"Goats and gold are equally expensive," says Saradha K.C., looking a little worried. Her goat has not been feeling well lately. It is having trouble using the bathroom. She brushes off the anxiety, because Gauri Koirala, a Community Agro-Vet Entrepreneur (CAVE), is there to help.
Guari examines the goat and checks its temperature. The goat has a fever, which is preventing it from passing urine. She gives the goat a Cetamol, also known as Acetaminophen, and tells Saradha to give another one again if the goat doesn’t pass urine. Saradha is noticeably relieved.
Heifer Nepal’s Strengthening Smallholders Enterprises of Livestock Value Chain for Poverty Reduction and Economic Growth in Nepal (SLVC) project aims to reduce the importation of live goats by 30 percent and milk by 10 percent by working with 138,000 smallholder farming families to create goat meat and dairy value chain enterprises. This will increase the income and improve the nutrition of all of the families involved. CAVEs like Gauri play an important role in achieving this goal, because the livestock’s well-being and productivity depend on the CAVEs. This makes them, in a way, the nucleus of this project.
Gauri, 34, is a married mother of one teenage son. A homemaker for 12 years, she started working as a CAVE two years ago. In
addition to equipment, including a castrator, microscope and a box for keeping medicine cool, Heifer Nepal provided Gauri with money to start her agro-vet shop and training on topics such as improved animal management, fodder and forage development and nursery management.
"During Heifer’s trainings, we spent 43 days together with our fellow trainees and trainers," Gauri shares. "This helped us to fully concentrate on the training and saved us from distractions. In addition, we had so many practical exercises, both in class and outside in the field, which helped us to have a better understanding of the contents [of the equipment kit]."
In addition to trainings, Heifer is well connected to the broader community. This network helps the CAVEs to increase their customer base. For instance, Gauri coordinates with a Heifer community facilitator to plan her field visits and regularly attends self-help group meetings—a good platform for Gauri and the farmers to talk about livestock health and agricultural issues. She always carries her bag of medicines so she can sell them to whoever needs it at a minimum cost no matter where she is.
"Gauri’s service is very popular in our community," Saradha said. "She lives close to my house and her services are cheaper compared to other government and private technical assistants. With her help I give my goats deworming medicines every month during the monsoon season and once every three months for rest of the year. The mortality rate is much lower now."
It is important to gain the trust of farmers and good will of the community if a CAVE is to be successful.
Gauri encountered many challenges when she first started working as a CAVE. Some farmers didn’t understand that they couldn’t just pay with “credit” or other gifts in-kind since Gauri needed to replenish her supplies. But eventually, after establishing more relationships and trust, farmers now pay on time and regularly consult her.
Gauri sees her business as a sustainable source of income even after the project phases out. Now, she easily runs her household and pays for her son’s school fees. She has also been able to repay the 60,000 rupee, or about $600, loan her family had taken out to send her husband Madan abroad for employment. She has even purchased a scooter with the money her family has been able to save.
Today Madan helps Gauri run the agro-vet shop. He is still looking for a good employment opportunity since the family still has some debt, but for now he is happy to support his wife with her shop and community service.
"I don’t feel the pressure to earn for my family as much as I used to,” he shares. "I am confident that she can handle the house even without my earning. Without her income I would have had to take on any opportunity I was offered, which could also mean risky employment with low pay in a strange country."
Throughout Heifer Nepal project areas, CAVEs like Gauri are helping thousands of farmers to increase their income and have better nutrition through improved animal and agriculture management. Even years after these Heifer projects end, these CAVEs will continue to provide services to farmers and help them attain a better life for their families through profit from livestock and agriculture.
Story and Photos by Alina Karki, Associate Communication Officer, Heifer Nepal