Flash floods, unpredictable monsoon patterns and powerful storms have harmed the coastal mangrove area of West Bengal where Shakuntala Das lives with her husband and two children.
Unable to feed her family
Before receiving support from Christian Aid partner Development Research Communication and Service Centre (DRCSC), Shakuntala fished alone and was often unable to catch enough to earn a living or to feed her family.
Although she had a small garden to grow vegetables, few survived because of floods and unpredictable rains, which are often so severe houses break and whole crops are destroyed.
Without a steady income from her fishing activities, Shakuntala didn’t have enough money to buy additional vegetables to supplement their diet.
‘Before the intervention of DRCSC we worked as individuals, not as part of a group, and I was completely dependent on fishing only,’ said Shakuntala. ‘Since DRCSC arrived five years ago, we have learned how to grow kitchen gardens and how to make compost. This means I am now able to grow vegetables, too.’
DRCSC have encouraged Shakuntala and her community to fish together, saving their earnings in a group account that they can use during more difficult months.
The community have also learnt techniques that enable them to produce enough fruits, herbs, spices and vegetables in their kitchen gardens to provide nutrition all year round.
‘Previously, we had to buy chemical pesticides from the market, but we didn’t have enough money so couldn’t cultivate a lot in our gardens, especially as we were completely market-dependent. Now we keep seeds from what we produce and are able to sell them to other people. We also make our own fertiliser.
‘In our nutrition gardens we’re growing crops that are resistant in saline environments. We’re growing vegetables like okra, gourd, taro, ginger and yam, which can all also withstand floods.
‘I am very happy because I do not have to go to the market for vegetables any more, and if we get prawns I can cook them with vegetables from the garden.’
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