Vadhri is very proud of the little kiosk she has paid for and which her father in law manages. In early 2022, this store selling household items as well as children’s snacks was just a dream.
At that time, things looked bleak with the drought of 2021 having destroyed what she and her brother in law had sowed on their eight-acre holding. With no harvest, Vadhri had purchased food on loan for herself and her three boys and over the months accumulated a debt of PKR 30,000 (Approx. USD 104). She thought herself fortunate that the loan was interest-free. Else, it would have multiplied and gone well beyond her means to repay.
The food aid provided, under the Humanitarian, Early Recovery and Development (HERD) project, in those bleak months of 2022 were a great boon. It saved her the monthly food bill and enabled her to put together a respectable sum. With that coupled with her saving from sewing the traditional heavily embroidered Sindhi hats, she spent PKR 15,000 (Approx. USD 52) for the timber kiosk to serve as the store. To her father in law, Vadhri gave PKR 2000 (Approx. USD 7) to stock up, and they were in business. It speaks well for her and her father in law that in February 2023, the store had stocks of some PKR 10,000 (Approx. USD 35), five times up from the time it started out, and was making a daily net profit of PKR 400 (Approx. USD 1).
Investing all her saving in the store was some smart thinking. She reasons that had she used it to service her debt with the provisions store, she would have had to sell some of her ten goats to start her store. And goats being ready cash for the people of Thar to be brought into play only in the direst of situations that would have been a bad move.
Had the rains of 2022 let off after the initial shower or two, she would have collected a reasonable harvest of millets, guar beans and lentils from her four acres. But two months without any sun whatsoever and a deluge that just would not cease much of the sprouting crop died and the harvest yielded barely two months’ worth of millets. At the time of tilling, she had borrowed money on interest to pay for the tractor. With reduced yield, she was obliged to sell all of her guar beans and lentils as well as two of her goats to raise the cash.
“I had ten goats in the beginning of last year. Now I have eight. The debt I owe to the village provisions store will be paid off after the millet and guar harvest in November 2023.” This cycle of recurring loans is par for the course for Vadhri.
For the time being the profit from her store pays for the daily kitchen for herself, her three boys and her father in law with who she lives since the death of her husband. The monthly profit from her hat embroidery work amounting to PKR 4800 (Approx. USD 17) is kept aside to invest in her store.
“If we had not received food aid last year, I would have been under a debt of PKR 60,000 (Approx. USD 208). I don’t know how I could have repaid that,” observed Vadhri.
Her two older boys are in primary school and in another year the youngest will be ready to join them. Vadhri has every intention of maintaining them all in school so that they can be somebody playing a role in life that she and her late husband could not.