Social Startups

Invest in a pig. Change lives.

If you are looking to invest, here is one investment decision you will never regret making. Investing approximately 50 dollars in a pig allows a Mushahar family to rid itself of poverty in Malwabar village, India.

Who are the Mushahar?

Mushahar which literally means rat eaters are a tribal people who traditionally lived in forests. Over the past century, deforestation forced the Mushahar’s into makeshift shelters on unused barren land at the outskirts of villages. In order to earn a living they began hunting rats from village fields. Hunger and poverty drove them to eat the rodents they captured.

We have two goals. First, to educate the Mushahar children. Second, to provide them with a means to earn a regular source of income and become self reliant. – Says Leena from the SDF

Some Mushahar make a living as laborers on fields, earning 1 dollar (50 rupees) per day. Some have received land from the Government, but ended up mortgaging it to money lenders for loan amounts as little as 10 dollars, at an interest rate of 600% per annum. Such exploitation has led to the marginalization of the Mushahar community, both socially (they are treated like untouchables) as well as economically. Many have died due to hunger and malnutrition.

The Social Development Foundation (SDF) is a Delhi based NGO that has been working to remove hunger and restore dignity among the Mushahar’s.

How the investment works

SDF has discovered that the Mushahar’s may have lacked resources, but certainly not entrepreneurial spirit. SDF invests about 50 dollars at a time, interest free, in pigs (or goats). These are loaned to the women from the community who tend to them. In about a year’s time, the now adult pig fetches 200 dollars on the meat market and the loan amount is repaid. If raised for 2 years, the returns are much higher. Pigs usually have a litter in the second year, and at the end of 2 years, a 50 dollar investment can result in a return of 600 dollars after taking into account losses such as pigs dying due to snake bites. Amounts (or animals) returned to SDF are re-invested to help other women entrepreneurs.

Some Mushahar women have begun to lease out patches of land for 200 dollars a year, to grow tomatoes and chillies. These are sold for a sizable profit and on average, the loan is returned within 4 months. Their husbands now no longer work as cheap laborers. Rather they have chosen to help expand the home enterprise. The average household income has in some cases, grown from 500 dollars a year to 2500 dollars a year, in a relatively short span of time.

Social and economic empowerment

The Mushahar children now go to a school managed by the local women and supported by the SDF. The kids learn to read and write. The women and young girls learn to sew. The sewing machine is really an excuse for the girls to be allowed to go out to the centre. Their parents don’t approve of them ‘wasting time’ and prefer they stay home to cook, clean and look after their siblings. But once the sewing machine arrived, it became a reason for the girls to hang out together at the center.

The Mushahar’s still have a long way to go before they become self-reliant. However, they are evidence that given an opportunity, entrepreneurial spirit can lift a population out of poverty. Leena adds:

Self reliance builds self confidence. The Mushahar’s have now begun to realize their own potential, and have started to live with dignity and think about a better future for their kids. Over time, we hope that we can help them to completely transform their lives for the better.

SDF is a Delhi based non-profit organization working with tribals, women, scavengers and other minority groups in India. For more information, please visit SDF or Malwabar Children

Filed under: Social Startups


Amit Deshmukh

A hacker and engineer, Amit believes that technology, if put to good use could one day solve some of the worlds biggest social and economic problems.