Puja Devi Batar welcomes us in the front yard of her house. “Will you stay for dinner? I can cook rice from my own harvest!” White, pearly grains rattle in a clay pot as she runs her hand through the pile. Having lost everything in 2017 floods, with support of Caritas Nepal Puja has managed to overcome the trauma of loss and become a successful farm woman.
Without a roof
24-year-old Puja refers to herself as “the head of this house”. Talking to her, one soon understands the meaning of words “strength” and “resilience”. Before the flood, her family was one of many landless households in the area; they struggled to make a living by hiring themselves as paid labour. “My husband would go to other people to plough the field, cut the rice or clean,” she recalls.
An agitated expression suddenly appears on her gentle face when, gesticulating lively, she talks about the day the waters swept away her house: “The flood took away everything, our house, our cow, our goat… The waters reached up until here!” she points at the top of her head. Left without a single possession, the family of six sought refuge in the uplands. For over two months, they lived in a tent placed by the main dusty road; Puja’s daughters were 4-years-old and six months at that time. “The children were so small… My father and mother in law could not work as they are too old, I needed to figure out how to survive for all of us… We only survived through begging.”
Right after the flood, at the very beginning of Caritas’ response in the area, the ward leaders formed a group whose aim was to identify the most vulnerable beneficiaries in urgent need of support. Puja and her family, who had lost shelter and all sources of livelihood, were among beneficiaries put at the forefront of the intervention.
The project team encouraged Puja to get some land on lease and provided her with farm inputs for nine types of vegetables, rice and wheat. To the family’s delight, Batar’s husband also got employed as a field labourer at the house of the land owner, securing some additional income for the family.
“Now I sell mustard leaves worth 2,000 Nepalese rupees and radish for 1,200 Nepalese rupees a month,” Batar tells us that her farming activities do not only ensure food security at home, but also allow her to trade the products she grows at the local bazaar. “I am very content. I have seasonal vegetables and seeds, both of great importance for me.”
Caritas also provided Puja with relevant training, necessary to ensure the sustainability of agricultural production. “I learnt to prepare botanical pesticides, harvest properly and manage vegetable nurseries,” she says. The knowledge gained will also allow her to expand the farming activities: “I am going to get seeds from vegetables and plant them for the next season.”
Puja seems to be optimistic about the future. “I am!” she exclaims. “I had nothing. We had nothing. Now we can afford all basic things – salt, medicines, school materials. Most importantly, my daughter can go to school and I do not need to worry about tomorrow anym
Within the framework of the Flood Response and Early Recovery Programme in Mahottari District, over 600 flood-affected households received vegetable seeds and/or ducks with the aim of improving their livelihoods by securing a reliable source of food and income.
Disclaimer: The stories reflect the views of the beneficiaries featured and do not necessarily represent official opinion of Caritas Nepal.