My Business Gives Me a Voice

Harka is 51 years old and is from Lamjung, Nepal. He was born into a Dalit family. Dalit is a marginalized caste, inheriting desperate poverty and discrimination. His voice was rarely heard in the community.

Harka married Putali, and they had five children. Lacking formal education, their only job options involved manual labor, such as plowing fields. Although Harka worked very hard, he was not able to support his family on his limited income. It was especially troubling to him that he could not afford to send his three oldest children to school.

As time passed, the heavy manual labor became more difficult for him, so he decided to try his luck in nearby India. Unfortunately, his meager income there did not allow him to save much money for his family. Returning to Nepal, he found that he was no longer able to perform heavy manual labor.

He wanted to start his own agribusiness, but he didn't have enough capital. He heard of a fund set up by CHOICE Nepal and managed by local leaders and entrepreneurs. The fund provides low-interest loans to entrepreneurs who have viable business plans but need capital.

Harka prepared a business plan to raise pigs which were approved by the entrepreneur board. He received a loan for the equivalent of $400 USD and added $200 which he had saved to start a business.

Though getting the business going was challenging, Harka didn't give up. Sixteen piglets were born in the first lot, but only three of them survived. He had to spend a lot of money on low-quality fodder sold in the local market, causing him to go into debt. He consulted with a veterinarian and received training on how to care for his animals. He also started growing his own fodder, resulting in better fodder at a lower cost.

"My business taught me a lot,” Harka observed recently. Now he can pay back his loan. Two of his younger children attend school and help Harka and his wife in household chores as well. His pigs give birth twice a year, yielding 12 to 15 piglets each time, with at least ten surviving. Each piglet sells for US $30. Harka now has three female and two male pigs. "Now, I have a voice and dignity in the community,” commented Harka. “People come to me and ask how to run a successful business.” Harka plans to expand his business shortly.

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