Menka Kumari is a Swasthya Saheli, of “Jaagruk Mahila–Swasthya Pariwar” project supported by a CSR partner and implemented by S M Sehgal Foundation, for the improvement of health in twenty-five villages of Kalyanpur and Samastipur blocks of Bihar. Menka lives with her husband Balmiki Kumar and their two children in a small village of Kalyanpur block. The family lives on a meager annual income of about INR 120,000 obtained from small-scale farming. They consumed the vegetables they grew by traditional methods, which included using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
In February 2020, Menka attended a project training conducted for Swasthya Sahelis, on the theme of kitchen gardening to supplement adequate consumption of an assorted mix of nutrition rich vegetables for better health. Marginal households generally do not get these due to the high prices of vegetables in the market. The trainees were taught about nursery preparation, timely irrigation, and were made aware of the harmful effects on health and soil by non judicious use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Instead they were encouraged to use compost, a natural organic fertilizer, for their kitchen gardens.
Menka was one of the recipients of a kitchen garden kit, supplied by the project, which had seasonal vegetable seeds of radish, spinach, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, bitter gourd, beetroot, and cucumber. She and her husband grew these seeds using nursery beds, applying natural manure, providing timely irrigation and removing weeds.
Now they have a variety of fresh vegetables on their plate, which provides their nutritional needs without harming the body and the fertility of the soil. The kitchen garden saved them an average expense of INR 2000 per month for buying additional vegetables from local vendors for their own consumption, besides it helped Menka’s family to earn INR 3500 by selling their surplus vegetables. Menka also shared cucumber and bottle gourd with her neighbors.
Authors: Mati Murmu and Ellora Mubashir
(Mati Murmu is project coordinator, S M Sehgal Foundation, Samastipur and Ellora Mubashir is communications specialist, Partnerships, S M Sehgal Foundation)