Baliaghati of West Medinipur is a tribal village inhabited by people belonging to very low income group with lack of basic facilities like health and nutrition. NPMS, a local organization has been fighting for long to change the scenario. Since 2006, DRCSC started working with NPMS involving children in the age group of 12~15 on Ecology and Natural Resource related learning and experimentation activities.
Baliaghati is an area, where flood and drought, the two most destructive and atrocious forms of nature, are a common factor and the poorest of people living here have no option but to accept these vagaries of nature as part and parcel of their lives. Vegetables have never been a part of their staple diet. In June 2008 about 200 packets of vegetable seeds were distributed among 30 children. 18 of them could raise garden within their homestead.
Initiatives of others in the group were washed out by the flood waters. The packets contained the seeds of swamp cabbage, snake gourd, ridged gourd, bottle gourd, sweet potato, cowpea, yam bean, soybean, cucumber, bitter gourd, okra, Indian spinach, tarukala etc. They were reluctant to eat some of these vegetables as they had never seen them before. Later, NPMS took the initiative to cook and serve these less known vegetables in a bid to popularize them. Compost and vermicompost prepared by the children themselves were used for enriching the soil. On an average each of them received about 150 kg of vegetable within 3~4 months. The children kept a detailed record of the activities undertaken, changes observed, processes undergone, incidence and nature of pest attack, lifecycle of the plants, rate of germination and the quantity & quality of produce. These records gave the children an idea of the science behind it. Parents also showed considerable interest in the entire activity.
Apart from the eco-group children and their parents, now the other villagers are also getting an opportunity to eat these vegetables as the children have shared the surplus with them as a part of their awareness campaign so that all villagers could know the benefits of raising a garden in their backyards.
The activity was supported by Indienhilfe.
Source : DRCSC news, Issue No. 3