Rukuna Behera, 35, and Mukta Majhi, 30, are members of a Self Help Group (SHG) in Harekrishnapur Village where CRS India’s Jeevika project has been the catalyst for putting idle, barren land to productive use in the form of irrigated vegetable gardens. Jeevika (which means “livelihood” in Hindi) provides training, encouragement and support for SHGs to develop kitchen gardens that produce a wide variety of vegetables for household consumption. Micro-drip irrigation systems have been developed to water the kitchen gardens using the excess runoff water from existing hand-pumped boreholes.
It has been a year since the project’s inception and the villagers are already enjoying the fruits of their labors with the kitchen gardens producing a wide variety of top quality vegetables like onion, eggplant, tomato, green beans, chili and garlic. Majhi explained, “I used to spend around Rs.150 (US$3.30) every week on vegetables for my family, but now we have plenty of delicious vegetables to eat from the garden and don’t need to buy anything in the local marketplace. It is fantastic to be saving money by eating from our own organic vegetable gardens.”
The kitchen garden is a group-based activity where all the SHG members reap the rewards of this productive new enterprise. The men contribute labor to fence and plough the gardens in preparation for sowing the seeds, while the women work on weeding, watering, nurturing and harvesting the vegetables. The kitchen gardens are non-commercial enterprises where produce is shared equally between the group members that develop and maintain the garden. The organic produce has no chemical pesticides involved in the production process and the result has been an improvement in the general health of villagers who can also afford to eat substantially more vegetables now that they no longer have to buy them. “We do not sell the surplus vegetables. This a self-help group activity and all production from the kitchen garden is for the benefit of our group members,” Behera clarified.
People in the village have seen the tangible benefits of having kitchen gardens and, although it’s barely a year since the project began, most families have followed suit and developed their own vegetable gardens on varying scales. Behera concluded, “The Jeevika Project helped us develop these gardens and irrigation systems, but now our SHG saves some money each season for buying more seeds, doing repairs to the irrigation system and to make sure our gardens will be sustainable even after the project is finished and CRS has left.”
CRS India’s Jeevika project, supported by Vista Hermosa Foundation, works in 108 poverty-stricken villages in the Indian states of Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa and serves more than 50,000 people.
Reported by Stephen Cunliffe for CRS.
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