Krishna Mawasi, who lives in Kailhora village in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh, claims to have helped the hungry and destitute during the lockdown
I am not the only one. I have heard there are many others like me, says Krishna Mawasi, who decided to share the entire produce in her kitchen garden with neighbours and strangers alike during the countrywide lockdown due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
She lives in the tribal village of Kailhora that falls in the highly malnourished Satna district in Madhya Pradesh. The kitchen garden is her family’s primary source of vegetables because they seldom have enough money to buy vegetables.
“Days after the lockdown, I visited a neighbour and saw they were eating only chapatis as they could not afford vegetables. I impulsively asked them to come home and take some vegetables,” she says.
The next day, another neighbour approached her. Over time, 15 families were relying on her kitchen garden for their vegetables. “As the word spread, many others from neighbouring villages also started to walk down for food,” says Mawasi, adding that wheat and rice are easily available in the village through various government channels.
She would normally give each household two kilos of tomatoes along with a few brinjals, chilles and coriander leaves. She claims that nobody returned empty handed.
Her kitchen garden is spread across three bighas (a third of a hectare) and is used to grow tomatoes, chilies, spinach, coriander and other leafy vegetables. Mawasi says her family grows crops twice a year and a single yield is usually enough for half a year. The kitchen garden was set up five years back as part of a community-based malnutrition management project by non-profit Vikas Samvad.
Mawasi’s story inspired others with kitchen gardens who decided to share their produce for free despite facing a lot of difficulties themselves due to loss of livelihood during the lockdown.
The non-profit channelised their efforts by asking them to focus on families with malnourished children, or pregnant or lactating women, to ensure that these vulnerable groups receive adequate nutrition. Besides, the elderly, destitute and the disabled were also being helped by these village residents.
“The lockdown period was like a litmus test for the kitchen garden programme that was started to reduce food insecurity in the region,” says Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad.
In total, 232 families had voluntarily shared more than 4 tonnes of vegetables with 425 families in 115 villages of Satna, Panna, Rewa, Umaria and Shivpuri districts, claims the non-profit. The kitchen gardens helped over 217 malnourished children, 140 pregnant and lactating women and 68 elderly persons.
There have been unexpected benefits, too. When the non-profit tweeted Mawasi’s work, state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took notice and appreciated the initiative. Next, local Member of Parliament Ganesh Singh visited the village and announced development works worth Rs 15 lakh.
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