All across India, women are taking an active role in creating better living standards for their families.
Far from any cosmopolitan city, the village of Anawal is located in a rural area of the Bagalkot District, north of Karnataka in India. Similar to other local villages, Anawal has a population of few hundred families striving to make a living in the harsh conditions of a hot semi-arid climate and working mainly in the nearby agricultural fields. This is where I met a wonderful group of women, who, with the help of the local NGO Future Greens Samsthe and MicroGraam, learned how to raise lambs, how to keep the animals safe and healthy, and how to market them.
Dressed in their best saris, the 5 women that make up the Layamma Joint Liability Group (JLG), invited us to their homes, offering us flowers and a rich breakfast. It was probably more than they can afford, doing justice to the principle of Indian hospitality “Atithi Devo Bhava," meaning "the guest becomes God."
Most of these families are landless. Women and men work on agricultural farms for daily wages below US $2, or are artisans. The sheep rearing business can be valuable additional income that is much needed. In 5 to 7 months a well fed sheep can be sold for many time the original cost, and if it is sold right before important festivals the price can go up more than 15 times over. The major challenges are diseases and having enough space to house the animals, but in general it is a low risk and low maintenance cost business with an attractive revenue.
When I asked what they would like to do with the profits, the women were quick to say “buy more sheep!"
This loan means opportunity to these women. Opportunity to make more profit, yes, but more profit means not only more sheep, it means more savings, more food on the table, better health and education for children and the hope to have their own land.
The village of Anawal has very basic infrastructures, electricity only lasts 3 or 4 hours a day and water come from wells. It has primary and secondary schools with government support to ensure kids go to school, get books, uniforms and free meals.
We left Anawal with our hearts filled with compassion and gratitude for the generosity, and with the certainty that a loan can change a life, one lamb at a time.
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Mariana was born in Lisbon, Portugal. She is passionate about travelling and always eager for new experiences in new cultures. No wonder Mariana pursued an international career at the Portuguese Trade & Investment Agency (AICEP Portugal Global). For more than a decade, she has been dedicated to the promotion of Portugal and the Portuguese companies and products around the world. Her last assignment was as the Economic and Commercial Counsellor at the Consulate General of Portugal in Macao, P.R. China, cumulating with being the Portuguese Delegate at the Forum for Economic and Trade Co-operation between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries (Forum Macau). Previously, Mariana helped open and run the Agency branch in San Francisco, CA. She returned to Portugal as a desk officer for South America and Spain. Earlier positions and jobs were in marketing and international business. Mariana graduated from Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE, Lisbon) in Business and Administration Management, and studied at Glasgow University under the EU/Comett II program. After travelling to developing countries, she feels the need to contribute to a fairer world. She is taking a sabbatical to volunteer as a Kiva Fellow and is thrilled to working with field partners in Peru, Bolivia and India.