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Resilience in Nepal

Meet Amrita Saru, a Nepali woman who is beginning to see a life beyond struggle

Every morning, Amrita Saru and the other women from her remote Nepali village set off at 4 a.m. down the mountain to get water, using moonlight and the occasional bobbing flashlight ahead to guide them down the rocky path. It takes Saru three hours round trip; the way back is steep and grueling. “When we return, the day has just started, and we are already very tired,” Saru said. In the evening, the women make the trip again. They do this every day, twice a day.

Amrita caring water jug
It takes three hours to get water, twice a day, every day.

The villagers cling to a difficult life at 10,500 feet, more than a mile above the valley, but they are determined to make a change. Saru is the president of her women’s group, which is one of the newest to join the Empowering Women Farmers program. Members in the group attend Heifer trainings to learn how to raise, breed, care for and profit from goats—and then how to use their earnings to benefit their families.

A number of the Untouchable caste live in this community, people part of a traditional system that has mostly excluded them from interacting with others, getting an education or owning a business. Agriculture is the primary income source. The hilly terrain and lack of irrigation means a limited growing season of just two to four months. Livestock are critical to survival.

Amrita and one of her goats

With training comes a new concept: self-worth.

Goats are the preferred livestock. While the community has been raising goats for generations, the villagers still live in poverty. Their animals are of poor quality, there is little if any veterinary care and farmers have no training in how to care for their animals so they will be more productive. Plus, farmers get less than a fair share of the profit from goat sales to traders.

Through self-help groups like Saru’s, women learn about Heifer International’s twelve Cornerstones, including Improved Animal Management. With training comes a new concept: self-worth. Women transform from mere water-carriers to proud achievers and community leaders.

Heifer’s program in Nepal aims to change the existing conditions—not just in Saru’s village but in the entire country. Women’s groups like Saru’s will learn how to improve production and productivity of animals, how to gain access to markets and get fair prices for their goats. And along the rocky, mountainous way, they learn to be full participants in their communities.