In June 2021, S M Sehgal Foundation began implementation of a CSR supported partnership project initiative in district Nuh, Haryana. This integrated village development project works on water, education, health, sanitation, nutrition, and agriculture. The project included the setup of a Village Development Committee (VDC) in the project village with the objective to oversee the initiatives and sustain them for the future.
The panchayat choupal (community building) was in a dilapidated state and being used as a garbage disposal site. As a result, the community avoided the main road near the choupal. The area was prone to the spread of diseases like dengue, malaria, and others due to growing filth and acted as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. This affected people’s health and led to loss of life in some cases. In October 2021, the project team initiated the endeavor to transform this choupal into E-Poshan Kendra (E-nutrition center). The villagers resisted this idea initially, as they did not want to clean the cow dung, fodder, and other waste, nor were they willing to stop throwing their garbage there.
However, the project team persisted in mobilizing the people by conducting a series of trainings, and door to door awareness sessions; the VDC and women’s group members also influenced the people. Eventually these efforts proved fruitful and the community was convinced to remove the waste materials they were responsible for, and people stopped disposing their garbage here.
In January 2022, the choupal was completely transformed into E-Poshan Kendra. Solar panels were installed in the E-Poshan Kendra for a sustainable source of energy. Community women became keenly interested in the E-Poshan Kendra and started regularly attending the training sessions held here on nutrition and balanced diet.
Two months after it was set up, some village children climbed the wall of the E-Poshan Kendra and damaged it, including the “Food Guideline Pyramid” wall painting. The damage hampered the training sessions with women, because the educational wall paintings are used to orient the trainees on nutrition and balanced diet.
Faced with this issue, the VDC members held a special meeting, which the sarpanch also attended. There it was decided to repair the damage, take action against the misconduct in order for it to be a future deterrent, and resolve that the community itself would maintain the initiatives being implemented. The VDC contributed INR 1,500 and repaired the wall and its educational painting with technical help from the team’s civil specialist. Rekha Rani (former sarpanch) says, “The project has transformed the otherwise abandoned panchayat choupal into a wonderful meeting place in the village.”
Gradually the E-Poshan Kendra became a hub of information provision on good nutrition practices, sanitation, as well as on key government services. E-Poshan Kendra not only provides structured training to village women, it also showcases thematic films and inspirational stories on sanitation and nutrition. Vaccination drives for village children were also organized in this center.
Authors: Shahina Khatun and Debika Goswami
(Shahina is project associate, Nuh and Debika is senior program lead, Local Participation and Sustainablity with S M Sehgal Foundation)