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swarnima | May 27, 2022 | 4 min(s) read
Empowering the tribal communities of Madhya Pradesh

Six hours away from the hustle and bustle of Delhi, we reached Dindori, a small district in Madhya Pradesh. While driving through the well-connected roads, we witnessed the sheer barrenness of the rocky terrains. The no-farmland view highlighted the dire need for nutrition faced by the land and those residing there.

In this destructive environment, the population of Dindori has to attempt to persevere, most of them belonging to the tribal communities (64.69% of the total population). And since these communities are primarily in rural areas, they often bear the risk of limited exposure to growth. Lack of awareness about the steps which need to be taken toward holistic development creates a false sense of self-sufficiency amongst the communities. While the problem may not seem as urgent for the people living there, studies show something else. Madhya Pradesh is the only state to come under the “extremely alarming” category, as per the India State Hunger Index.

But why has this historical land turned into an epicenter of hunger?

  • A large span of wasteland
    Madhya Pradesh has one of the largest wasteland areas in the country; a wasteland is economically unproductive, ecologically unsuitable, and subject to environmental deterioration. This gives a massive disadvantage to the population that depends on this very land for their livelihood. People suffer limited crop productivity with major reliance on seasonal crops. Dindori has patches of Sal trees everywhere, but this greenery is not economically or nutritionally beneficial for people living there.
  • Acute Poverty
    Many people in the tribal communities rely on seasonal occupation. Sorting “Tendu” leaves is one of the primary sources of income for people residing in Dindori villages. Every day, men and women go to the forest to pick and sort Tendu leaves in bundles which are further sold to the factories to make beedi. They barely make INR 200-300 after working all day.

    Another in-demand occupation for them is seasonal labouring in nearby cities. For a few months in the entire year, people migrate in search of daily wage jobs. One thing that was common amongst all the villages of Dindori was that families had a roof over their heads. The land of Dindori has gifted its people with soil that is highly useful in making their own bricks, which also gives them a chance to make their earnings.

    The handy jobs being physical, do not require any educational qualification. These jobs are passed on to generations, continuing the tradition of limited exposure to the outside world. Here, a day’s job doesn’t mean you’re building anything for the future. It is a good day if just their daily necessities are met. 
  • Eating behaviour of the community
    Limited crop productivity and negligible source of income dictate the eating behaviour of the people of rural Dindori. They rely majorly on locally grown vegetables to fill their stomach, which lacks many nutritional qualities.

    A local mentioned, “our palette usually includes a large number of chillies. Along with flavour, chillies keep us feeling fulfilled for a long time. Hence, skipping a meal is manageable.” This is a clear example of how hunger is often confused with just feeling “full”. However, hunger is much more layered than how we perceive it to be. A major part of it is the body getting nutrients that can help in physical, mental, and cognitive development.

Children are among the worst affected by hunger here, with over 35% facing stunted growth and 73% suffering from anaemia in rural Madhya Pradesh. But due to limited accessibility to these remote areas, their cry for help is a silent one, going unheard by those who can help. 

Feeding India has collaborated with Parivaar, a social impact organisation, to bring about the educational and nutritional welfare of the tribal population of Dindori and Anuppur. This alliance focuses on children who, if provided the right kind of opportunity to grow, can help in the sustainable progression of the nation.

Currently, Feeding India is distributing 6000 ration kits every month to the various meal cum education centers of Parivaar NGO, known as Seva Kutirs. So far, 1.5 million+ meals have been distributed here through these ration kits. 

Daily meals are served to children enrolled in Seva Kutirs in Dindori and Anuppur. A Seva Kutir is a local space established within villages for children to get supplementary education, from nursery to 8th grade. There is an equal focus on extracurricular activities through sports, yoga, and other physical exercises. The aim is to provide a helping hand to working parents of vulnerable communities and help their children to flourish.

The program gets its strength from the local communities which are actively participating to make the space conducive for children to learn and grow. The teachers and the cook are recruited from the village itself and even the space for opening a Seva Kutir is provided by the locals. 

The teachers at these Seva Kutirs are the ones who have completed their formal education and chose to stay back to help the children of the village get access to education. One of the teachers from Pindrukhi village, Shiv Mangal Singh Maravi, said, “These children deserve a better future. We want to give everything to them that we had to struggle so much to get.”

Kapil Bharadwaj, the COO of Parivaar, mentioned in one of the many conversations, “Hunger has a multifold impact on a child’s life. Education, which plays one of the most important roles in a child’s development, is affected. When a child goes to school hungry, he/she is unable to focus in school, which affects their retention of knowledge. As the child is unable to reach their full potential academically, it leads to poorer test scores and lower attendance, which means they get fewer opportunities to get out of the cycle of poverty.”

This is the gap Feeding India aims to close with organisations like Parivaar. This collaboration enables the children to lead better lives, scholastically and outside. Being food secure makes them happier and more social, helping them lead a better livelihood.

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Image source: Feeding India by Zomato

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