Home NewsAsia Landless Labourers And Beggars To Entrepreneurs: Big Musahar Leap Through Kitchen Gardens

Landless Labourers And Beggars To Entrepreneurs: Big Musahar Leap Through Kitchen Gardens

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Landless Labourers And Beggars To Entrepreneurs: Big Musahar Leap Through Kitchen Gardens

Varanasi: For many city denizens, a kitchen backyard means a bit of inexperienced within the yard or on the terrace of their tenements, bungalows and even flats the place they typically develop some greens and supply to company with pleasure as one thing homegrown. The idea has discovered favour, and likewise enterprise, in an unlikely surrounding — the Musahar colonies, at the very least in a few of them. 

Musahars, actually translated as rat killers and rat eaters, principally dwell in sure areas of jap Uttar Pradesh and the adjoining Bihar districts. Even among the many Scheduled Castes, they’re thought of the bottom‚ to the extent even different Dalits see them as ‘untouchables’ and their colonies are solely politically seen as a part of sure villages. The Musahars dwell in ‘tolis’, or ghettos, exterior their designated villages. Musahars, estimated at some 30 lakh in Bihar and 10 lakh in Uttar Pradesh, in most areas are landless labourers who work at agricultural farms and brick kilns together with their kids. They continue to be with out work greater than half a 12 months.

The group has now discovered an modern resolution at self-empowerment — kitchen gardens.

“They’re landless, sure, however they’ve spare items of land obtainable round their houses, within the type of weeds or dumpyards. We made them domesticate the land. We offered seeds for seasonal greens. This took care of two issues. One, they typically slept hungry and once they began getting some wheat and rice as a part of the general public distribution system (PDS), there was nothing to accompany this. So, the greens we helped them develop helped them immensely. By now, lots of them should not solely rising greens to eat for themselves but additionally promote out there,” says Shruti Nagvanshi of the Folks’s Vigilance Committee for Human Rights (PVCHR), a civil rights organisation working in the direction of elevating the dwelling requirements of the Musahar group.  

Most Musahars, together with their kids, are severely malnourished. “However wherever they’ve developed their very own vegetable gardens, one can see a marked change not solely of their well being but additionally of their outlook. There’s (now) a way of hope. In any other case, most Musahars you communicate to would seem resigned to their destiny,” says Nagvanshi. As a catalytic impact, the kids have extra enthusiasm to attend faculties, in keeping with her. 

“One other large affect is that Musahars who’re self-employed this fashion have acquired extra social respectability. There are circumstances the place they distribute further greens even to their high-caste villagers and Muslims. In any other case, not one of the latter would contact them. We found how even a small piece of ineffective land can result in financial in addition to social restoration,” explains Nagvanshi, who runs PVCHR with husband Lenin Raghuvanshi.    

For individuals who haven’t seen the state of the Musahars, this may occasionally not sound a giant deal except they know that the majority Musahars haven’t any job playing cards beneath the Mahatma Gandhi Nationwide Rural Employment Assure (MGNREGA), and even Aadhaar playing cards. And even for many who have the job playing cards, it principally doesn’t get them any work.  

“We started the initiative in 2018 as a pilot in some villages in Varanasi district with our personal sources, however by now the kitchen backyard challenge has already lined 3,000 households,” says Lenin Raghuvanshi. 

He says the challenge picked up aggressively in 2022 after the Worldwide Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) offered livelihood assist for holistic rehabilitation of the Musahars. In 2022 alone, PVCHR volunteers distributed seasonal vegetable seeds to as many as 2,261 households in Varanasi, Sonbhadra and Badaun districts in Uttar Pradesh. Raghuvanshi says: “As a lot as 36,536 kg greens had been grown final summer time and a pair of,523 kg of those had been bought by the Musahars out there.”

In all, these households earned a princely Rs 26,775 from this sale in the summertime of 2022. They spent this cash on garments for his or her kids and their training in addition to for family commodities. A everlasting seed financial institution has been arrange now in Anei village in Varanasi district. Raghuvanshi stated 45 fruit and timber crops have been planted within the village.   

Two women show off their kitchen garden produce at the Musahar settlement in Barhikala, UP | Photo: Amit (DNN)
Two girls showcase their kitchen backyard produce on the Musahar settlement in Barhikala, UP | Picture: Amit (DNN)

ALSO READ | Debt And Labour: An Endless Vicious Cycle For Many Musahar Families, Including The Children

Single Musahar Girl’s Journey To Self-Dependence

Meet Manta Banwasi, a 40-something widow who had introduced her eldest daughter Nisha and her husband Raja Banvasi to stick with her in her half-constructed half-thatched house within the Musahar ghetto at Anei village in Varanasi’s Baragaon block to make sure all of them may work collectively and assist elevate the latter’s three youngsters, daughter Sundari and sons Kaushal and Suraj.  

All three had been informal labourers and used to take alongside the kids with them for work. Most frequently they might eat roti or rice with salt because the public distribution system solely offers fastened quota of wheat and rice. 

Equally, like most different Musahars, they might acquire the waste at vegetable markets and prepare dinner it to eat with roti or rice. Typically, they might carry hen feathers and a few meat caught on it from exterior outlets, eating places or kiosks to eat. 

Manta had by no means even thought that something may develop round her house surrounded by wild acacia timber, rubbish and weeds. “Initially, I feared that even when we cleaned up the place and planted greens as urged by the sanstha (NGO), cattle, canines and pigs roaming round would eat up all of it since we must go to different villages in the hunt for work or begging,” she says.  

Since PVCHR was already engaged on the kitchen backyard idea in Anei village, they satisfied her that her small piece of land with greens can be guarded by the volunteers. 

Lastly, the weeds and the rubbish had been cleared and Manta was given seeds of kumhdi (a neighborhood number of pumpkin), nanua (sponge gourd) and kareli (bitter gourd). “Quickly, all of us began taking turns in defending and taking good care of the backyard,” Manta shares with pleasure.   

She says that when the crops began rising, they had been mounted on the wild acacia bushes as suggested by the NGO’s volunteers.

The crops steadily developed and unfold by creeping on the acacia bushes. Quickly, all three crops began yielding fruits. “We determined that when now we have 5 to 7 items of the fruits, we are going to prepare dinner them. The kumhdi assumes a weight of two to 2.5 kg in three to 4 days. Progressively, all of us began consuming all of the greens grown by us in turns,” Manta says.  

Not solely this, the household now additionally sells their produce. Manta’s kitchen backyard began producing large portions of kumhdi and shortly the spot itself turned a store of types for the household. 

She began promoting the native pumpkin for Rs 20-30 a bit, relying on the scale and the load in the identical Musahar settlement.

“Quickly the phrase unfold that we promote good kumhdi at cheaper charges than the market and we now get consumers from surrounding villages additionally,” Manta recollects. She estimates she will need to have bought practically 60 items of the vegetable out of the three quintals they’d produced. “We produced 25 kg of sponge gourd and 12 kg of bitter gourd,” she provides. 

With the cash they earned, they introduced different kitchen gadgets like cooking oil and a wide range of spices. “And correct garments for the kids to have the ability to ship them to high school,” says Manta.  

Manta’s kitchen garden produces huge quantities of pumpkin and gourd varieties | Photo: Amit (DNN)
Manta Banwasi’s kitchen backyard produces large portions of pumpkin and gourd varieties | Picture: Amit (DNN)

ALSO READ | Living Next To Graves, Cooking Chicken Feathers Or Rats For Meal: Musahar Life As They Know It

Savitri’s Little Vegetable Kingdom

Then there’s Savitri, in her thirties, a widow in Puarikhurd village in Varanasi district’s Harhua block who may by no means consider consuming greens or getting them for her three daughters. There was no query of shopping for milk and milk merchandise. 

She sustained herself and the daughters with no matter informal work that got here her means till the volunteers of PVCHR offered her with free seeds for bitter gourd (karela), sponge gourd (nenua) and two varieties of pumpkins.

“My kitchen backyard produced 20 kg nenua, 15 kg kohda, 20 kg kaddu and 10 kg karela. Promoting them out there, I may simply fetch Rs 150 to Rs 200 on a regular basis, whereas we may all eat these greens. And the homegrown ones style very good,” she says.

Savitri recollects how she initially used to distribute these homegrown greens free to neighbours. “Progressively, they began shopping for them from me. Folks of close by villages additionally purchase. Now, I earn Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 a month, which takes care of the household’s consuming wants. Plus no matter different work I get.”

Earlier, she may hardly ever purchase greens for house with virtually no cash for it. “However now, ever since I’ve been by myself as a result of this vegetable manufacturing, life has turn out to be a lot simpler than earlier than,” Savitri smiles.

PVCHR volunteers stated they might see a marked distinction within the well being of Savitri and her three daughters, who additionally handle to go to high school now. 

Savitri with her kitchen garden yield in Puarikhurd village, UP | Photo Courtesy: Amit (DNN)
Savitri along with her kitchen backyard yield in Puarikhurd village, UP | Picture Courtesy: Amit (DNN)

Rising Their Veggies And Eathing Them Too!

If Manta is among the many tons of of particular person households who’ve adopted the kitchen backyard idea on the negligible items of land round their house, all the 22-family Musahar ghetto in Barhikala village on the border of Varanasi and Jaunpur districts has established group gardens.  

Shruti Nagvanshi says all the Musahar settlement right here was useless towards the concept of a kitchen backyard, having assumed that no plantations had been potential of their locality. Most households had been both unemployed or managed to get jobs just a few months in a 12 months and made do with no matter they’d, typically going hungry. 

The Musahar settlement in Barhikala is situated within the southern a part of the village within the submergence space on the banks of the Sharda tributary canal, although they dwell at some peak above the submergence degree. Due to the dearth of sources at their husbands’ houses, many married girls right here have come again to dwell at their maternal houses. And the group is disadvantaged of the essential services due to their location. 

Says Nagvanshi: “It was tough to persuade the villagers {that a} kitchen backyard was potential of their locality. They had been then proven the village group land, which was getting used to throw rubbish and weeds had grown there. In addition to this, we cited the instance of one other village the place this was completed. Lastly, they agreed.” 

The group members had been concerned and taught tips on how to plant seeds and saplings.  

Nagvanshi cites the situations of Basanti, Vimla, Israwati, Patti, Sanju and Vidya who took care of their kitchen backyard, which began yielding a number of inexperienced greens. 

Isravati Banwasi’s kohdi (small-sized inexperienced pumpkin) plant yielded a lot fruit that she cooked it for herself, and despatched her daughter again to her in-laws’ home with loads of kohdi. The individuals in the neighborhood began demanding it and even took it to their relations. 

“My kitchen backyard appears to have turn out to be everybody’s property. They pluck the kohdi from my backyard typically with out asking me every time they want it,” Isravati fortunately shares.  

Shruti provides: “For the primary time, the individuals of the township ate pesticide-free greens from their kitchen backyard. This time when the seeds had been distributed for the kitchen gardens right here, individuals had been asking for a wide range of seeds for different varieties of greens too in the identical land.”


The Musahar settlement in Barhikala now has a kitchen garden in almost every home | Photo: Amit (DNN)
The Musahar settlement in Barhikala now has a kitchen backyard in virtually each house | Picture: Amit (DNN)

ALSO READ | Deprived, Discriminated, Othered: Story Of Musahars, The ‘Rat Eaters’, And The Challenge Of Changing Their Life

Genesis of Kitchen Backyard Concept

Lenin Raghuvanshi factors out that the majority Musahars work in fields owned by others or brick kilns or migrate to the cities, and a majority of them work as bonded labour, together with their kids. “Their workplaces in brick kilns or cities expose and drive their kids to work even in hazardous industries. Throughout my visits to their houses, I seen the irony of how these communities dwell proper subsequent to the higher castes. Rice fields owned by the wealthy higher caste individuals encompass their houses. A few of their girls simply have to cross one road to go and clear the homes of the higher castes. Most of it’s bonded labour.”

That is the place the kitchen backyard concept spawned from, although they’re all landless individuals. Now with self-reliance comes the precedence of sending kids to high school. “Now we have acquired tons of of youngsters enrolled in faculties and monitoring them to make sure they don’t drop out,” he says. Raghuvanshi claims that many Musahar communities, which have been supported by Folks’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), have modified their weight-reduction plan, and now can afford to eat pork, hen and fish.

The PVCHR, with the assist of the New Zealand Excessive Fee, organised a gathering with the marginalised individuals and inspired them to utilise the vacant locations close to their home. They had been knowledgeable in regards to the significance and means of kitchen gardening. In most households, they don’t get any dietary meals and persons are discovered to be affected by a wide range of ailments. In such circumstances, kitchen gardening will help create a contemporary atmosphere in addition to offering the individuals with important micronutrients. “After a dialogue with the group, the individuals drew up a listing of greens to be grown based mostly on style and pursuits,” Raghuvanshi provides.

Darshan Desai is a veteran journalist presently based mostly out of Gujarat. This text has been supported by Work: No Youngster’s Enterprise (WNCB) alliance

[Disclaimer: The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by the various authors and forum participants on this website are personal.]


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