Fulkumari Tharu, 32 years, lives in Sonpur, Rajapur Municipality, Bardiya with her son Nitish (14 years), daughter Pritam (11 Years) and husband Karan (35 years). For generations, they were landless and worked as sharecroppers. The Tharu family owns four kattha (0.13 hectares) of land with poor soil, enough for a homestead but severely inadequate for producing grains to feed a family of four for a year.
As the family did not own much land, there was not much work at home. Both Fulkumari and Karan did whatever work came their way. The produce from the land could barely feed them for two months. In 2001, searching greener pastures, Karan went to Simla, a hill station in India and worked there for three years as a coolie (hauling sacks of apple). For another three years in Srinagar as apple-picker and farm-hand.
In 2007, Karan came back home for good and started to learn to tailor. After a few months of training, he along with Fulkumari started visiting homes and offering door-to-door services. They charged each household in paddy which they collected after the harvest season. With the paddy so collected, they could only feed their children and themselves.
In 2008, the couple was able to collect six quintals of paddy, which they sold in the market. With the money they made, Karan bought a tailoring machine and started a tailoring shop— a small start on the path towards self-employment. Business went slow for years to come. The family could not become financially stable.
Nitish was enrolled in GNI Nepal’s Sponsorship Program in 2009, easing the Tharu family’s financial hardships. Ever since, he is getting support to continue his studies. Fulkumari joined a GNI Nepal funded cooperative in 2013. In early February 2014, she got support from the cooperative for starting a fresh house: NRs. 29,607 as loan and NRs. 12,708 as subsidy.
Fulkumari looks after the tailoring shop, putting into use the tailoring skills that she learned from her husband over the years. The tailoring shop also doubles as a training center for young women offering a two-year long tailoring course which is reasonably priced — six thousand rupees a year. The shop has a monthly turnover of NRs. 20-25 thousands and net income of NRs. 12-15 thousand rupees. Karan sells pork at the fresh house. 20 kilograms of fresh pork is sold daily, bringing in around NRs. 15,000 every month. Both the tailoring center and the fresh house are run from the same building.
As the businesses have become profitable, Karan no more goes to India. The Tharu couple is now capable of affording a quality education for their children. With the profits from the businesses, they have built a three-roomed reinforced cement concrete (RCC) house.
Fulkumari and Karan are planning to expand the fresh house into a fish and meat collection and sales center. Looking at the pace their profits are growing, Fulkumari is certain that she will be able to built a concrete roof on their house this year itself. On a positive note, Karan said, “our children are still young, their interests are still taking shape but we want them to take some kind of vocational training course after they finish high school and become entrepreneurs”.