Bengali village women grow vegetables in home gardens to fight anemia
Sanjima Khatun, a 28-year-old housewife in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, grows traditional vegetables in her vegetable garden to control anemia in addition to selling the extra produce in local markets to earn cash. The Department of Agriculture of the Government of West Bengal has promoted vegetable cultivation by providing self-help groups with seeds and advice to boost the consumption of leafy vegetables by women, many of whom suffer from malnutrition and anemia .
Self-help group leaders distribute seeds to members like Khatun and they produce vegetables using organic fertilizers, as vitamins and other micronutrients needed to control anemia can come from seasonal vegetables and fruits grown in vegetable gardens.
“Vegetables like okra, red spinach, bitter gourd, sweet gourd and bottle gourd are grown in my small plot of land. These vegetables are healthier than those available in the market as only compost and organic fertilizers are used as fertilizer,” said Khatun, a resident of Swaruppur village in Hariharpara block of Murshidabad district.
About a year ago, most members of these self-help groups in the Hariharpara bloc were trained by senior members of their SHG clusters and agriculture officers. In addition to growing fresh vegetables for their families, they sell the extra produce in local markets, Deputy Director of Agriculture Moumita Mazumdar told PTI.
According to available data from the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) conducted in 2020, improvement in the health of adolescent girls is needed as nearly 71% of them are anemic in West Bengal, compared to a national figure of 59.1 percent. hundred. In NFHS-4 conducted five years ago, the figure was 62%. In Murshidabad district, 73% (NFHS-5) of these women are anemic, compared to 53% previously in NFHS-4.
“Community nutrition gardens can play an important role in improving dietary diversity across age groups. In many parts of India, vegetable gardens have been promoted as one of the approaches to combat against hidden hunger.
“Seasonal fruits and vegetables are good sources of micronutrients and bring about positive nutritional behavior change in terms of food choices and practices,” said Jayati Mitra, UNICEF West Bengal Nutrition Officer, who brings technical support and other forms of assistance to the government for this project. .
In addition to providing free seeds under various state and central programs, agriculture officials train villagers in caring for vegetable plants and making bio-pesticides and organic fertilizers, a Mazumdar said.
“Besides seasonal vegetables, seeds and seedlings of other large plants like drumstick and papaya are also provided to them for the vegetable supply of their kitchens throughout the year,” the manager said. agriculture assistant.
Praising this initiative by the state government, UNICEF’s Mitra said anemia is complex and in addition to iron, other micronutrients like folic acid, vitamin A, B-12 and C are essential to combat anemia.
“Most of the micronutrients can be obtained from seasonal vegetables and fruits in home gardens. Vitamin C helps in the absorption of iron in the body. Thus, planting should be planned in such a way as with leafy vegetables green, some of the lemon (for Vitamin C), guava (Vitamin C), drumstick (Iron, Vitamin A), papaya (Vitamin A) plants are also there,” she said.
The women of the village also encourage their neighbors to grow vegetables. “If our neighbors leave their plots fallow, we support them with seeds and organic fertilizer to make a vegetable patch. In our village, you will have seasonal vegetables all year round. saves us money and the vegetables are healthier than those available in the market,” said Jakiran, an SHG leader from Swaruppur.
Gram panchayats also spend money to develop vegetable gardens. Saharan Bibi, Pradhan of Raipur Gram Panchayat in Nawada block of Murshidabad said, “Five vegetable gardens next to ICDS centers have been funded. Now, organic vegetables grown here are used to prepare ready meals for children and nursing mothers at ICDS centres. .”
(With PTI inputs)