Case Study 4: Pano Devi Mukhiya, Bokraha-1, Siraha

Pano Devi Mukhiya, 35, resident of Bhokraha Village Development Committee ward no. 1, is an extremely poor woman. Her husband added insult to injury when he divorced Pano Devi and married another woman. She needed a company in order to ward off social stigma and increased vulnerability. Out of compulsion, then 25 years old Pano Devi chose to marry a 65-year-old man. The old man had 0.5 hectare of land. 

She had two daughters from her former husband and gave birth to a son to the new husband. She has been rearing the three children. Because of frailty and illness of her husband, Pano Devi has been shouldering the entire responsibility of managing her family. She has been struggling hard to up keep the family. 

Although her husband is a fisherman by profession, he can no longer catch fish due to old age and illness. Therefore, Pano Devi has become the sole bread winner of the family. Besides, working as a daily wage labourer on the farms of the local landlords, she also needs to take care of her ailing husband. It was difficult even to find daily work in the village. No work meant no food foe her. So her life was quite miserable. 

Later she began buying fish from the local market and sold as fried pieces. This would fetch her Rs 100 to 150 a day which she spent on food. She was forced to borrow money from the local money lenders whenever her husband and children fell ill and to be treated. The money borrowed fro medical treatment of the family members amounted to Rs 8,000. This made Pano Devi extremely worried. The biggest problem was repayment of the loan. She used to think about the difficulty in collecting the money for loan repayment. 

But now Pano Devi is quite happy and her condition has changed for better. She thanks the Micro-Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP) and its staff for encouraging her to grow watermelon. She is also equally thankful to Mr Surya Dev Singh, Chair of Micro-Entrepreneurs' Group and the staff of Mitra Dhanusha for their encouragement for farming on the bed of Kamala River. "The days of my misery are over," she said. 

At the beginning, he husband had expressed skepticism about growing watermelon on the banks of Kamala River. He even scolded her for wasting time and energy. But she went against his advice and cultivated watermelon on 5 Kattha of land and earned Rs 25,000. From the income, she paid back the loan of Rs 8,000. Next year, she cultivated watermelon on 10 Kattha of riverbed and doubled her income amounting to Rs 50,000. 

"It was the happiest day of my life. I had never thought of collecting such an amount of money and paying back the loan so soon. My all worries and anxieties have disappeared now. I have been sending my children to school regularly. Like me, other villagers can also benefit from watermelon farming on the riverbed," she expressed confidence. 

Although she could not save money, she has been able to buy a silver jewellery from her income. And she has purchased food grains that would suffice four months. "I have been able to buy new clothes from my children. It makes me extremely happy," she shares her feelings. 

"Since the riverbed is full of sand and we have acquired the skill to cultivate on riverbed, we can earn more money from growing watermelon on the riverbed in the days to come," she exuberates optimism. 

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On 10 January 2012 the Riverbed Farming Alliance members signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This Memorandum will support the collaboration and the implementation of common activities in 2012 and beyond.

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