Many farmers in our partner communities rely on rural direct-to-consumer markets to build their agricultural businesses. One such market is in Bung, where locals and neighboring villagers come together every week to buy essential goods, including fresh green vegetables, kitchenware, accessories, clothing, and more. Amidst the vibrant colors and lively chatter of vendors and shoppers, one can find a community of local entrepreneurs, each with a unique story of resilience and hard work. Among them are two inspiring women, Kausila and Pemlaki, members of dZi's farmer groups, who are making a name for themselves in the market and beyond. Kausila sells mouth-watering snacks for market visitors, while Pemlaki offers her organic vegetable produce.

 As we celebrate Women's Day this week, let's take a closer look at the incredible achievements of these women and the insights we can gain from their experiences. 

Women sellers at weekly local market in Bung
Women Entrepreneurs selling their produce at Weekly Market in Bung

Kausila Rai's Venture: A Lesson in Diversifying Income Streams

Kausila Rai, a resident of Bung in the Solukhumbu District, has had a challenging life. Her husband is working abroad but she doesn't get much help from him. She's had to support herself and her young son. She also had a significant loan when she started building her house in 2015. Despite her financial struggles, Kausila found ways to overcome her difficulties. Anyone grappling with financial challenges can benefit from her story.

Kausila Rai chatting with a relative over the phone
Kausila Rai chatting with a relative over the phone

Kausila is a member of dZi's farmer group in Bung. Through her participation in the group, she has been able to produce fresh green vegetables which she sells for a good amount of money.

Additionally, she also has cows and buffaloes, which she raises in a shed near the dense jungle, nearly a two-hour walk uphill from her home. She manages to raise crops like maize and millet on her land around the home.

On Saturdays, Kausila also runs a food stall in the Bung market, where she cooks various delicacies such as momo, noodles, roti, and samosa. She prepares the food from Friday evening and earns more than a thousand rupees each week. She is quite skilled in weaving bamboo baskets and husk mats, which she also occasionally sells in the market.

A 'doko' bamboo basket woven to perfection by Kausila
A 'Doko' bamboo basket woven to perfection by Kausila

Kausila never relied on anyone else and found creative ways to support herself and her family. Through her unwavering work ethic and diverse income sources, she has been able to earn consistently and repay all her debts.

Pemlaki’s Discovery: Growing Smarter Not Harder

Pemalaki Rai is an exemplary farmer in the Unnati Farmers Group in Bung. As the group's chairperson, she has inspired other farmers – demonstrating what can be achieved through a commitment to learning.

Pemlaki and her husband have six children. She earns an annual income of over 50,000 NPR ($380 USD) just from selling her vegetables. Her home's convenient location near Bung's dense settlement makes her a go-to supplier for locals who are looking for fresh produce. Her daughter also chips in by selling the leftover vegetables at the weekly market, thereby expanding her loyal customer base, who regularly visit her home to buy fresh greens.

Pemlaki standing beneath a green house-inspired structure providing shade for plants from the rain and sun
Pemlaki standing beneath a green house-inspired structure that protects plants from the rain and sun

Pemalaki couldn’t always grow as she does now. She used to toil hard in her fields, but the results were never in her favor. After joining dZi’s agriculture group and receiving training related to various crop production, she could then analyze the gaps in her traditional farming methods. By passionately learning and adopting innovative techniques such as water-efficient irrigation, greenhouse farming, manure composting, and more, she's been able to grow bountiful fruits and vegetables. Her efforts have enabled her to provide for her family and pay for her children's education.

Recently, she received beekeeping training from dZi's agriculture program. As soon as she got the training, she replaced her old wooden log hives with modern top bar hives. She has plans to expand her beehive operation this year.

A lizard lurking in Pemlaki's garden
A lurking lizard in Pemlaki's garden

Women farmers and entrepreneurs in dZi’s remote mountainous communities have historically struggled to access resources and markets to grow their businesses. However, with the advent of dZi’s agriculture program, the introduction of modern agricultural technology, local government initiatives, and the rise of local markets, there is now more opportunity for these women to thrive. From precision farming techniques to water-efficient irrigation systems, women are now able to access the latest tools and techniques to improve their farming practices, increase their crop yields, and explore new economic avenues.

Women like Kausila and Pemlaki remind us every day that anyone can overcome challenges and achieve their goals with determination, hard work, and access to resources. Their success reaffirms the importance of investing in our programs and ensuring they promote education, equity, and entrepreneurship.

Pemlaki's home in the background and her children playing in the yard
Pemlaki's children play in the yard with her home in the background

Pictures taken by Sitaram Thapa Magar (Samip).