May 27, 2019 09:50 AM NPT
By: Janak KC
Children from Dinga on their way to Khalanga market to sell bayberries in this photo taken on Saturday. Photo: Janak KC/Republica
JAJARKOT, May 27: Eleven-year-old Binita Pun of Dinga village has many concerns nowadays. The most important of these is selling bayberries (kafal). ‘If we are not able to sell a larger amount of bayberries, it will be a problem,” she said. “It is a very important time of the year for me to earn by selling bayberries.”
Pun who studies at the Kalika Basic School in fifth grade has been selling bayberries and other seasonal fruits to visitors at Khalanga market for the past few years. To sell seasonal fruits, she does not mind not going to school for the day. “Maybe I was five when I first started selling bayberries,” she reminisces.
Doing household chores and working in farms is normal for any child in Jajarkot villages. Unlike in the past, when children would mostly assist their parents doing household chores, nowadays most of the children are seen selling seasonal fruits in the market and on the roadside.
“Our parents cannot afford to pay for our school and other expenses. We earn our selves to pay for our needs. By selling bayberries and other seasonal fruits, we earn for ourselves and our families,” she said. “This is the season of bayberries and travellers buy them.”
Girls and boys like Pun climb trees and pick bayberries from the jungles around. Sometimes, they even fall off the branches. “It’s really dangerous sometimes; you have to very careful while picking bayberries. One should be careful while choosing a tree,” Pun taught.
At Khalanga market, she is seen with her peer groups selling bayberries. No sooner they see visitors, they go and surround them asking to buy bayberries. ‘We collect delicious bayberries and sell them fresh. When people see them, they buy,” Pun reports.
Selling berries in a profitable job indeed. She makes around Rs 500 per day. Business goes on for around three months. “I make about Rs 15,000 by selling bayberries during the season,” Pun said.
Nabin Gharti, an eighth-grader at the Bijaya Secondary School, Kafalchaur sells bayberries too. He reaches the market very early in the morning. If he arrives late, he feels that he may be not able to sell. “We have a kind of competition amongst us. If you reach late, you are at loss.”
Children say selling bayberries is not easy work. Bayberries are delicate. They have to be stored in the basket very carefully. “I collect bayberries in a bamboo basket a day before and come to the market the next day to sell them. If I can sell the whole basket, I make good money,” said Gharti.
Many children are busy these days selling berries at Khalanga and other markets. They all skip school to sell bayberries. According to Gharti, studies are important but work is even more important. “I provide for my family by selling stuff. If I don’t do this, we won’t be able to sustain,” he said. “Moreover, it is also a kind of fun time for us.”
Usually, children finish selling bayberries by afternoon. After selling the lot, they return home, change dress, rush to the forest to collect bayberries for the next day.
“We have to walk for hours to reach the market. During the journey, we make every effort possible for saving the bayberries from the sun. If exposed to sunlight, their quality degrades,” Gharti said.
Meanwhile, a resident of Khalanga, Tek Bahadur Thapa stated that family problem and poverty have forced children to work that way. “They enjoy that, but their studies are hampered,” he noted.
“People are not very rich in the villages here. Children have to work in compulsion,” Thapa further said.
Most of the families in the villages are dependent on agriculture. However, lands are not very fertile. In addition to that that the lack of irrigation facilities mars productions.
“In lack of income opportunities, people here toil hard to manage expenses to buy essential commodities like oil and salt. Life is not easy. Children seem to have learned this at a very early stage and started to earn by selling seasonal fruits,” remarks Thapa.
Another local of Khalanga area, Bal Kumar Sharma discussed the risks involved in the bayberry business. The act of collecting bayberries from trees has injured many children. “It is not safe. Even grown-up men and women cannot climb bayberry trees and fall sometimes. As such kids are always at the risk of falling down from the trees and getting injured,” he warned.
In the rural hills of Jajarkot berries are commonly found these days. But as not all have access to this or can pick it on their own, the fruit is sold at a good price. “For children, it is a kind of adventure as well as an income source. So, they love it a lot. They make good money,” Sharma said. “But if they are injured, it can be a huge loss for the family,” he added.
Bhere, Iwar, Dinga, Pokhra and Bahunthan, among other rural areas here are known for having good quality bayberries.