During Christmas week, I wrote a post about Gifts that included a story I had heard while in Islamabad the week before Thanksgiving.  In response, I received a full account of the story by Zaheerudin Dar, a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Social Education and Development (CSED)–the organization that hosted me–and the one who originally told me the story.

Zaheerudin Dar in action
Zaheerudin Dar

The impressive theory and implementation behind this project is worth sharing and I commend Zaheerudin’s words to you:

It was in the year 2013. A few colleagues were in a  brainstorming session on stress in society and its causes. Economic marginalisation of lower economic strata was listed as one of the causes. It was also highlighted that economic stress leads to domestic violence especially for those who don’t contribute to the family income. The way out of this situation could be that the economically non-contributing members of the family should be enabled in a manner that they become partners in economic well being of the family. However, given the cultural and traditional realities of society, the proposed actions could further deteriorate the situation. In this scenario, Kitchen Gardening at home was proposed as a way out. 

Therefore, a project was conceived around school going young girls (13-15 years of age) and Kitchen Gardening. With no funding in sight, it was thought that an experiment with a minimalist budget and resources could be conducted to test the proposition, at a very limited scale. The following was done:

  1. A Girls school was carefully chosen in the interior of Punjab (District Mandi Bahauddin) where it was expected that Headmistress and other school teachers would be cooperative. 
  2. Around 30 girl students were chosen to be trained in Kitchen Gardening at School through a gardener. The School ground was used for practical training. Knowledge and training at a very basic level was provided to them.
  3. At the end of training some printed material (sowing and harvesting schedule of vegetables), a pack of vegetable seeds and a tool kit was given to these students. 
  4. The students were advised to practice kitchen gardening at home.
  5. After a year the same group of students were interviewed (one on one) to make an assessment.

The students reported as follow:

  1. Approximately 20 out of 30 students reported that they could practice kitchen gardening at home. They were using the little extra ground available at home. Some were using used boxes of tin and plastic. 
  2. The vegetable produce could work as un-earned supplementary income for the family. 
  3. The health of family improved.
  4. Some money could now be saved/ spared for other family needs like medicine, education, clothing, etc.
  5. Initially the male members of family were not receptive. But when the produce came, acceptance level increased. 
  6. The respect for the students increased within family. 
  7. The domestic violence decreased.
  8. Flowers did play a role. There was an improved ambiance at home. 
  9. 5 of the students living in the same street got together and started a micro-business of selling surplus vegetables to other homes in the street. This increased the individual confidence level of this small group. 

Simple seeds yielding profound results. As we approach a New Year, may this real-life parable be a lesson for each of us.

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