Since 2012, Odisha has been a prominent intervention area for CRY. One day when CRY representatives, along with members of its partner Sadhana-Society for Action in Disability and Health Awareness, visited a local school of Laxmiposi village of Baripada block, Mayurbhanj district, they were pleasantly surprised by how well the kids were describing the nutrients present in different fruits and vegetables. Another astounding fact was that every child had at least 1 banana during their tiffin break coming kitchen gardens which they were growing in their homes.
But the situation was not as bright. Malnutrition has always been a major concern in Odisha. Children and adolescents are the worst sufferers. NFHS 4 shows that only 1 child out of 10, between age group of 6-23 months, in the rural areas of Odisha get adequate diet, while this age group practically determines the physical and mental development of a child.
Issues like severe acute malnutrition (SAM), low birth weight, anaemia in adolescents etc. is extremely predominant in the state. In order to tackle the issue, it was necessary to find the root cause.
From research and criticality analysis it was found that the ‘food basket’ of the communities was not balanced and the consumption of the local nutrients like leafy vegetables and fruits were negligible, which resulted in anaemia and malnutrition.
Rural communities in the state, basically consume rice as there staple food with condiments like chutney or little curry. The unhealthy condition of people stimulated the CRY members to discuss and share the importance of the role played by minerals and vitamins in our body to keep us fit and healthy with the children group that was formed in 2015. The children groups were curious to know more on how to get the minerals and vitamins and the plants which provided them minerals as well as vitamins. They even got interested in developing the kitchen gardens in their homes. The CRY-VCRO campaign in 2016 ‘Giving Children of Odisha-A Healthy Start’, boosted the children group to take up the initiative of planting Kadali plant, as it is a tropical plant easily grown in humid lowland in dry rich loamy soil.
Now, when you pass through the Laxmiposi village, just 10 kms away from the district head quarter of Mayurbhanj, you would see Kadali plants in substantial numbers which an initiative, taken by the children groups to attain healthy childhood.
The children group named ‘Jhanshi ki Rani’ in Laxmiposi Village, consisting of 15 members between the age group of 6-14 years, is extremely active. They all collect saplings from around the villages and each child plants with a pledge to nourish it.
Kadali, which is banana for us, is an important source of vitamins, minerals and fibers. It is also rich in Iron and can help fight anemia; which is an area of concern for the state as 51.8% women, aged 15-49 years, are anemic (NFHS 4). Even the flower and the stem of banana can be consumed.
The children group meets every month to plan their activities and skits, which they perform in the villages on the theme of seasonal diseases like diarrhoea, malaria and sunstroke. They get very excited to see their plants bearing flowers and fruits. Learning from the children group, the community has also started growing Kadali.
Similar campaigns have been taken in other districts of Odisha, amongst them is Moringa (Drumstick) campaign- which has taken shape of a movement towards attaining health for adolescents and mothers Koraput- a tribal inhabited district with more than 51 different tribal groups, located in the Eastern Ghats. Kondh, Poraja, Gond and Koya and Bonda are some major tribes which reside in Koraput and many of them remain away from the reach of the basic welfare services provided by the state. When CRY team and its partner organization SPREAD (Society for Promotion of Rural Education and Development) initiated to focus on Lamtaput block in Koraput, it was found that over half (56 %) of the children below three years were undernourished. Additionally, prevalence of maternal malnutrition, low birth weight babies, unsafe delivery practices, anemia, absence of sanitation facilities and poor personal hygiene coupled with poor economic condition and livelihood insecurities could be witnessed. Since 2016, CRY is concentrating on “‘Know your food-Grow your food’ campaign, wherein a detailed research on the local available nutrients was carried out & shared with the communities and the adolescents. As a part of the kitchen garden intervention Moringa, locally grown as as Surjana or Sahjan, came up as a good source of Iron, Calcium, Vitamin A and Amino acid. It is hugely beneficial for children, adolescents and lactating mothers.
The Moringa campaign started in Koraput the 2nd week of June when more than 100 children started planting and even before a month’s time, it’s wide spreading. It is reported that 487 plants have been planted in just 10 days by over 400 adolescent girls and the number is expected to rise by over 2500 plants by the end of July ’18 and will reach 4 more districts including Balangir, Bargarh, Kalahandi and Mayurbhanj. In this context, these 5 districts are amongst most backward districts of Odisha where the percentage of children who do not receive adequate nutrition ranges from 89.9 to 97.1 (NFHS 4).
While sharing her point of view about the issue of malnutrition and the ongoing campaign, Ms. Mohua Chatterjee, Program Head East, CRY said, “health seeking behaviour, coupled with knowledge and practices in food consumption are the direct correlates of malnutrition, accepted globally. The intervention to improve nutritional status can’t achieve lasting success without considering locally available ‘food basket’. We started with the promotion of kitchen garden in the community and the Anganwadis, raising awareness about locally available food that is rich in nutrients.”
“Locally available food will foster growth and development by providing food-diversity in the consumption behavior. The campaigns implemented in Odisha have proven to be successful model of community action, jointly held with diverse stake holders, towards prevention of malnutrition.”- added Chatterjee.