Reena Devi, a resident of the village of Amba in the Boarijor block in the Godda district of Jharkhand, has been helping women set up food gardens on plots with an area of ​​1.5 to 5 decimal places to grow fruits and vegetables instead of them since 2018 to buy from the market. These gardens on small plots are either in the back yard or in the front area of ​​rural houses and ensure a varied diet for the whole family.

“I have mobilized women for the past two years. It is my job to change their thinking and defeat malnutrition in the district. I Provide them with tips on iron pill intake, the need to eat nutritious foods, and measure children regularly to check their weight. This was possible after many women started gardening vegetables and inspired their neighbors to do the same, ”said Reena, who is responsible for two panchayats and works with 350 women under her.

Reena acknowledged that women used to have no idea about the concept of food gardens. Most of them belong to poor families. The biggest benefit of growing vegetables and leafy greens in private households is that they can be grown organically, she added. “The women experiment with different types of vegetables depending on the season and the availability of seeds. During the training, they realized how food gardens can change their lives. “

One such woman is Poonam Devi from the same block. She started a nutrition garden after seeing other women start the same thing. Now Poonam grows vegetables all year round and her family can eat something every day. It is enough to meet her family’s daily needs. She usually grows spinach and radish coriander and cauliflower.

However, Poonam says there aren’t enough products to sell in the market. “But people’s attitudes have changed fundamentally. A few years ago women didn’t bother to participate in discussions about malnutrition under the guise of housework, but now there is regular attendance, ”she added.

The initiative

As part of the large-scale nutrition project in the Godda district, which is part of the Santhal Pargana region in Jharkhand, the idea was to improve the harvest Nutritional diversity. “When we started working there were critical issues such as girls getting married early, mostly between the ages of 13 and 14, teenage pregnancy, and child malnutrition. To address the situation, the nutrition program was linked to gender-specific intervention measures and extensive mobilization to prevent early marriages, ”said Ashisa Kumar Rath, PRADAN team coordinator. The organization urged women to set up food gardens by arranging seeds and providing them with technical assistance.

Rath added that the cultivation of nutritious plants like green gram and pigeon peas are in the foreground in order to change the eating habits from residents. Earlier eating habits was mostly limited to rice and a some vegetables. Millet is now grown in many parts of the district and there has been a significant increase in area coverage under both millet and legumes, he said.

Most women who have food gardens use kitchen wastewater to grow. According to Abhishek Kumar from PRADAN, who is the project manager and is based in Godda, has a total of 14 different types of vegetables be encouraged under the diet Garden concept, in addition to papaya and moringa, as part of the nutritionally sensitive agricultural approach. There are around 15,000 such gardens in The district was created from 2018 to 2020 in December.

“When we started promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture in Godda, the focus was specifically on food gardens. We focused on the borough in a certain way because women at most have small lots in their backyards. We have also tried to promote moringa for better health and nutrition, ”added Kumar.

Pinki Devi of the Boarijor Block said that since women have gained significant health and nutritional awareness through the concept of the food garden, the prevalence of anemia has decreased significantly. Sushila Devi, whose small garden feeds a family of five, said there had been a change in behavior also. Girls now marry between the ages of 18-19 instead of 14-15 as was customary.

The government role

Given the success of the Food Garden Initiative, the government of Jharkhand launched Didi Wadi Yojana in October 2020 and linked it to MGNREGA. In Godda, 5,531 food gardens have already been completed under convergence with MGNREGA. Adeline Hansda, the district’s project leader, said that since many women benefited from food gardens, this was done under MGNREGA in partnership with the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) under the Rural Development Department. “As part of the program, we are distributing vegetable seeds to the beneficiaries free of charge. Wages depend on the decimal size of the plots. For a 1.3 decimal plot of land, a beneficiary receives 194 as daily wages for a period of 38 days for a total of 7,372.

Rath pointed out that the state government under MGNREGA pays the women to set up food gardens and this will serve as an encouragement. In this way, a larger number of beneficiaries can be reached. “When we started in 2018, communities were mobilized to take up this program. The problem is, women sometimes keep seeds indoors and don’t bother to sow them. Still we encouraged families to buy seeds themselves and arranged the seeds from our nurseries. We encouraged them to start the process anyway. We can only reach a few families on our own, but the government program will be far-reaching, ”he said.

Reena stated that Didi Wadi Yojana has a strong focus on accurately measuring plots for the establishment of food gardens. Before that, a lot of women used to set up the gardens in a random way. The concept of the food garden is a boon to the rural poor during the COVID-19 pandemic when many families cannot afford it Buy groceries from the market.

Hansda added that women will continue to receive seed kits from the JSLPS, which is sourced from National Seeds Corporation Limited, under the program, which will last for three years.

[email protected]