Odisha Government Officials endorses Caritas India’s Kitchen-garden initiative for state-wide replication in Anganwadis

Budhia, the district facilitator of Orissa Forum for Social Action (OROSA) thought of developing a kitchen garden at the backyard of Anganwadi center and primary school to promote good health and nutrition among the children.

Budhia is working in ‘Jeevanika’ to capacitate marginalized communities to access food, nutrition, and other govt. programmes in Odisha. The project is supported by Caritas India to reach out to 26376 families in 8 districts with a total of 84 villages. It also focuses on strengthening local administration, ensuring entitlements at the village level and towards its people.

Mayurbhanj, one of the districts notably disadvantage in terms of poverty, hunger, infant mortality, immunization, literacy, school enrolment, and gender disparity was selected to run this project. Tribal people, the main habitant mainly depend upon rainfall for their agriculture and Kharif paddy is their only source of survival for many years. They used to purchase vegetables from the local markets and household consumption was not balanced.

Health and nutrition are one of the thematic focus of Caritas India and under this orientation, Caritas India partnering with the OROSA forum initiative this project at the ground. Although Jeevanika project is helping families to access nutritional supplements under the government’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, it is also promoting kitchen gardens which are a small plot of land where families can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables to produce enough nutritious food to combat malnutrition themselves.

Awareness building and seed support were the two-pronged approaches of the project for the last one year. Anganwadi worker Ms. Bonoja Singh from Solo village, Bodo Sahi Block was actively engaged in this initiative to grow vegetables in the center backyard and primary school surroundings. This process was gradually replicated in another four Anganwadi centers and later on, it reaches to the zonal level ICDS office. At the same time four villages such as Salgaon, Dempauda, Kulkotha, and Patalipura of Betnati block, Mayurbhanj district developed kitchen garden in the backyard of center and school.

A total of around 500 children are now benefiting from this initiative. The initiative was discussed at the ICDS zonal level meeting and it was highly appreciated. ICDS zonal in charge motivated all the Anganwadi workers to promote this practice in all their center and schools.

After a few weeks ICDS and govt. officials visited these four villages and recommended the state authorities to prepare a plan for developing a module for all the center in Odisha. The department has requested to Jeevanika project staff to supplement the gaps and improve the quality of Anganwadi by close monitoring of the center. This initiative has given a direction to influence state-level policy to establish such a module in every Anganwadi and primary school for nutrition food.