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Retailing vegetables, as a source of income for non-farmer migrant women of Kathmandu Nepal--(in press)

Abstract In many developing economies, vegetable vending has become a source of income for non-farmer women living in urban areas. In Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu, domestic migration has resulted in a dense population. Decreasing farmlands has
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    PAGE   Retailing vegetables, as a source of income for non-farmer migrant women of Kathmandu Nepal   Astha Tuladhar,  1  Brenda Bushell 2   1 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Mie University, Tsu city, Japan; 2 University of Sacred Heart, Tokyo, Japan,   Keywords : domestic migrants, hand-scales, non-farmer women, vegetable vendors, wholesale    Abstract    In many developing economies, vegetable vending has become a source of income for non- farmer women living in urban areas. In Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu,  domestic migration has resulted in a dense population. Decreasing farmlands has stimulated the business of retailing vegetables among women. Vegetable vendors play an important role in contributing to urb an health and economy by easing urbanites’ access  to fresh vegetables. For women, vegetable vending has become an easier income because it does not require particular academic or technical background nor heavy manual labor. In this preliminary study, we try to picture the condition of women vegetable vendors at a pioneer vegetable market in Kathmandu. Our purpose was to gain first-hand information from women vegetable vendors about challenges they face and suggest ways to develop vendor-friendly market conditions. Data was collected by interviewing 31 women vendors at Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Wholesale Market in 2017. Based on their answers, we outlined practical ways to stabilize their income, mainly by improving temporary storage and cooling facilities within the market and establishing a monitoring body to assure consistent supply of quality produce. INTRODUCTION Kathmandu, being the largest metropolitan and capital city of Nepal, has attracted a dense population. The informal sector, including street vending activities in Kathmandu are increasing with rural to urban migration and street vending in Kathmandu can be accounted as a resource rather than a problem  (Timilsina, 2007). Due to this rapid urbanization, the daily demand for fresh vegetables has grown over the years. Unlike the past, when producers sold vegetables directly to end customers, the vegetable market scenario in Kathmandu has witnessed a shift to retail marketing. Though a balanced progress in both production and marketing is necessary for agricultural development (Rayamajhi, 2005), the present situation demands attention on the marketing side of vegetables. Dependence on supply from neighboring countries and sub-urban areas has developed a value-chain system adding to the cost of vegetables. Further, standard supermarkets offering fresh vegetables at reasonable prices are not available near the newly established residential areas, so there is a greater need for vegetable retailing at local level. Many non-farmer women who have migrated to Kathmandu have started vending vegetables as a    PAGE   trade.  Vegetable vending is relatively, an easy source of income for women, regardless of their academic or technical background. As vendors, they provide an easy access to a wide range of fresh vegetables to urbanites contributing to their health. In this way, they have formed an integral part of urban economy, yet, in spite of their contributions, they are often overlooked as economic agents and face many challenges including, unreliable income. One of the factors affecting vendors in Kathmandu is poor market conditions. By allotting proper market space for vegetable vendors, we can reduce their loss in this trade, stabilize their income and improve consumers’ convenience . In this study, we focused on women vegetable vendors at Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Wholesale Market, a pioneer organized wholesale market established in 1986, by the Department of Food and Agriculture Marketing Services. It spreads over 2.25 hectares of land and this market alone covers 60-70% of the demand in Kathmandu. The purpose of this study is to gain first-hand information concerning the overall condition of women vegetable vendors inside the Kalimati market. Gaining such information is substantial in developing vendor-and-customer friendly, vegetable markets in newly settled areas, contributing to urban diet and economy.   MATERIALS AND METHODS   A questionnaire divided into 7 sections was prepared as shown in Table.1. With affirmation of the Kalimati market management board, 31 women vegetable vendors were selected randomly to participate in the semi-structured interview based on a prepared questionnaire. The morning hours between 7-10 a.m. was chosen to conduct the survey. Students from an accredited college in Kathmandu helped conduct the interviews with women vendors. No customers were interviewed. A qualitative approach was adopted for analysis. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION In the first section, vendors’ personal information was collected. Their average age was 36.7 years, ranging between 20-60 years which indicated that retailing vegetables suited a wide age group. 80% were married with an average family of 3.8 people. Their experience as vendors ranged from just a month to over 22 years. Most women worked 10 hours per day. Working hours were between 3-10 a.m. or 3- 8 p.m. at Kalimati market. The break during the day allowed them to look after their families or do other day jobs. The morning and evening shifts resembled a part-time job, suited to even students. 15 women reported to have no formal education but one of them was earning her bachelor’s degree. When asked about the main reason to start vegetable vending their answers varied, but the key reason was mainly to support their family and educate their children. Of the 31 women, 18 started vending due    PAGE   to family’s financial circumstances, 3 started vending as part of their family business and the remaining 10 were attracted to vending because they found it more flexible and profitable than other non-skilled or manual jobs. For some, it was a job opportunity while others expressed their interest in agriculture and the trade. Owning no land to farm, and having no prospects due to financial shortages, vegetable vending presented a realistic option that can provide a small-scale profit on a daily basis, provided there is a quick turnover. In the second section, we asked them about investment. We found that vegetable vending could be started at Kalimati market with comparatively low financial investment. Only 7 women had taken loans. On average, the women spent Nepalese Rupees (NRs.) 15000 (about US$150) in setting up their vending business, financed either by themselves, family or friends or micro-finances. The minimum investment was NRs. 500. Start-up costs included the purchase of items, such as hand scales, mats for displaying produce, foldable chairs, plastic tarp, etc. Paying for vending space was important for them. At the market there were two types of vending spaces. A monthly payment of NRs. 3000 was required for the roofed areas (Fig.1. B, B1) whereas, only NRs. 10 per day was collected from vendors in the open area within the market. This small amount was collected from only those who decided to sell on that particular day, meaning no obligation to continue and no properly assigned vending spots. This kind of flexibility could be convenient, in case the women needed to take time off. Only 3 vendors had applied for a vending license in the roofed area that secured their vending space. Some wanted to open their own vegetable shops if they had the necessary capital while others enjoyed the flexibility and refrained taking further risks of expanding.   The third section, was about the supply chain. Getting a constant supply of vegetables was difficult. We found that 43% bought vegetables directly from farmers, while 57% bought from middlemen who arrived at Kalimati market very early in the morning (around 3 a.m.). After buying, the women vendors sold to customers who came during market opening hours. The fact that buying and selling both happened at the same market place, saved the vendors, cost of transporting vegetables. This convenience was a particular at Kalimati market. Depending on the availability and price, small vendors purchased 10-20 kilograms daily, while vendors in roofed area purchased about 100-300 kilograms at a time. Since the market operated in morning and evening shifts, having a storage space to store unsold vegetables affected their income. Only 8 women had storage space. Without a storage space they were obliged to sell all their vegetables within the day, at prices lower than even the cost price. Having a temporary storage could lead to sales in the evening or the next day. If not, they required to buy fresh vegetables every day, which is good for customers, yet the quantity they could buy depended on availability and weather conditions too. Popular and easy-to-sell vegetables were leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cauliflower, mushrooms and spices    PAGE   and herbs used in all cooking. Off-season vegetables were even more profitable. Leafy vegetables were difficult to preserve than storable vegetables like potatoes or onions. Finding a balance between storable vegetables with longer shelf-life and popular vegetables was suitable for them. The fourth section was about transportation. Improving the transport systems was important to assure consistent supply from farms and middlemen. Monthly expenditure on transportation varied from NRs. 1000-10000. Many complained that transportation was expensive and sometimes porters and rentable vehicles were not easily available.  The fifth section was about marketing. The main strategy was to buy fresh vegetables and sell everything within the day, especially during unfavorable weather conditions. They avoided buying in bulk to lower their risks. 12 vendors reported to profit more than NRs. 500 (US$50) daily while others earned up to NRs. 10000 (US$100) per day. Profit margin was NRs. 5-10 per kilogram on average based on the farmer’s price, transp ort costs and other incidentals. However, achieving this daily profit was difficult; with a surplus of produce the women must slash their prices, making the profit margin slim. To keep vegetables fresh was important because customers negotiated price according to freshness. So vendors sprinkled water and covered them with wet jute cloths. Another strategy was to reserve the same vending spots to make it easy for regular customers to find them. 5 women wanted to sell organic vegetables, 9 were networking and some were calling out to customers and labeling prices to increase sales. Others did not display a selling price because the price may fluctuate from morning to evening. While none of the women had a clear marketing strategy, they believed that freshness and appearance could attract customers. We observed neatly arranged piles of colorful fresh vegetables (Fig.1.C, C1). This arrangement made it easier for customers to inspect the produce and negotiate price. The sixth section concerned the processing of vegetables . When asked about value-adding (for example chutneys, pickles, etc.) the women responded that they had “no time” “no equipment” and were “not interested,” even though this would solve the problem of unsold produce. Only 8 women responded that they wanted to get training for processing. Most people have taken no training in processing vegetables. Vegetables than remained near the end of market closing time, were sold for lower prices, donated or disposed. Drying unsold vegetables to sell at a later date could be an option to reduce loss. Wilted vegetables could be used for organic manure. However, the women vendors were not interested to devote extra time and cost. The seventh section was about facilities and equipment. Lack of temporary and cooling storage facilities, child care facilities posed challenges for vendors. Equipment they owned included foldable chairs, mats, hand-scales (Fig.1. A, A1), stands, plastic bags, boxes    PAGE   and equipment they needed included tents, parasols, electric scale that could be rented out. Larger vending space, longer vending times, better toilet facilities, electricity to sell after dark could be added to improve the market conditions. The final section concerned ways of improving their business. The women vendors expected intervention from local organizations and government to provide secure vending spaces at reasonable prices, build temporary storage and cooling facilities within the market, provide hassle-free loans, provide training on packaging and post-harvest handling of vegetables, monitor a steady supply of quality produce, provide better price policies by maintaining market transparency and schedule extended flexible vending time. CONCLUSION Anjaria (2006) argues that vending is full of insecurity. The women vendors at Kalimati agreed that consistent availability of quality produce and facilities to maintain freshness were the two determining factors to gain a stable income from vegetable vending. Choosing popular and storable vegetables was better than perishables because of limited selling time. To win the competition among vendors, either they needed to sell the same vegetables at lower price or be able to provide a wider variety. When deciding the selling price, they could set a daily target and lower prices strategically, according to remaining stock and weather conditions. The management board of this market could attract more vendors by providing temporary storage spaces and cooling facilities, especially in summer. Providing rentable equipment, porters and vehicles for transporting vegetables could benefit both vendors and the market. The vendors could benefit from trainings on post-harvest handling to lengthen the shelf-life of their vegetables. Others suggested that, to increase their income and reduce loss, a vegetable delivery service could be initiated for regular customers. The opening hours of the market could be expanded to fit the needs of both customers and vendors. Further, creating a body to control the supply and delivery of fresh vegetables from farms and middlemen was most crucial for the trade of women vegetable vendors. Also, providing consultancy to set a sales target and estimate the quantity to buy daily, could reduce their loss. Supplying perishable fresh vegetables within a limited time is a challenge without indoor markets and chilling systems (Tuladhar, 2016).   To overcome their difficulties, there is a need to contact stable suppliers, to gain knowledge about vending vegetables by minimizing risks. According to (Bhowmik et al., 2012) fruit vendors profited than vegetable vendors in India because the cost of fruits was higher than vegetables. In Nepal, the situation is similar, fruit sellers are usually shop owners so a comparative study between vegetable vendors who seek market space and fruit shop owners could be a topic for further study.
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