How Poshan Kheti Is Helping Enhance Diet Diversity And Incomes In Rural Bihar

Introduced to Nutrition Sensitive Integrated Farming System (NSIFS), or Poshan Kheti, by JEEViKA, Sushma Devi found that food produced in the family farm and kitchen garden was the perfect solution to feed her family sufficiently.

Sushma Devi, a small farmer in Purnea, Bihar, was not able to provide diverse foods to her family of six members - comprising her husband, in-laws and children. Each of them has different dietary needs and choices, and it was impossible to adequately cater to their needs, keeping in mind access to the market and high prices of fruits and vegetables.

Introduced to Nutrition Sensitive Integrated Farming System (NSIFS), or Poshan Kheti, by JEEViKA (a state government initiative for promoting and nurturing Self Help Groups), Sushma Devi, a SHG member of JEEViKA, found that food produced in the family farm and kitchen garden was the perfect solution to feed her family sufficiently.

NSIFS focuses on increasing the quality nutrient intake by the families of small and marginal households. The system is a combination of rearing animals and birds, growing kitchen gardens and establishing a resource flow relationship, so that waste from one source works as feed for the other system.

Thanks to the nutrition-sensitive integrated farming technique, Sushma Devi felt confident about providing proper nutrition to her family. It raised her hopes of thriving as an independent farmer.

After the training, Sushma Devi is able to focus on increasing household food diversity. She had a 70’x70’ pond which was seldom used for rearing fish. The family produced crops like paddy, maize, mulberry and jute from their main fields, and also grew some vegetables post the rainy season, and also had some pigeons at home. The food production was from four sources viz. crops, trees, pond, and birds.

The NSIFS approach helped her to add two more subsystems -- animals and bio-digesters apart from expanding the diversity of birds. She has also planted some banana and guava trees in her kitchen garden. After setting up all these six sub-systems, Sushma Devi is getting sufficient nutrients from different sources at home in the form of eggs, meat, fruits, and milk regularly now.

Sushma Devi also constructed a duck and hen coop over the pond and is rearing 15 hens, and 13 ducks from which she is getting 14 eggs every day. The duck and hen excreta directly drop into the pond, which has saved her the feeding cost of the fish that are grown in the pond.  She also decided to add 10 pigeons at home. Later, she bought a cow, and apart from getting milk, the cow dung and urine are efficiently used in making compost and liquid manure for instant use in her fields.

The increased income from the cow and birds has helped Sushma Devi to invest in her fields and develop the kitchen garden more efficiently. She has carefully developed the kitchen garden with green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, vitamin A rich fruits and herbs for regular supply to her kitchen. With composting, liquid manure techniques, use of biomass and recycling techniques, she has reduced the input cost of farming by one third.

Ensuring family dietary diversity remains a challenge, keeping in view its nuances of recommended requirements for different age groups, availability, price, access, knowledge, etc. With its commitment to improving the family dietary diversity, JEEViKA has adopted a comprehensive approach to address the long persistent issue of nutrition in rural families.

Sushma Devi,  of Kachnahar village in Chak Panchayat of Jalalgarh block, is a role model who proved that nothing is impossible when there is a will, and she followed all the guidance provided by JEEViKA.

Now Sushma and her husband are helping other small farmers in their neighbourhood follow the NSIFS practice in order to get diverse foods at home.

“After Maitri Baithaks, I was able to ensure dietary diversity at home regularly, which was not possible from outside. Poshan Kheti has helped me to develop the system where I can grow everything I need for my home and also earn some income. All the products are natural and without chemical use,” says Sushma Devi.

“My children are healthier now, and visits to the doctor are reduced and spending less on medicines is a proof,” she says with a smile.

JEEViKA is implementing a rural livelihood project in Bihar (Bihar Transformative Development Project) with funding from the World Bank. The project has five major components of which Health, Nutrition, and Sanitation (HNS) is one of the components. The project is implemented across Bihar covering 534 blocks in 32 districts, and the project recipients are women who are members of SHGs (96,95,597 number of women organized into 8,35,987 groups)

HNS activities in the project are specifically aimed at changing behaviors of project’s recipients -- Pregnant Women,  Lactating Mothers and Children below 2 years from SHG households -  with an objective of improving dietary diversification among SHG households.
Outlook India, 30 April, 2019, please click here to access

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