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.