Backyard garden kitchens

Backyard kitchen gardens: Ensuring regular nutritional accessibility to lead a healthy life

(MYRADA, Bangalore, 2012)

 This project was completed in 2012.

 The problem: Monotonous diet and lack of essential nutrients

In mountainous region of Arepalayam, Tamil Nadu, 1000 families live in villages in the midst of a reserve forest almost cut off from civilization. The rain dependent farmers’ diet mostly consists of their own and their neighbors’ crops – the nearest possibility to purchase food is around 15km away with poor transportation facilities. This results in a rather monotonous diet based on potatoes, corn, and finger millet. Widespread anemia and very poor stamina are the result of the lack of essential nutrients that are obtained from vegetables which do not exist in the region. Women (especially at the time of pregnancy) and children are most vulnerable to poor nourishment which manifests itself in physical weakness as well as in concentration problems. Unfulfilled basic needs hinder the development of the region, as the weak women find it difficult to work on the land and the children experience problems with effective learning.

The solution: Drip irrigation systems for kitchen gardens for 120 of the poorest households in the region

Vegetables need to be made available and accessible for tribal Arepalayam families. The most sustainable way of delivery to the mountains turns out to be cultivation right on the spot. A solution which tackles the problem, overcoming regional unfavorable circumstances, are kitchen gardens. This refers to raising enough vegetables to meet the requirements for vitamins and minerals of one family in the garden of each household.

However, watering the plants is a crucial problem in the region where water is a scarce resource. This problem can be overcome by installing drip irrigation systems, which are inexpensive, focusing on the long-term and at the same time ensuring an organic way of cultivation.

The main element of the system is a bucket kit, which is ideally suitable for kitchen gardens maintained by women. It consists of a bucket connected to a 10 meter long lateral fitted with 26 micro tubes. The tube ends precisely reach every plant in the garden ensuring no water waste. Moreover, one only needs to fill one bucket to water the whole garden reducing the amount of daily work to minimum. A well-constructed bucket kit can irrigate 104 plants, placed around the micro tubes.

Long-term effects and sustainability of the project

Once established, a well-maintained irrigation system is expected to last between 2 and 3 years. The first set of seeds and organic growth promoters will be provided. Whereas later the seeds for all types of vegetables as well as servicing will be made available by the NGO Myrada through a local Community-Managed Resource Center (CMRC) to enable easy access for the villagers. All receivers of a bucket kit will have it installed by a professional in their gardens and will go through an appropriate training. Selection of people taking part in the program will not only be based on need but also on interest and request to ensure their motivation of maintenance.