A few youngsters at Jharia are redefining sustainable solutions during this period of lockdown. 21-year old Suman Marandi, residing in the quaint Bhelatand area of Dhanbad, has become a popular face in her village. While most of her community people have been facing difficulties stocking up their ingredient inventory during the Coronavirus pandemic, her kitchen garden has never been more valuable.
Suman has been growing vegetables of a large variety in her kitchen garden since the last six months which has come up as a boon for her family of five during this lockdown period. “I do not have to worry about going to the market to buy vegetables because the produce from my garden is enough to sustain my family,” she says.
A number of people in the nearby households have come up to her for help while setting up their kitchen gardens. “My neighbours faced so much difficulty travelling to the markets fetching vegetables but we were relieved. When they noticed the same, they came up to me to help them set up their kitchen gardens. While it is never too late to start something productive, it will take some time for their gardens to show results,” she says.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) suggests vegetables, at least 300g/day, to be there in the diet of an adult, but due to a reduced buying capacity during such unprecedented times, not everyone is able to add nutritious food to their diet. Like Suman, a number of other households in the district of Dhanbad kitchen gardens have also benefited from the kitchen gardens. During the lockdown, not only does it boost the household’s access to fresh food while keeping one at home but also ensures a healthy diet that contains adequate amounts of essential nutrients by producing diverse kind of vegetables.
It has been observed that most of them are completely dependent on these nutrition gardens for their day-to-day cooking during the lockdown.
Generally, the local communities here grow one variety of vegetable in their backyard and it was mostly brinjal or onion. After introducing the concept of nutrition garden, they have started to grow and consume 17 types of vegetables including okra, leafy vegetables, pumpkin, tomatoes and radish among others.
“These nutritional gardens have played an important role in the lives of tribal communities by bringing about a change in their food habits with the inclusion of vegetables having proteins, vitamins and fibres. Our team members regularly remain in touch with the farmers and provide them with the necessary inputs. Also, we are trying to popularise the concept among those who are yet to adopt the concept,” says Rajesh Kumar, Unit Head, Tata Steel’s CSR division at Jharia.
Tata Steel Foundation has also facilitated setting up 508 such gardens in the proximate 35 villages of its operations in these areas.