The Nutritional Pathway project that I have worked on, is a perfect embodiment of a quote by Henry Ford...
"Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success!"
Great things happen when women come together for women and then involve an entire community. Rujuta Diwekar, who hails from Sonave has a very strong bond and connect with the Adivasi community of Sonave. While the Adivasi shower her with their love and respect, she is also equally concerned for their well-being and prosperity. For the longest time, Rujuta wanted to work on programme for the Adivasi community, which would bring them together, give a nutritional boost to them and their children and also give them a small sustainable source of livelihood.
The stepping stones
Rujuta had chalked out a general outline of what she wanted to do under this programme, so we decided to work on it together. She was looking at a pathway of nutritional fruit trees on both sides of a stretch of ~1 km road which connected the Adivasi Pada and Rujuta's ancestral home. She had in mind some fruit trees which could be planted. On sitting with Rujuta for a discussion, I suggested many other fruit tree species, which would grow well in the local environment and also provide ample and varied nutrition. Some of the trees that we decided to plant were Jam, Bhend, Gooseberry, Shevaga, Guava, Papaya and Jackfruit and many others.
Since the Adivasi community had warmed up to this idea, we first decided to train them on why and how this programme would help them. I conducted this training, which covered the following points:
1. Importance of these fruits in our nutrition and how it would help their children and their health.
2. How conservation of these specific trees was important ecologically, as they represented the flora, local to that region. These trees would also yield fruits which were suitable for the climate and enrich their diets.
3. How the produce of each of this tree, would lead to income generation from the local market.
4. Knowledge of the by-products of these fruits, some of which were new to the community.
Rujuta then reiterated these same pointers to the Adivasis, while also telling them on how to care for these trees. They were also explained the watering schedule for the plants. Our aim was to involve the women from the Adivasi community, to take responsibility of nurturing the plants. This would ensure that the women come together, help each other by teamwork and in turn bring together the entirecommunity together in this and other tasks of the Pada as well. Rujuta had planned out all these bits in her mind very carefully. With this training session complete, we were ready for the execution of this programme.
The strength of a community
The execution of this plantation was done by me along with Rujuta's team. Since the programme was well planned and thought over, it was easier and faster to execute. We completed this programme in August 2017. Today each plant/tree on this pathway is nurtured by the women of the Adivasi community. There is still time till the Sonave Adivasi community starts benefiting economically from this programme, but I would like to highlight here the benefits of involving the local community in such projects.
I always stress on conserving and cultivating local crops/trees/fruits, which are unique and harmonious with the area. Similarly, the local communities around any project site are equally important. The local community holds the key to the age old knowledge about the terrain and the crops/trees that grow there. What we can add as a value for them, is the know how of new techniques, knowledge of sustainable livelihood generation using their crops, nutritional and medicinal benefits of the produce other than what they already know. This is where Bioconcepts and people like Rujuta come into picture to guide them in enhancing their capacity more. In programmes like this, which involve the community, the major advantage is that they all come together. Ideas and knowledge is exchanged. Best working practices can be devised through the common pool of thoughts. Whatever the produce, there is help to sell it for good income. Also the benefits of the produce help the children of the community with good nutrition, which increases the participation of the community. Once the community learns to come together for a single goal, they can achieve all other goals with the same enthusiasm, which becomes beneficial for the village/pada.
This short poem, just sums up the power of a Community, which we all have experienced in many walks of life...
When people come together,
They stand tall and strong as a community,
Ideas exchanged, tasks accomplished,
Miracles created out of every opportunity!