Seven Sisters Development Assistance
Nourishing her Dreams
The COVID days have changed the lives of people all over the world, the spikes of Covid 19 have pierced the very foundation of modern civilization, affecting people at all strata and the lives of the farmers is no exception from it. The farmers had a hard time to sell their produces during the lockdown and most of the production was distributed in the villages at whatever price they can. With the degradation of their economic condition, it was also noticed that availability and supply of nutritious food was limited during these gloomy hours, which was a must to maintain a healthy immune system which increases the possibilities to build antibodies against minor flu viruses and resist surrendering to covid.
Stepping in to the scenario of rural Assam, Seven Sisters Development Assistance (SeSTA) initiated the Nutrition Garden model, thereby promoting crops with high nutrition value suited for local agro-climatic conditions and potential Return of Investment (ROI) within shorter time durations with SHGs promoted by both Assam State Rural Livelihoods Mission (ASRLM) and SeSTA. The initiative was to ensure dietary diversity which will boost immunity.
The activity was carried out with families who have been the most hit by the lockdown and do not have many sources of livelihoods for improving their nutritional outcomes and sustaining their livelihoods along with investment in market linkages.
Picturising one such garden from the many, is the story of Latika Sarkar and her Nutrition Garden in Boitamari Block of Bongaigaon District, Assam. She is from the village of Jalakhata and has been engaged with livelihood activities as agriculture, livestock rearing and weaving from the past few years. Although it seems many, the resources available was not utilised properly. The main income for her family was from the daily wage her husband receives by working as manual labour and she by weaving.
According to her the annual income of the family can be calculated for approximately 10,000 to 15,000 rupees. Initially, with the onset of COVID 19, the family faced a lot of problems. With no work for the husband, earnings stopped. They had enough paddy from their filed, thus rice to eat, but nothing to complement with rice. Baideu (Elder Sister) used to practice a small kitchen garden but was not well maintained and excess rain fall made the situation worse for the few crops available in it. During this wee hour’s professionals from SeSTA supported her to renovate her Kitchen Garden to a Nutrition Garden, a model supported by United nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The nutrition Garden Model is facilitated with trainings to cultivate a healthy garden, so as to receive healthy vegetables from it. She and other SHG members were trained on site selection, preparing crop calendar, selection of crops, land preparation, seed sorting and treatment, transplantation and integrated pest and disease management. The gardens’ principal objective is to provide nutritious food, for which adoption of organic pest and disease management and withdrawal of using chemicals was must. Latika Sarkar learnt to prepare organic insecticides like Agniastra, Neemastra and treating seeds with cow urine. She planted her garden by receiving quality seeds and proper training from the initiative, beds were raised and direct sown crops like okra, cowpea etc were sown on one side and other crops that are transplanted from the nursery she prepared were transplanted on the other side of the plot. Perennial plants like papaya were already there in the garden which were helpful to provide shade during the bright day light without interrupting the morning sunlight. Her hard work and dedication bear fruit when she was able to earn Rs 8000 from the first cultivation, for her it was the first time that she earned a sum of these amount by selling vegetables after consuming enough by her family.
Simultaneously she started practicing Vermicomposting, after attending the training and demonstration from the professionals of SeSTA, and she was really happy to share the profit earned out of it. She was astonished to learn how easy and profitable Vermicomposting is, and believes that it is one of the best organic manures. She earned an amount of Rs. 5700 from Vermicompost and also motivates other Baideus from her VO (village organization) and SHG (self-help group) to practice it
After the total lockdown was lifted, Baideu got engaged with various livelihood activities intervened by SeSTA. She started with livestock activities and got herself involved in practicing backyard poultry. Till now, she has earned an approx. amount of Rs. 4000 by selling eggs, hens and ducks. She has also been selling cow milk and has earned an amount of Rs. 7000 in the last 6 months.
Baideu has recently started cultivation of mushroom in a very small scale, but has already earned Rs. 500 from it. This has motivated her even more, and in the coming days, she is planning to practice mushroom cultivation in a larger scale to scale up the production. In this Kharif season, Baideu in her Producer Group, along with the other PG members are planning to practice Black rice cultivation together in the coming kharif season. She is expecting that this would not just be a profit for the Baideus, but for the FPC (farmer producer group) too. Along with on farm activities, Baideu has been continuously engaged in handloom since a few days, and has earned a profit of Rs. 2000 by selling 20 Gamusas, and Rs. 1500 by selling 6 mekhelas during bihu. From an annual income of Rs, 10,000 earlier to now, an annual income of Rs. 30,000 approximately of the household, Baideu has not only gained profit but she has also learnt a lot of new things in the last few months. Her ‘Nutrition Garden’ is rotated with new crops every season and it is now nourishing her dreams, motivating her to engage in more such livelihood activities in the days to come