Village Talhala, Beer Valley, District Haripur
Three groups of women from villages Talhala, Talhala Khurd and Nolakhi were selected for trainings carried out by Faria and Iffat (RSPs from NMA), on Kitchen Gardening and Compost Making. The following interviews show the metamorphosis they all have been through.
Fokhraj Bibi: “One day one of my cousins suddenly came to my house and there was nothing readily available to cook for his meal. So I went to my garden and plucked a round gourd to cook for him. As soon as he sat down for lunch, he told me he doesn’t like this vegetable. I insisted he gives it a try as this was fresh from my patch. He agreed and ended up wiping his plate clean. At the time of his departure, he requested me for a little to carry home”.
Round melons along with other newly introduced plants, were never grown in this particular area. It is no wonder Fokhraj Bibi’s cousin initially refused to eat it as the round melons from the market are tasteless not to forget dull.
Gulshan: “We used to grow some vegetables before too but never with much interest. Reasons were many but mostly because the plants were not productive and were often damaged by insects. We had no idea how to save the diseased plant. We would add fresh dung on top thinking it would make the plant healthy. Sometimes there are parasitic vines that now we know are harmful for the plants as they take all the nutrients away but previously we didn’t know that and would often let such plants be”.
The trainings changed all that the women knew about manure, plant damages and the types of insects (beneficial and harmful). The women were good students. They applied what they learnt and their vegetables flourished which motivated them further towards kitchen gardening.
Nazima: “It is so interesting to cook vegetables growing right in our backyard; it is the essence of our hard work. We came to realise that planting or sowing under the shade is not appropriate, as without sunlight plants cannot grow. This, we found, is one of the main reasons that our seeds do not grow because of lack of sunshine and nutrients which the older plant is already receiving”.
Yasmeen: “We also learnt that to attain a good yield there is a need to maintain a proper distance or space between the plants, also that a certain area is required for plantations. The bed prepared for sowing vegetables should be at least 6 feet long and 3 feet wide.”
Halima: “The certified seed provided by the RSPs, was of good quality. Along with the trainings on planting vegetables and compost making, I believe this was one of the main reasons for such a good production of vegetables. More over this time we used our own processed compost and that too, boosted our plant growth”.
Nazia: “You can see how happy our vegetables are in our gardens: they are growing well and shine with colour, taste and nutrition. So far, we are growing vegetables for ourselves, which we can gift to friends and relatives but if we have more we will think of selling. We make significant savings as we get many vegetables from our kitchen garden on a daily basis. The vegetables from the market are sprayed with different chemicals while ours are pure. Now even if we have to buy vegetables from the market we don’t like the taste!”
Nabeela: “This is the second season of growing our own vegetables. In the previous season Faria and Iffat gave us the seeds perhaps from the Agriculture Department but this time as we were keen towards our nutritious kitchen gardens therefore we bought our own seeds. Hopefully we shall save some of the good seed for the next season”.
Through growing for two seasons continuously, the women have learnt that it was not just the good quality seed alone but also the compost that blossomed their kitchen gardens into paradise along with the blessings of God.
Sonia: “Compost making is an integral part of our gardening now. We make compost as a group at one place and then distribute among ourselves. Together we dug and prepared a big pit which simply astonished our men”.
Rida: “We have completed two cycles for compost making and now we have started the third. As it is not readily available everywhere because people either do not know about it or know that it takes hard work, so in the future we plan to sell it to those who need it. In this way we will manage to earn some income as well”.
Nageena: “The compost is very effective but we have also seen that it is very powerful and its application should be calculated as the excess may damage the plant and fruit”.
The eating habits of the families have also greatly improved, as they now include vegetables in their daily meals. Through the trainings the women have also learnt about handling food in ways so as not to lose the nutritional value.
Shahnaz: “We also learnt food handling e.g. how to wash and cook vegetables. We learnt for the first time that if you wash the vegetables after cutting, the nutritional loss is high. We used to fry the vegetables for quite some time but now we have learnt that we should not over-cook the food. To be honest, this has also eased our lives as the methods make cooking easy. We have also learnt making pickles and jams and for Ramadan we are going to make our own. However it would be nice to learn other kinds of jams and jellies too”.
Khalida: “We want us to continue with what we have started. We grow our own vegetables, have our own seed and compost. We don’t need any help as we have learnt to replicate on our own but we do need to learn latest techniques for example how to improve production and how to further prevent our plants from various diseases and insects”.
Zunayesha: “The RSPs helped us three groups come together or link up (Talhala, Talhala khurd and Nolakhi) with the Agriculture Department as well. The Department has some free packages of wheat but unfortunately we could not qualify the criteria as they asked for at least 8 Kanals of land and we have but very little. Anyhow, we are satisfied that at least we have developed a link so that whenever any new program (suitable to us) is announced they will inform us.
The women of the three villages have recently held a meeting and have decided to grow pulses on 3 plots as a trial. They are of the view that if they unite and work together it will be of mutual benefit for all.
Three groups of women have been through metamorphosis from training to practicing Kitchen Gardening, Compost Making, food handling and then tasting the fruit of their hard work. The appreciation they received has encouraged them to diversify their thinking and utilize the skills productively together as a group. While believing in their strength these women have recently held a meeting and have decided for the next season to grow pulses on 3 plots as a trial. Besides they also aspire to explore the commercial aspect of compost making.