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The setbacks of Green Revolution were manifold. First - The crop pattern was reduced to wheat and rice, that too with heavy doses of chemical applications. Second - Women lost their role and interest in farming practices. Third - Nutritional security was lost, as fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants were either out of the farming scenario or fed with cocktails of pesticides. Fourth - The food was devoid of compassion and life-force energy. To address these issues, we had started working with women to establish kitchen gardens in villages.
With the support of Association for India's Development (AID), we started the ‘Women Action for Organic Farming and Rural Livelihood’ in 2011. Under this umbrella, we are training women to establish Organic Kitchen Gardens (inclusive of vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants and mushroom cultivation) in their backyards. Started from 4 villages in 2011, it has now spread across 60 villages with 6,000 women involved.
KVM delivers trainings which include designing the garden; making natural growth promotors; pest management; seed conservation & much more. The key feature is that majority of our trainers, project coordinators and trainees are women. The field coordinators pay their regular visits to the gardens every month, addressing the challenges faced by the gardeners.
A new dimension was added to the project by propagating the concept of indigenous Seed Conservation. Punjab was void of its indigenous seed diversity. Working with women, we realized that they can play a key role to restore the same. So, native seeds, collected from various states and adapted into the environment of Punjab, were distributed to the gardeners. KVM groomed them to conserve these seeds every year for next sowing seasons. Slowly, the gardeners became seed savers; and currently we have 110 family seed banks maintained by these women. KVM distributes ‘seed kits’ to the newcomers comprising of seeds of 15 - 20 seasonal vegetables.
To add-on to their livelihood, we organise Mushroom Cultivation workshops for our gardeners. Seeds and other raw materials are made available, along with. With the assistance of KVM, some 400 women are successfully growing and selling organic mushrooms from their homes itself.
This was a group of 20 young girls trained into conservation of indigenous seeds. Their classroom was a one-acre rented plot in Chaina village of Faridkot district. These young seed savers were trained to manage the farm; grow organic and indigenous vegetables; conserve the seeds, preserve them with traditional practices and markete them in various public events, under the auspices of KVM. These seeds were sold as ‘seed kits’ yielding an earning of Rs. 80,000; which was distributed among the group itself.
Balpreet Kaur (21) is pursuing her graduation in English. Based at Bishnandi, Faridkot, she started her kitchen garden four years ago as a hobby. She started with a small patch which has now expanded to an area of 100 sq m. Though maintained singlehandedly by her, Balpreet's family helps her out when she is occupied with her studies.
She received the training from KVM and now she grows ash gourd, okra, beans, potato, marigolds, and more. She uses orange peels neem, ash, and buttermilk in order to improve the soil fertility and manage the pests.
She acknowledges the fact that the health of the whole family has improved after eating organic. “Eating organic is delightful but growing organic is thrilling!”, she says. As an add-on, she manages to sell her organic vegetables twice a week.
After attending several training and meetings conducted by KVM, Balpreet is now well informed about the impacts of chemical farming on health and environment. She is spreading the message among her peers and other villagers as well. The hobbies of youngsters, if channelized properly, can set an example for many. This is precisely what KVM is aimed at.