Growing up in a family of agricultural laborers in the rural village of Kalol, India, Varshaben Luva hated the long, hot truck rides at harvest time. Now earning her living on the farm, Luva dreads the 100-mile drives to the marketplace even more.
That’s because as an adult Luva understands that the long trips are not simply exhausting. They often result in a financial loss.
“Individual farmers don’t have the bargaining power to negotiate a good price. If they can’t sell the product, they have to transport the product back to the farm,” says EDC’s Yupaporn Boontid. “They pay round-trip transportation costs for nothing.”
But recently all that changed for Luva and other rural farmers. By signing up for a mobile texting plan, she transformed the way they do business.
After attending an EDC technology training session at a nonprofit training center called Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Luva started her own business. Combining her new technology skills with her background in agriculture, she now goes to SEWA each day to research market analyses and prices of commodities online. Farmers pay Luva 50 rupee (or just over US$1) a month to receive daily text messages from her about current market prices.
The farmers can then decide whether it’s worth transporting their crops—mostly cotton and corn—to the market that day. To date, Luva has 88 clients in the Mehsana District of Gujarat.
“Her business, serving all the rural parts of India, provides the basic information to farmers,” says Boontid.
Luva is also one of a growing number of women in India breaking through traditional gender roles by starting her own business.
As part of EDC’s technology training program, over the past five years, SEWA has trained 5,000 women workers from rural regions of India in core computer skills, enabling them to find jobs, become self-reliant, and overcome traditional gender-associated constraints.
Since 2007, EDC has managed SEWA, along with 48 other centers across 10 countries in the Asia Pacific Region, for Hewlett-Packard’s Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs. As the organization managing the local centers, EDC encourages networking opportunities, manages grants, monitors activities, and administers capacity-building to trainers of courses such as the one that Luva took—the one that has inspired her to make changes that will help many others.
“Now farmers only load up and travel to nearby cities if they know they can make a profit,” says Boontid.
Originally published on July 16, 2010