Asha didi belongs to the Birhor community, a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) in Jharkhand. This community is traditionally nomadic, living in the forest area around Simardi village of Lohardaga district. At the age of 25, Asha is the mother of four children and lives with her husband, Prakash Birhor, in a dilapidated house.
Their family avails the cereal support of 35 Kg rice under the Food Security Scheme of Govt. of India, but that support is not enough for feeding six people. They have only 14 decimal of upland which is not suitable for paddy cultivation and there is no scope of getting local wage work throughout the year. Asha didi's two sons got admitted to the village school, but continuing their studies was impossible due to six months of yearly migration, to work in brick kilns.
In late 2019, Asha was pregnant again. It was time for their annual migration. The local middleman found them a job at a brick kiln in Uttar Pradesh. The family of six had no option but to wager their livelihood on this opportunity, pleading for some advance payment to help sustain them as they shifted.
This was when they were found by The/Nudge Foundation. Asha’s health was at stake, and she was on the verge of migration despite her weakened condition. The children had no chance at education. The family barely afforded two square meals a day.
One and a half years down the line, under ‘The/Nudge Ultra Poor’ program, Asha didi has raised a viable kitchen garden which has brought dietary diversity into their meals, while also providing some cash earnings to the family. She has started a grocery shop and cultivated chilli in the last kharif season, individually earning INR 17,000 the last year. She has purchased one goat from her earnings, and has a plan for onion cultivation in a small piece of land this Rabi season, along with multiplying her goat rearing enterprise. Asha didi is also a member of a supportive Self Help Group (SHG), and is now depositing money on weekly basis. Her group members are confident about her repayment capacity.
The prime focus of ‘The/Nudge Ultra Poor’ program is to work with the most vulnerable families-addressing their immediate needs, creating livelihood opportunities and building the social capital to promote mutual support amongst themselves. This way, they can stay in the village and lead a comparatively better life, along with improved access to the benefits of govt. social security schemes.
A series of household visits, orientation meetings and confidence-building exercises, along with immediate sustenance support for the selected families- help participants like Asha didi to minimize migration and plan stable livelihoods. Income generation activities like enabling growth of vegetable gardens in small areas, asset transfer and raring of livestock, nutrition awareness training etc. are kickstarted.
This year Asha didi and her husband are not going for migration. Her two sons have been readmitted in the school with the help of The/Nudge program staff, although Covid 19 has impacted their study. The/Nudge also supported her in constructing a house under PM Awaz Yojana. Didi is quite confident and hopeful now. In her words, “My entire family survived on Rs300/week by selling wood from the forest. My kids were hungry every day. Now I run my own shop and have started rearing goats. There is hope now. The/Nudge Foundation has skilled us and showed how a woman can bring happiness to the family with her strength, by gaining knowledge and help.”
“The/Nudge Foundation humlogo ko shikhaye, budhhi aur sahayata milne se ek mahila Kaise apna bal se paribar me khusiyali la sakte hai.”
While India has 270 million living in extreme poverty, about 65 million live in ‘ultra poverty’. Talking to ‘The Pioneer’, The/Nudge Centre for Rural Development revealed that in less than 2 years, they have worked with 3000 ‘ultra poor’ individuals, mainly ‘didis’ – whose empowerment uplifts families and communities with generational impact.