A peasant woman, Hoori Bheel, residing in village Ameen Soomro, near Kaloi town, Tharparkar district, has cultivated off-season vegetables at her courtyard to have safe food products at home. Describing her tale, she said “I started kitchen gardening quite recently, producing a variety of vegetables at home and spared little space outside our makeshift abode.” “For me it became possible when I received water through a solar-powered facility.
Otherwise, several women are eager to have such gardens at their homes but due to unavailability of water they are yet to implement the idea,” she said. “Many vegetables available at the home garden like coriander, green chilli, ridge gourd, eggplant, tomatoes and others do not grow in the wild in the desert after monsoon rains,” she said. For example, she said “tomato, onion, coriander and green chilli are essential items, which the people usually purchase from markets.
But now we have produced these products at home and share little to our relatives and family friends.” Mithan Bheel, another farmer woman in the same village said “whenever we receive rains a variety of naturally grown wild vegetables and fruits like mushrooms, melon, watermelon, apple guards and other products grow near here.” “We collect these products from the area for our own consumption and little extra for sale,” she said.
Talking to women it was observed that for these women growing vegetables plays an important role to fight poverty and diseases, which in the desert areas sometimes hit the people because of improper diet. These women seem vocal and show wide space at courtyards and outside for growing fresh vegetables to fulfil their diet. These women are lucky to have access to solar-powered water facilities near there to get water for domestic purposes and use the wastage water for producing vegetables and fruit trees. They received a package of vegetable seeds and tools for a piece of land.
They grow the vegetables to save the amount, which otherwise they have to spend on buying these food products from the market, said Mithan Bheel. The women have many stories about the heavy rains, which always bring prosperity for them in terms of benefiting to cultivate crops and see growing grass fodder everywhere for rearing their animals. But delayed or erratic rainfall causes dryness and drought. In this situation these people prefer to migrate t0 o canal areas in search of better livelihood and see grazing fields for rearing their animals, reports gathered from the activists said. Community people accredited to Paani, a US-based charity organization for the installation of solar-powered water facilities in their areas.
For women farmers in Thar villages, situated at sand dunes, collecting wild vegetables and valuable herbal products after receiving monsoon rains is a traditional hobby, coming through generations. They travel little distance outside their abodes or even at the wide courtyards to see mushrooms and green vegetables for their consumption after rainfall. Besides farming, mostly desert families keep small animals like goats and sheep to have milk for children. They call these animals as banks to sell one or two to fulfil their need of money in any urgency and take care of others to increase population.
Mumtaz Bozdar of Fast Rural Development Programme (FRDP), an implementing partner, said they have motivated a large number of women in the desert villages to provide alternative sources of food products to address malnutrition issues, which is haunting the desert people. He claims to have conducted sessions to attract 138 women in village Ameen Soomro out of which only 28 women successfully adapted this practice and now look happy to have their own fresh food products. While others could not continue this healthy activity because of unavailability of water. These women call it a healthy hobby to have fresh vegetables and fruits at their homes. During talks, women said they are expecting to receive heavy rains this year’s monsoon to recharge underground water and cultivate their pieces of land.
Following pandemic fear, lockdown and restrictions in urban parts of the country, these desert women feel it is easy to have fresh vegetables for their own consumption and little extra for selling the same to earn income at home. They do not need to travel long distances to buy such products from nearby towns and villages.