May 20, 2012: Malkiat Kaur, 78, doesn’t buy vegetables anymore. She grows them on a six-by-four foot plot in the backyard of her house.
Taa-ee ji - as Malkiat is called in her village Chaiana near Jaitu in Punjab’s Bathinda district - has inspired many other families in her village to do the same.
“You do not need a lot of land to grow vegetables for your family. I have nine members in my family and we grow all the vegetables we need on our small piece of land. Now the women of my village too grow organic vegetables for their families,” says Malkiat.
Malkiat Kaur is part of a group of women from villages across the Malwa region who grow organic vegetables in their kitchen gardens and sell it to food processing units that make pickles and jams. The group came together about five years ago, when some of them came in contact with an NGO, Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), that has been trying to promote organic farming in Punjab, especially in the Malwa area of the state where the rampant use of pesticide has been blamed for a spike in cases of cancer and mental and physical abnormalities.
“The woman of the house is the one who looks after the health of the entire family. Why should this be limited to only cooking and why not begin with cultivation of vegetables? In our village Bhotna (in Baranala district), we use any vacant space near our homes to grow vegetables,” says Sukhwinder Kaur.
She says she grows vegetables on her 500 square yards of land, enough not just for her family of four but also to distribute amongst her neighbours.
The women in this group come from diverse backgrounds.
So while there is Amar Kaur whose husband is a daily wager, Indu Jiyani of village Katehra in Ferozepur owns a 140-acre organic farm and a rural tourism centre.
“All the vegetables on our farm are organically produced. I am also promoting the idea of food processing among women in the group. It is one thing to grow vegetables for your own consumption but it can also become a source of earning money. We make sherbets, pickles and masalas here. I have people calling me up from Chandigarh asking for my items,” says Indu.
Apart from growing organic vegetables, this group of enterprising women even step out of the comfort of their villages to hold organic food melas across Punjab. They also organise open kitchens, called Bebe Di Rasoi or Mother’s Kitchen, where people come to see and savour organic food.
“The idea is to bring back some of the things that were a part of our traditional diet, such as gurrh and millets,” says Amanjot Kaur, a co-ordinator with the group.
[Courtesy: Indian Express]