Balangir, November 30 (LocalWire): Almost every house in a village in Odisha has a backyard, which is either kept as an open space or used as an animal shed, while few others plant locally available vegetables and greens for their own consumption.
Experts point out that the backyard is an excellent space for setting up kitchen gardens to enhance the nutrition security of villagers, enabling them to have fresh homegrown vegetables for a healthy life, and also some economic benefit.
This is where Reliance Foundation has been playing a key role, facilitating the community in Balangir to set up a nutrition garden and provide irrigation facilities as per the requirement.
The foundation has been enabling the villagers in the area to adopt the Reliance Nutrition Garden (RNG) model, which includes a round-shaped spread over 710 sq ft of area.
There are two circles with seven beds in each circle and there is an innermost pit that is used to develop compost.
According to Sushant Das of Reliance Foundation in Balangir, “The main idea of a round shaped RNG is to get at least 14 types of vegetables round the year and make the habit of vegetable consumption by the community to reduce the nutrition deficiencies.”
The nutritional garden allows villagers to grow different locally available vegetables like tomato, brinjal, cauliflower, cabbages, coriander, lemon, reddish, cucumber, bitter gourd, reddish, onion, and garlic.
One can also cultivate pudina moringa and papaya, and since these are grown in the backyards, a villager can have access to fresh vegetables throughout the year, Das stated.
Experience of farmers
Fifty-eight years old Bedamati Meher of village Barla, in Gudvella block of Balangir, who had set up the RNG six years ago, is a happy beneficiary.
“We have cultivated tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal and bitter gourd, radish, chilly, and onion. In the first ring, vegetables that can be harvest early are planted, while creepers like bitter gourd, cucumber, and jhudung (long beans) are fenced so that the plant can grow properly,” Meher said.
“We have cultivated both radish and saag. Besides consuming these at home, we are also selling it in the nearby weekly market earning an average Rs 1,000. These days, we do not even need to visit the market because traders come to our house to pick up the produce,” Bedamati’s husband, Fakiram Meher said.
He also pointed out that they use organic manure prepared locally in a compost pit.
Regular consumption of green and fresh vegetables grown at the backyard has also led to an improvement in the health condition of rural villagers.
According to the Foundation, studies have indicated that the Hemoglobin level among women in the village has increased in Budelguma over time.
“In July 2015, a sample blood test of villagers including women members was conducted in Budelguma where the RNG was being implemented. Fourteen months later, another test in September 2016 indicated that the percentage of Hemoglobin among 17 women increased significantly. This rise in hemoglobin content could be safely attributed to the regular consumption of vegetables,” Dash said.
According to Ashok Bhanda of village Ratanpur, his health condition improved considerably after the regular intake of leafy vegetables from his backyard RNG.
“Whenever we want we can now get fresh vegetables and consume it. It is like a vegetable ATM for us,” Bhanda said.
Realising the potential benefit from the nutritional garden, the Odisha Livelihood Mission (OLM) has decided to adopt the model with some modification and has started to implement it in different districts of the state.
“In view of high malnutrition in rural areas and to save them from consuming vegetables with high chemical level and to ensures economic benefit, the reliance on nutrition garden could go a long way, if implemented properly,” Das stated.