In farming communities across rural Nepal, where Heifer International has worked since 1997, women are defying expectations and overcoming obstacles on their paths to more prosperous lives.
With technical training and financial support, they are forming cooperatives to take advantage of market opportunities and participate more fully in dairy value chains. Mothers like Kamala are launching successful fodder businesses, growing their household income by improving the health of their cattle. And intrepid women like Kusu, who trained online to become a community veterinarian, are providing critical care to livestock in their communities and beyond.
Goma Devi Timalsina, a young dairy farmer from Keureni village, is the latest in a long line of Nepali women who are proving that farming can be a lifeline out of poverty, and ambitious dreams aren’t restricted to one gender.
After connecting with a Heifer-supported cooperative, Goma has made a name for herself as not just a successful farmer, but as a respected elected public servant.
Goma’s journey to public office began in 2016. Back then, she says, she was a small-scale dairy farmer managing a modest herd of eight cows and struggling to make ends meet. But after she joined the Heifer-supported Sakaladevi Cooperative, Goma was able to obtain a loan of 400,000 rupees ($3,000) from a local bank, which she used to purchase five additional cows.
“It’s better to start your own enterprise, if not alone then in a group,” said Goma of the benefits of working with like-minded women at the forefront of their own farms and forging promising futures together.
With her growing herd and knowledge acquired through her cooperative, Goma was beginning to earn enough income from her milk sales to convince her husband to return from Qatar, where he had emigrated for work eight years earlier to supplement their family’s income.
“I called him back,” she said with pride. “I told him, ‘Forget Qatar, let’s work together on our own cow farm enterprise.’”
Today, this enterprise is thriving. Goma and her husband manage 18 cows, from which they collect 80 liters of milk a day, earning 80,000 rupees ($965) a month from sales.
But she didn’t stop there. Goma also sells any cow manure she doesn’t use to fertilize their own crop fields. Readily available and a valuable, nutrient-rich soil additive, cattle manure stimulates healthy plant growth, and their sales from this product generate an additional 150,000 rupees ($1,100) per year.
Building on the momentum from her farm's success, Goma began taking on greater responsibilities in the Sakaladevi Cooperative — serving on the board to increase the group's membership and coordinate its dairy activities.
And as her popularity grew in her community for her endearing personality, successful enterprise and dogged determination, members of her village and co-op encouraged her to take part in a local election.
For many, it came as no surprise when Goma succeeded in winning her race, becoming a representative for her ward. But her new responsibilities have not swayed her far from the fields; a farmer at heart, Goma has kept the issues of agriculturists a priority in her new position and hopes to leverage her political role to increase the spirit of agri-entrepreneurship in the community.
And she isn’t alone. Goma is one of 500 women from Heifer projects and partner organizations who ran for various positions in local elections in 2022 — a testament to their expanding skillset, the social capital nurtured in their cooperatives, and the women’s growing confidence to take on challenges.