Fresh Vegetables at Doorstep: Organic Way

Kitchen Garden Promotion Programme of Swadhina

The train reached at Ghatsila station around 9 in the night. As soon as the train touched platform I could locate the smiling face of Laduram, waiving desperately at me. I waived back, assuring him that I too have located him. As soon as I got down at the platform, Laduram took from me the carry-bag and now I only have my shoulder

bag. We were all set for the little walk till we reach our destination – the local Swadhina camp office located near the daily village market (Haat). Swadhina, a voluntary organisation is working in this area of Jharkhand on a women’s empowerment and livelihood enhancement programme for the past many years now.  Laduram is the able field- organiser for Swadhina here.

After finishing the packed dinner, of chapati and vegetable curry procured from the local eatery , we spent a little time about the next day’s visit to the villages. My sole purpose of coming here was to visit the Household Vegetable Farming or Kitchen Garden Programme of Swadhina.

Next couple of days Laduram took me in villages around Ghatsila  in his over-used motorcycle ! It gives relatively more sound than speed, and, I anyway had no complains to make since I myself drive at a moderate pace ! At the end of the trip, with the help of the project documents I could gather many insights which are shared here.

IMG-20171128-WA0083Objective: The basic objective of the programme, supported by SARRA,  is to raise Kitchen Garden not only to have Food for All In The Home, but also to enhance nutrition intake in the family. It is also envisaged to promote organic way of farming, with organic fertilizers and organic pesticides. As a result this programme would

– Provide Food Security & Nutritional support to families using their available household land resources.
– Provide scope for local women to stake claim on family plots
– Change the attitude of the families and the society towards women’s land ownership
– Encourage land-based livelihood among communities. As a follow-up activity, efforts will be vested on encouraging people for seed preservation. The programme was facilitated by: SARRA, under ILC and implemented by: Swadhina

Activities3 participants from Swadhina participated in the Training of Trainers (TOT) organized by SARRA at Tirupathi last year4. Mr. Laduram Mahato , Ms. Yashoda Mardi and Ms. Karmi Kisku participated in the 3 day intense training programme on the Basics of Kitchen Garden preparation, Food and Nutrition through Kitchen Garden, preparation of organic composts for Kitchen Garden.

Later a 3 day Training Programme was organised at Ghatsila, East Singbhum in Jharkhand. The trainers who had attended the TOT, along with Resource Persons from Swadhina explained the process of kitchen garden preparation and organic fertiliser/pesticide preparation and usage, through charts/ posters/ Flash-Cards.  

Through socio-economic family survey, the field workers identified potential implementors of the Kitchen Garden programme. These women were chosen for the Kitchen Garden Training and trained accordingly.

The implementation of the gardens initially received a huge set-back as Jharkhand experienced a massive rainfall in the region continuously throughout August and September. The plots that were being identified and prepared couldn’t be developed as a result of the continuous rainfall. However work began with rapid ferocity as soon as the rainfall subsided. The families members supported the women in developing plots, applying primary layer of organic fertilizers (as prepared by the trainees of SARRA training). Fencing was given to all the plots.

Seeds of red amaranthus, pumpkin, green chillies, tomato, brinjal, ladies finger, and several variety of leafy-vegetables were provided to the women.

This programme has been taken up in four villages, covering 21 families who are mostly belonging to Scheduled Tribe and backward class communities in East Singbhum district in Jharkhand state.

SOME REFLECTIONS: -Though the families are yet to experience the direct benefits of food security and nutrition from the kitchen garden, the fact that they have an access IMG-20171128-WA0030to direct nutrition in their back or front yard is an exciting prospect for the beneficiaries.
– The trainings have convinced the local families of the benefits of organic farming, they have especially learnt to use local natural fruit and vegetable resources to prepare organic fertilizers at home itself.
– Earmarking a plot in the name of the woman of the family has given a strong message to the society about women’s land ownership. To the woman, it is her personal piece of land.
– Those who had successfully implemented FAITH Gardens earlier could set a very good example to others about the farming abilities of women. In the words of Karmi Kisku – “The quality of my produce was so good that my husband took tips from me on how to actually grow such vegetables. He and his friends used my technique and had a good produce”

 

CHRISTMAS GIFT !

thanks

Responses to our Appeal (given below) have started trickling in ! We profusely express our heartfelt thanks to the following friends for their immediate Donations. We also hope other well wishers will kindly help us.

1.Ms. Panchali Goswami Bhattacharya, Kolkata     INR. 1000/-

2.Ms. Sonia Bhattacharya, Bangalore                         INR 1000/-

3.Rasa & Rian Chatterjee, Kolkata                               INR  500/- (worth of gifts like crayons, drawing books, pencils and cup cakes)

4. Sanjay Basu, Poona (Annual Pledge)                     INR  12000/-

5. Palash Roy, Kolkata (Annual Pledge)                    INR 12000/-

6. Ayansh Aron Patnaik, Ghatsila                               INR  1000/-

7. Antariksh V, Kolkata                                                  INR 1000/-

8. Sarrah Ayantika Mukerji, Kolkata                          INR 1000/-

dabitGift a Magic!!
For little Joyce Murmu, a visit to the local city of Ghatsila meant watching young girls of her age going to the local school in their fresh, colourful uniforms with school bags, nice shoes and socks. Being from the remote village of Kadamdih in Jharkhand, this was all but a dream. Today, Joyce goes to the Swadhina Good Hope School set up in her village. She too has a colorful uniform like her friends in the city and gets to learn little English rhymes like them.

For Ratuli Sahis, life as a marginal farmer was difficult. She had to balance her house-hold work with her on-off work as a land labourer.magic-2 That was the only way she could support her big family. Swadhina’s help to her in the form of a pair of goats came as a boon to her. Now she has a comfortable life by Animal Reaing with goats and hens as her source of income. She has managed to repair her dilapidated house and is able to afford school education for her children.
magic-3Being the third among her seven siblings, Tapati’s life was a story of a never-ending drudgery – bringing in unending buckets of water from the local tap, washing huge pile of utensils and washing clothes from dawn to mid-noon. However, being offered a chance by Swadhina, she enrolled for a Batik Handicraft Training course of three months in her locality. Diligently, she took out time from her busy schedule to attend the classes. At the end of the course she became so well versed with the intricacies of the craft that she began to get offers from different boutiques. She now is a permanent staff in a renowned fashion boutique in New Delhi. She has evolved herself from the ashes of her drudgery to be an empowered, young woman.

magic-4It is the Christmas Season once again. It is the time of gifts and merrymaking. So, this time why not Gift a Magic ? ‘Gift a Magic’ is a gift that would bring in a positive change in the lives of those who are deprived of the privilege of a better life and livelihood. It is a gift that empower women and children themselves-belonging to the extreme marginalised sections of the society located in Purulia (West Bengal), East Singbhum (Jharkhand), Mayurbhanj (Odisha), East Champaran (Bihar) and Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) through our organisation, SWADHINA. Your support can go a long way to bring in a postive change in the lives of many more Joyce, Ratuli or Tapati. It would help us help people like them have a better life and living; it would help us enlighten the light of magic in their lives! This Christmas, let there be light in the life of little Joyce !

There are three activities that you can help support:
* Support a Rural School – Good Hope School : US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(School Dresses/Shoes-Socks/Books/Copies/Sweaters for 5 students)

* Support Skill Training Programme for Rural Women: US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(Skill Training for 5 Young Rural Women )

* Support for providing Animal Resources to MarginalFarmer Women: US$ 50 / € 50 / £ 45
(Animal Support in the form 20 ducks/ hen or 1 goat each for 5 women)

You can send your donation through A/c Payee Cheque issued in the name of : SWADHINA and mail it to : Swadhina, 34/C Bondel Road, Kolkata 700019, India.

Also, please share this Appeal with your friends and dear ones so that they too may take part in this joy of sharing a perfect CHRISTMAS GIFT !.

CLICK HERE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT US
E-mail: swadhina_org@yahoo.com mainoffice.swadhina@gmail.com

Literacy Jatha:March at a Tribal Village for Literacy Promotion

Literacy “Jatha”- a “Jatha” is a March in which certain action is also accomplished along the way. Some times ago we, an NGO group organised a Literacy Jatha in a tribal village

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picture-326called “Majhidih”. The basic objective of the March was to spread awareness on the need to have a minimum literacy for all, and, also to teach women of the village ‘how to sign their names’. Since this was organised by an NGO working for women’s empowerment, the stress was to cover women in the village. Most of the women did know how to sign their names even. We were stressing on this because these days, they need to put their signatures for various reasons i.e. to open a Bank Account, to get govt. benefit schemes to become an effective member of Self Help Group and so on.

picture-319Majhidih literary means a Santhal Village i.e.” Majhi” means Santhal tribe, and, “dih” means a village.  This village is located amidst East Singbhum region of Jharkhand state in India. Jharkhand meaning “The Forest Land”, is a new state. There was a long time demand from the local Tribals – the Adivasis that they be given a separate state.  We are working in villages here on women and children development programmes since inception of this state.

Spending the night before at our camp office at Bondih we set out for the Majhidih village early morning in two bikes and a few bicycles. We also asked our village volunteers from neighbouring villages to assemble at the Majhidih village. It took about half an hour to reach the village for our bikes.  The cyclists also made it within that time limit, since they took short cut passage through forest. It was summer, the area is chronically drought prone, there was scorching heat emanating from the stony road, even though it was still early in the morning.

After reaching the village we made two teams. The men in the team were given the task of writing awareness slogans on the walls. The Santhal houses have mud walls, but, they are kept very clean and neat by pasting coloured mud regularly.There is particiularly a red soil available in the hills here which look very beautiful on walls.

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Writing on Wall: “I Want Education”

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“Must Learn How to Sign My Name”

The women in our team, joined by other village volunteers, took the charge of teaching signature writing to the village women.

Our March or the Jatha began.  While we took charge of the wall writing, the women, in small teams entered a few huts on both sides of the village road. The villagers were too enthusiastic to participate in this learning process. It was nice to see that while the women were busy trying to write their signatures on the paper, the menfolk in the house took care of the children. ( a rare scenario in Indian village context where bringing up a child is solely vested on women)

Once a cluster of 4 to 5 huts covered, the Jatha marched forward. At times we, the graffiti team were lagging behind to complete the our paint-brush task.

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The only reason I was treated differently was my tummy !

Around 3 p.m. we reached at the end of village. Here we had out lunch…. piping hot rice, lentil curry and a potato-brinjal curry…. served on Sal Leaves plates. It was tasty, and, in any case we were really hungry… we did not have a chance to break our fast (skipped the break fast !)

Our end of the Jatha was a cultural show, organised open-air. We have cultural team, which presented  a number of Awareness song and dance, composed by us on various social issues like cutting of trees, need for literacy for all, torture on women and so on.  At the end there was  a Magic Show which was thoroughly enjoyed by all !

( I love playing a Folk Drum, and, whenever there is a chance….. !!!)

 

Mask : For Folk Dance

“Tomorrow we shall go to Hesla” my wife announced. “This village is near Bandwan, in Bengal,  and there is a forest road from here which will lead us there” she added.

img_0205We have come to a village called Bondih in East Singbhum in Jharkhand. We are staying here  for the past several days. It is a nice place except there are frequent load shedding, so most of the nights are spent on kerosene lamps. But fresh air, fresh vegetables are all for a refreshing change from our city life. We have several working  villages here in which we are doing rural development programmes. It is surrounded by forest, and, placed amidst a hilly terrain. Though about 50 kilometres  away , from the nearest town  Jamshedpur, it is quite inaccessible, mainly due to very limited transport service. This meant we will have an inter-state  travel tomorrow !

Next morning we set out for the Bengal village. We had two bikes. I was driving a heavier one, with my wife in the pillion. Her colleague was in the other bike, a bit lighter one, as a pillion rider. It was pleasant to start with. One good thing about long bike ride is that there is always cool breeze to enjoy, especially in the mornings, and I always relish such  pleasant ride.  img_0201For about an hour we drove through several small villages, small huts, small ponds, forest trees on both sides. But like all good things, the smoothness of the journey ended.  We reached at the end of the forest road, and, here onwards we will have to tread through thin pedestrian route. This part is quite risky, especially to find out the correct track, but if one drives the bike at a steady speed one can always be able to see the thin white pedestrian track.  At one point we sped through a risky patch with deep dry water body on both sides.

Around   10 a.m. we reached the Hesla  village, of Purulia district. My wife and her colleague joined the women’s group which met at  a villager’s veranda. Their basic agenda of the meet was to work out a plan for a training programme for the village women group as a part of the women’s empowerment initiative.

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Myself and Pradip – the other bike rider, set out to have a go at the village. I was told by some of the local youth  that this village, like most of the village in Purulia, has  Chhow Dance troupe. For the past several  years now I serve as the liaison for these various dance troupes and the Kolkata Puja organisers, to get these people contracts for performance.  They always look forward to get a scope to show-case their talent in city situations.  Kolkata organisers on their part sincerely look for getting these groups to perform in their puja arena. Some of the village youth from these troupes requested me to arrange for some performance contracts from Kolkata. ( Later, after a few months, at least two such trips got actually materialised ! ).

By the time we walked back to the women’s meet venue it was already 12 noon.  My wife informed that they have agreed upon on the training programme – training on “Mask Making for Chhow Dance” ! This dance is a kind of marshal-art form, and, predominantly  performed by men – even on performing  women’s role.  The villagers arranged for our lunch – hot pooris and sweet  boondia, a very strange combination. But as the saying goes ‘hunger is the best sauce’ we thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

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By next month the training programme started, with the help of an expert mask-maker  brought down from the Bandwan town.

 

 

 

Early Childhood Education: Joy of English Learning

Why should my son go through NFE, why can’t my son learn like other children” asked a poor villager.

I could not follow his submission. He perhaps guessed it and added “I mean those children, from well-to-do family in the village, study in the type of schools where they learn English, and, why not my son get a chance to learn English” ?

I now got his point. Whenever we think of education for these hapless poor village children, those who are drop outs, or, could not go to regular schools, we come up with a NFE Programme. In the Non Formal Education curricula we do not include English, and, teach only in local language.

I have been in this village literacy enhancement task for over 25 years now. In the process conducted several hundred training programmes for the NFE Instructors or Literacy Teachers or Social Animators, in several states across the country like Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Assam and Tamil Nadu. I have  provided direct in-field guidance and thematic support to over a thousand NFE centres. In the process developed Primers, Posters, Flash Cards and a large number of “fun-n-learn” games with pictures, paper cut outs, letter cards and so on. Since we work mostly in tribal areas, we developed various group dances, group songs, street plays on social issues, so that social awareness, as a part of education, can be created. BUT this man really bowled me out !

So, we finally worked out four primer charts in English. First, idea was that Similar to Look and Easy to write Alphabets to be selected. Secondly, it was thought that learners will have fun if they learn some words using those newly learnt limited alphabets. In the similar way the rest of the 3 charts were designed.

We then percolated this method through training programmes conducted in many places. We found this method to be a very good one and the learners learn very fast. We used this method in Early Childhood Education Programmes, Non Formal Education Centres, Rural Pre-primary Learning Centres and found them to be very effective.