be bigger funds -- more money -- and we can take from it when required. Even the interest is coming into the group, so the money will grow in the box.”
“Only two of my goats were stolen last month,” Srimati Sardar says matter-of-factly. Three years ago, such a development would have been a disastrous situation for this 30-year-old woman and her family. After participating in Trickle Up, however, a lost goat no longer means starvation. Before 2007, Srimati and her husband Shibu were living at subsistence level. “We did not have anything. We did not have clothes, nor did our children. We did not have food to eat. Our house was broken, and we did not have any assets, goats, cows, or pigs, anything,” she explains. They had lived a difficult life since childhood, never attending school. Srimati’s father died of a diarrheal-related disease when she was 7 years old, which forced her to begin supporting herself by catching crabs in waist-deep water from 4 a.m. until evening. Life had not improved much by the time Srimati married at age 14, and she gave birth to 4 children thereafter. Shibu was only able to find work for 50 days out of the year, and Srimati spent all of her time catching crabs. Then Trickle Up came to her village.
Trickle Up staff arranged a community-wide meeting and asked local people to draw a map of the village in the dirt. They were invited to identify poor households. “They asked how the families manage, what they do. Then they selected the families and did a survey,” Shibu remembers. In the survey, Srimati’s family was asked to describe their assets, health, education, how many meals they eat per day, and how much income they earn. Prior to their involvement with Trickle Up, Srimati and her husband earned an annual income of approximately $227 USD or 10¢ per person per day. Shibu could not help blaming himself, “I felt bad when they marked me poor. If I could have managed my family, we would have eaten food properly, and then this would have not come up today.” Srimati and Shibu were initially skeptical about the program, and they were fearful of ridicule from neighbors, but they gained the courage to give Trickle Up a try.
Trickle Up’s in-kind grant -- worth roughly $114 -- included 2 goats, 10 ducks, materials to build a shelter for the animals, veterinary medicine and training, and animal feed. Srimati soon realized the potential she had to bring positive change to her own life, “From ducks we could sell eggs, and with that money we could have food and lead a better life, eat better food, send children to school, give them better food, and wear better dresses.” Using the education he received, Shibu cultivated rice paddy on leased land and gained popularity as an animal-lover, serving as a para-veterinarian for neighbors’ livestock for a modest fee. The family quickly increased their herd size and added 8 goats, 3 pigs, 2 cows, a doe, and several chickens. Using these animals for eggs, milk, and meat, Srimati now has a diversified asset portfolio. This came in handy when her ducks were culled due to bird flu in 2008. Srimati also took out a lease on a pond and sold fish when she needed more income.
After joining a self-help savings group, Srimati took out a 500 rupee loan ($11) to buy more fish for her pond. She deposits 21¢ every week to save for her children’s education, investments, and emergencies. Srimati likes the idea of a self-help group, “If many people save together, then there will be bigger funds -- more money -- and we can take from it when required. Even the interest is coming into the group, so the money will grow in the box.” She even plans to open a savings account in her children’s names. Since her financial condition has improved, a local shopkeeper is now willing to extend credit to her for small purchases, thus increasing her financial options. Even if there are no earnings for the day, Srimati has learned how to mitigate a food crisis, “Every day we keep aside 1/2 handful of rice to meet the distressful days.” As she became more financially stable, Srimati leased a second pond as well as more rice paddy land. These new livelihood activities and continued diversification schemes have stabilized the lives of Srimati and her family, who now eat three meals per day.
In January 2011, almost two years after Srimati graduated from Trickle Up’s program, staff visited her village. Construction on the family’s new, government-funded house was in full swing, complete with access to electricity! These days, instead of catching crabs in leech-ridden waters from dawn until dusk, Srimati used a 5000 rupee loan ($113) from her self-help group to buy a water pump that will irrigate her farmland. In addition, her livestock have increased, and the ponds that she leased have grown to hold 5000 fish. “At any moment, I could easily get 15,000 rupees from selling those fish,” she says proudly. When asked about plans for the future, Srimati states, “I wish to go on teaching the children…Other than this, I don’t have any wish…We will teach them as long they wish, too. We will teach all our children up to the same level, why would we teach our daughter less?” Srimati and Shibu received their own education, in the form of family planning and birth control, ensuring that the size of their family will remain manageable and they will be able to afford to send all of their children to school. As Srimati expands her livelihood activities, the Sardar household will continue to unlock new opportunities for growth and happiness.