Supporting Healthy Living in Waghnālwādi Village of Latur, Maharashtra
By Omkar Khaire
PUNE, India, 01 April 2019-
When their oldest child, Sheetal, was ready to enrol into her higher secondary school, Zanābai and Dhondirām Waghmare had a difficult decision to make. Up until then, they were living with their three children in Pune, the second largest city in the central India state of Maharashtra. They belonged to Scheduled Caste, considered one of the most marginalised section in Indian society and thus the most vulnerable.
They had very few possessions that could fund their daughter’s education. Not wanting to have to sacrifice the aspirations of their children, something they risked given their insufficient income, Zanābai and Dhondirām made the difficult decision of moving the children back to their home village. Dhondirām stayed back in Pune, reliant on the income he earned through his job as a labourer, while Zanābai moved back to Waghnālwādi, located in the district of Latur in Maharashtra. The cost of living in the village was low, and the school was close by, but the decision came with consequences.
Zanābāi recalled, “We did not have access to good nutrition, and I was worried as all my children were growing up”. Also, their village was in a public drought-prone area, meaning that sourcing water to raise crops felt unfeasible. Their diet had undergone a drastic change, having had little access to the range and quality of food available in Pune. Waghnālwādi does not have a market; the Waghmare family did not own their land. They subsisted on legumes and grains alone. Eventually, this caused Zanābāi and her children to have gastric issues that interfered with the children’s education and the family’s wellbeing.
Their situation changed radically starting in September 2018, when UNICEF brought the initiative, Women for Sanitation Hygiene and Resilient Practices (W-SHaRP), to Waghnālwādi, with support from Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP), a local partner.
Together, the organisations trained Arogya Sakhis, or health motivators, who in turn oriented 100 women in the village to start up and maintain ‘kitchen gardens’, which included recycling wastewater generated at home; re-using grey water this was a novel concept to most of the women, who had never considered it as a viable resource before.
Also, the health motivators supported the women in learning basic accounting and resource management skills which allowed the women to manage their water supplies efficiently. This allowed them to plan for the upcoming lean periods of the year properly, and ensure that there was enough water for drinking, using in the garden, and for toilet use for the whole family.
With the support from an Arogya Sakhi and SSP, which distributed vegetable and fruit seeds to the women, Zanābāi was able to leverage the nearly 500 square feet of ground in her front yard. The only additional funding that came out of Zanābāi’s pocket was a modest 41 rupees. In just three months, her garden was overflowing with tomatoes, eggplants, spinach, chillies, coriander (cilantro), papayas, lemons, and more.
‘Today its January 2019 and me and my children get fresh vegetables every day, some of the crops give extra yield, and I also give it away to my neighbours who cannot afford a kitchen garden,’ said Zanābāi who led the village to make these kitchen gardens from household wastewater.
Today in the Waghnālwādi nearly 50 per cent of the women out of the target population is who are inspired by Zanābāi’s Kitchen Garden, and are slowly following suit. There are 100 community workers in each village, and they spread awareness among the village women and adolescent women to create drought resilience in the community.