For Rajkali, Rojiroti loans have meant protection from discrimination and hunger and a steady climb toward financial stability.
Rajkali joined group #236 in February 2009 and has taken six loans from her group’s savings fund and one larger loan from Rojiroti.
Rajkali’s most recent loan was for 3,000 rupees (US$65; £40), which went toward the purchase of a personal tubewell. Rajkali is a member of a scheduled caste, and sharing other villagers’ hand pumps can be very challenging if not impossible. Higher caste members will not share or accept food and water from scheduled caste members. Rajkali had to travel a long distance in the dark to collect water at the village pump, and she risked beatings once she got there.
Her new pump is a tremendous family asset. Her livestock, and therefore income, depend on it. Rajkali is rearing a buffalo on a shared basis and owns several pigs. She hopes to purchase the buffalo outright soon. When she joined the group she had one pig, but with the well she has increased her herd to six.
Rajkali said purchasing her own tubewell would have been unthinkable without the help of a Rojiroti loan to cover a large portion of the cost.
Rajkali started with smaller loans. Her first was for 100 rupees ($2; £1.30) to purchase kerosene oil, rice, spices, and vegetables. If she had not had the access to group credit for this 100 rupee loan, Rajkali’s explained: “I would have eaten half a stomach’s worth of food.”
Her involvement with Rojiroti has had social impacts too. In the past few seasons, poor monsoons have hurt Rajkali’s harvests. But the support she has gained through the group has allowed her to better negotiate with the landowner from whom she leases land. Recently, she convinced the landowner to split the poor harvest 50/50, instead of having to pay a pre-determined quantity up-front, which would have left her with nearly nothing.
Discussion at a group meeting even convinced Rajkali that her daughter should give birth in a hospital, rather than at home. Rajkali noted that after her first granddaughter was delivered at home with a village practitioner, her daughter-in-law elected to deliver the next child in a local hospital after fellow group members advised Rajkali that the benefits and safety of hospital delivery were worth the increased cost.
Rojiroti has been instrumental for Sonya Devi in escaping the grips of local moneylenders.
When Sonya joined her group in October 2008, she was paying 120% annual interest to informal moneylenders for debt incurred for childbirth and medical emergencies.
Sonya took a loan soon after joining the group in order to recover jewellery she had mortgaged for a loan with a local moneylender when her son needed treatment for malaria.
Sonya has now paid off all of her informal debt, which was around 1,500 rupees, factoring in interest payments plus principal.
This year, for the first time, she has been able to take land on lease to farm. She also purchased a cow, in addition to one she has been rearing on a share basis. Going forward, Sonya sees need for future loans to invest in scaling up her farming enterprise.
Kunti Devi thinks her household is much more stable now that she is a Rojiroti member.
Kunti owned an acre of land which had been passed down through her family. She had always harvested staple crops such as rice and wheat on this land, but just prior to group membership, Kunti had to sell a third of her land to pay for the dowry for her first daughter’s marriage. This sale drastically reduced her wheat and rice harvest, in turn reducing her primary income.
Kunti used her first Rojiroti loans for a diesel pumpset and investment in agricultural inputs, which allowed her to better extract income from her land, even when it had been reduced by a third.
Sonamati Devi has taken 6 loans from her SHG. A widow, she runs a mobile shop, moving through the village, selling items such as vegetables, biscuits, and small cosmetics. Financially, Sonamati is comfortable enough to support her daughter, but her Rojiroti loans have been helpful to access cash quickly, and it’s kept her from using up her savings.
Sonamati used three of her loans, in the amount of 50-100 rupees, to purchase supplies from the town market to be resold.
Her daughter is recently widowed, and one of the loans Sonamati took, for Rs. 100, was to visit her son-in-law in the hospital, shortly before his death. Sonamati had been supporting her daughter and son-in-law with her income, helping to keep them from the grips of local moneylenders by providing some of her own income for his treatments.
If not for a 400 rupee loan from Rojiroti, it would have been difficult for Sonamati and her daughter to collect the 10,000 rupee government death benefit following the son-in-law’s death. Timely access to even relatively small credit ensured that Sonamati could travel to the official office where the paperwork must be submitted and money can be collected. This trip often requires taxing travel, unnerving waits, excessive paperwork, or other general bureaucratic aggravations for the rural poor.
Sonamati took another loan for Rs. 220 after she broke her leg. When we spoke she was still recovering and using a large stick for assistance in walking. She had requested a larger external loan from Rojiroti on short notice to help pay for her medical treatment, but the loan was not granted. She was upset that the credit didn’t become available, but she emphasised that she never considered leaving the group or discounting the importance of Rojiroti to her livelihood. In the end, she used a portion of the 10,000 rupees from her son-in-law’s death benefit to pay for her care.
Sonamati noted that she will need follow-up treatment for her leg in the near-future. The SHG she is a member of have been engaged in a discussion about how these loans may be repaid and supported. Sonamati shared that she had sold some of her goods to her customers on credit and has receivable amounts outstanding that she expects to be arriving in the future.
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