Shonnu is a landless-farmer from Saokheda village of Gangapur-Taluka in Aurangabad. She lives with her husband Raju Shaikh and two children. The village has been their home for the past 23 years. They farm by taking land on lease and earning sufficient income has always been an issue. With a meager income, it became difficult to provide sufficient food to each member of the family.
Being educated, Shonnu always had an interest in doing skilled jobs, but with post-marriage responsibilities, she did not get time to explore it. Later she got an opportunity to work as an Anganwadi worker in her own village. Slowly things began getting better. With some sustained income, she was able to pay off some of her debts to continue farming and also began goatery and poultry activities. She started small with 2-3 goats and one dozen of hens. She began selling goat milk and country chicken and eggs in the village. Barring a small dip in her small business due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020, she was able to economically grow and the monthly income of the family also increased proportionately. Today she owns over 15 goats and 120 hens. She is now able to earn between INR 10,000-12,000 per month through goatery and poultry activities and also working at the Anganwadi.
“I struggled for 20 years of my life, but last three years, even in midst of pandemic I feel socially and financially sound”, says Shonnu. But the buck did not stop there for her. Working in the Anganwadi helped her get a new perspective on health. Especially for women and children. She acquired knowledge in the field of nutrition and the ICDS program of the Government of India.
Looking at the effects on health and malnutrition levels in children and women, especially after the pandemic, CNI SBSS Marathwada project team began to work with the community at Saokheda village on important aspects of nutrition and health. Especially with the beneficiaries of the ICDS centers i.e., children below 6 years of age and pregnant and lactating mothers.
The ‘Good Nutrition for All’ campaign of CNI SBSS focuses on educating the community on good nutrition and ensuring that locally available food items are integrated into the daily diet of the communities. Along with this, to continue the intake of nutritious food at home, communities are being supported to develop Nutrition Gardens, to grow and consume nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits in their homes.
Along with the community, CNI SBSS also conducted workshops for ICDS personnel during the nutrition campaign in which Shonnu also participated and took further interest to demonstrate her learnings in the field. She had a desire to teach by example, so she began a nutrition garden in her backyard.
Shonnu is using organic manure made with kitchen waste, and animal manure, and has planted over 19 vegetables and fruits like ladyfinger, chilly, different types of gourds, beetroot, radish, cucumber, pumpkin, brinjal, tomato, coriander, different types of spinach, mustard, lemon, drumstick, guava, papaya, etc. Some of the seeds and a starter kit were provided by CNI SBSS. For planting, she used large half-damaged plastic vessels, pots, jars, bags, etc. to block soil in one place. She collected many of the materials locally from the village as well with help of neighbours. Being an Anganwadi worker, the community members were helpful to her.
The local CNI SBSS staff and CNI SBSS Youth Resource Persons (YRPs) visit her garden regularly and give her input for improvement to the garden and provide the necessary support. She also saves the seeds of the vegetables and plants them in the available spaces by rotation. “I have no interest in selling my produce. I rather like feeding it to my family, relatives, and neighbours. I am setting an example of being a good Anganwadi worker and feel a sense of accomplishment. I want other mothers to learn from my experience and I am trying to help them start their nutrition gardens as well. Space does not matter. We can plant in small spaces as a start.” says Shonnu.
Asking about her plans to expand her business and gardening activity she says, “I want to explore more nutrition gardens in nearby villages. I will be planning some visits soon as a learning activity. There are issues of water availability so I am interested in learning how best we can manage in arid conditions. In this way, I will help other mothers and guide them better. Along with this, I will work to expand my goatery and poultry business. My children are well-fed and studying well. Also, a point to be noted is that I had a nutrition garden in my backyard for 4 to 5 years, but it was not so good and organized. I was also not well informed at that time, even when working as an Anganwadi worker. But with the support and motivation of CNI SBSS, this time my nutrition garden is thriving and I’m better technically sound in undertaking this activity.”
CNI SBSS is reviving the old practice of kitchen gardening for Good Nutrition. Kitchen/Nutrition Garden is part of traditional practice in the Indian villages for household waste management and producing own food. Considering the importance of vegetables, the women of the house used to plant different kinds of vegetables in the backyard, close to the kitchen to manage the wastewater coming from the kitchen and toilet. The organic waste of the kitchen is used to manure the plants. These plants used to be under direct supervision and nurtured for their healthy growth. It gives a pleasant excitement to the family in growing their own food. These home gardens have vegetables and fruits of high nutritive value where vegetable groups viz., green leafy vegetables, roots and tubers, and other vegetables are grown and consumed with specific attention to addressing micronutrient deficiencies, particularly iron and vitamin A. Due to the influence of modernization and increase in family size, the construction of houses on vacant land has replaced the kitchen gardens. The size of the kitchen garden has reduced in comparison to the need of the family members. The easy availability of vegetables grown with chemical manure and pesticides has replaced the dependence on the kitchen garden.