Rural women in Odisha take kitchen gardening as alternative livelihood

The kitchen garden initiative preserves the trend of sustainable foods in the new normal, securing incomes for families and providing healthy and nutritious food for their children
Rural women in Odisha take kitchen gardening as alternative livelihood
Rural women in Odisha take kitchen gardening as alternative livelihood

Converting the dreadful Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity, a handful of rural women from underprivileged communities in Bhubaneswar are getting engaged in kitchen gardening at home, with the support of SOS Children’s Villages of India (SOSCVI), a child care NGO, as a viable source of income during the lockdown that saw men, the primary bread earners of their families, lose jobs. 

The women, who are primary caregivers of children, are the direct beneficiaries of Family Strengthening, the community outreach programme of SOSCVI. The programme aims at increasing the household income of vulnerable families, and thus, upholds and enhances the quality of parental care for their children. The programme covers over 250 families with more than 600 children in the villages of Mahimangar, Kujimahal, Dalua, Nadhara, Giringaput and Haridamada of Khordha district. The families belong to tribal, scheduled castes and other backward classes with many of them working as migrant labourers. 

With agricultural inputs like seeds, technical guidance, and cash support from SOSCVI, the women have become successful in cultivating vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin and brinjal that fetch them upto Rs 100 per day, besides catering to the nutritional needs of the family. 

Many of these families suddenly became cash-strapped when men, the sole bread earners, lost their jobs during successive lockdowns. About 100 to 150 men, who were working in Bhubaneswar and other cities nearby, are now homebound. Hence, we are helping these families explore alternative livelihoods including home gardening. 

“We provide agri inputs and arrange guidance from agriculture experts. It has proven to be a game changer. Though these women did not have prior experience in gardening, they were determined to succeed when they saw that home gardening could be a sustainable source of decent income. The initiative has also led to provision of healthy and nutritious food for their children. When households have secure income, the quality of childcare is enhanced. We are planning to replicate this success in more communities in other locations,” SOS Children’s Villages of India said.

One of the enterprising home gardeners is Kuntala Jena, a widow, from Dalua. She and her two teenage daughters are into brinjal cultivation in a small piece of land around their house. Their garden produces 8-10 kgs of Brinjal on alternate days. Rina Bhoi, a mother of two young children, from Mahimanagar has shot to fame in her location with her success with red leafy spinach, a favourite vegetable in the region. At Rs 10 per bunch of spinach, Rina earns Rs.100 to Rs.150 every alternate day. Shailabala Nayak from Kujimahal, who has five children, including a girl, has raised a home garden that attracts neighbours who come there to buy fresh vegetables every day. She also runs a vegetable shop with produce from others. The model of kitchen gardening as an innovative, low cost or no cost alternative livelihood has inspired many in the villages to get their feet wet. 

SOSCVI is also encouraging the women to get into raising chicken, selling eggs, making snacks, and other ways of value addition to their produce. 

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