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Earning enough money was a challenge for Sharada’s family. Even though she grew vegetables to sell, they were in season only half the year. That meant her husband had to go out of the country in search of work. Sharada often found herself alone and discouraged.

“I was planting vegetables, but it was never enough to cover my household expenses,” she says. “I toiled day and night on the land, and still it made no difference.”

One day, a community mobilizer in Sharada’s hometown of Rasuwa, Nepal, suggested that she attend a training session hosted by the Suaahara (“Good Nutrition”) project. Funded by USAID and led by Helen Keller International, this project provides mothers of young children with both agricultural know-how and nutritional guidance to help them ensure that their families are healthier and better nourished.

“The training helped me understand the right approach to producing healthful vegetables with information about growing diverse crops in my home garden. This helps me improve my child’s nutrition and my own.”

Armed with a better understanding of crop cycles and proven farming techniques, Sharada greatly improved her harvests—and her confidence soared. She was soon chosen to be a village model farmer (VMF), a leader who supports and educates other women in her community.

“A VMF has a great many responsibilities. But I was prepared,” Sharada says. “I serve as an important resource for other participants learning to grow and eat healthier vegetables.”

The support that Sharada received in order to step into this role had a transformative effect on her family’s standard of living. Today, her family’s primary source of income is farming vegetables — mainly orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) and its vines.

“I planted OFSP in my garden, and its rapid growth surprised me. I started including it in our diet because it is a great source of vitamin A. I knew that many families in my community didn’t grow OSFP, so I started giving vines to other mothers and talking to them about the benefits.”

Sharada deftly manages her farming group and helps them with the logistics of planting a diverse array of vegetables. Since she started growing sweet potatoes, Sharada herself has sold crops worth 300,000 Nepalese rupees (about $3,000). Earning this income affords her the ability to make financial decisions on her own.

Sharada now sells vegetables through a collective that links farmers with markets, which enables her to distribute her produce in the neighboring towns of Nuwakot and Rasuwa. She has also registered her community farming group with the District Agriculture Department and District Livestock Office. She consults with both on a regular basis. Recently, Sharada also received training in group mobilization, savings and credit practices, and accountancy.

Her husband has now returned home, driving a truck during the day and helping Sharada in the mornings and evenings. When visitors come, he obliges by serving them tea, while allowing her to take center stage.