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Sindh

It is difficult to manage all expenses within a small income like my husband’s. Healthcare treatments were most sidelined as the incoming money barely lasts a day with two young daughters and an elderly mother to care for.  All of it is consumed in household expenses. If there was a dire need for healthcare, we would travel long distances to access services. It seemed like a burden in terms of both time and money. In addition, we women here are more dependent on men to travel far distances which makes it even more inconvenient to avail the healthcare resources,

expressed a twenty-three years old, Zeena unhappily. The family of four, the family’s only source of income is her husband’s daily wage of approximately PKR 150 (USD 1.5). With this menial income, meeting everyday needs become very difficult for the family.

Two years ago, when Zeena was expecting her second daughter, she heard of a Maternal Neonatal Child Healthcare (MNCH) center established in Ranta village from her neighbors. Upon finding out that the MNCH center is located near her village, Zeena’s husband allowed her to visit the MNCH on her own for a check-up.

After my first visit to the MNCH, I started visiting the center regularly through my nine months of pregnancy as prescribed by the lady doctor there. The doctor’s fees at the MNCH was minimal, thus very affordable for villagers like ourselves, who earn less and have no savings.

The services provided at the center were always timely and effective,

added Zeena who, along with her husband, was also given health and hygiene sessions at the MNCH for her to start developing a healthy diet during pregnancy and after.

My hemoglobin was low therefore the lady doctor advised me to eat food which contains iron including fish, green vegetables and beans. My husband made sure I took a healthy diet as prescribed by the lady doctor as this time he was more aware.

I was also given a family planning session. It was the first time I took part in a session like this, as in our area there is no concept of child birth spacing. In fact, here parents opt for more children so that they can contribute financially once they grow up. I was very glad to know about family planning as it highlighted the importance of good health for women and infants,

expressed Zeena.

Zeena adopted healthy and hygienic nutritional practices at home which improved the health of her baby and her during pregnancy. After her daughter’s birth, Zeena visited the MNCH for antenatal care regularly, which helped the doctor to treat and prevent potential health problems throughout the course of her pregnancy. It also aided in promoting healthy lifestyles in the village, benefiting both mothers and children.

After a smooth nine-month pregnancy, Zeena gave birth to a healthy daughter at the MNCH center without any complications as she had strictly followed the diet chart and took all her prescribed medicines on time. Zeena’s husband and mother-in-law were very pleased with the services and efforts of the staff at the MNCH.

It is difficult to find effective services especially for pregnant women in our area. When Zeena was pregnant the first time, we had to travel to Belo city which was very costly and Zeena would get very tired during travel as well. The MNCH at Ranta is a blessing as many in nearby villages now have a proper health facility, which is affordable for our community, to go to. Zeena’s second pregnancy was very easy for us as I would bring her to the MNCH regularly as per doctor’s advice. The doctor guided us well and today I am blessed with a healthy grand-daughter,

shared Zeena’s mother-in-law.

Zeena has regularly been attending the MNCH for postnatal care. She was given a session on breast feeding by the midwives at the MNCH. Zeena was also advised on breast-feeding her newborn for six months and gradually to start feeding her small meals as per diet plan then after. The effectiveness and sustainability of the MNCH is empowering rural women and communities in many villages of Thatta. Moreover, the center is facilitating in addressing the health needs of the community and in raising awareness on health issues and rights of women and children.

Yousif Channa briefing the participants about implements placed in Agriculture Training Institute (ATI).

An exposure visit of fifty-five rural farmers from different villages in Badin, Sindh, to the Wheat Research Institute (WTI) in Sakrand, Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI), Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) and the Seed processing unit of Sindh Seed Cooperation  took place in September. This visit was conducted as part of building the capacity of rural farmers on adopting sustainable agricultural practices, under the CFGB supported, Sustainable Farming and Food Security project implemented in Sindh, Pakistan.

Through this project, together with the participation of the farming communities, we are promoting the production of food, fiber, and other produce using farming techniques that aim to protect the environment, public health, communities, animal welfare as well providing long-term development and food security among the communities. Most of these Sindhi communities are most affected by climatic hazards and the adverse impact of climate change.

Muhammad Yousif Channa, Senior Instructor at ATI and Coordinator of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Unit, Sakrand facilitated this farmers’ exposure visit. The work and development of high yielding new wheat varieties of WTI were shared with the farmers and the two new wheat categories, of early and late sowing,  released by WTI, were introduced to them.

The farmers then visited the Wheat Museum where different varieties of wheat were on display. The different types of machinery in use to implement the diverse practices used for wheat crop management were shown to the farmers. This learning was essential to the rural farmers’ knowledge as they could see it’s practical implementation, enabling  them to easily apply it in their own farming to ensure successful integration of sustainable agricultural practices in their villages.

Ashraf Soomro, Director at the WTI, Sakrand, engaged the farmers in an interactive discussion to identify and address the issues they face in crop management. While responding to questions about water shortage Ashraf Soomro recommended sowing wheat on Ridge, which was also demonstrated to them, as it would save 30% to 40% of the water. He also shared with them hand bills and a booklet on wheat production technology.

At the CRRI, the farmers watched a presentation on the institute itself, the many cotton varieties it has developed and most importantly on cotton pesticides and the damages it does. The Senior Scientific Officer at the institute, then went on to talk about insects that are beneficial to crop growth and how those can be managed. During these presentations, it was learnt that development of different cotton takes 10-12 years.

The Plant Physiologist at CCRI delivered an in- depth presentation on crop production technology, focusing on soil analysis and fertility management, for the farmers. He emphasized on the importance of soil analysis, without which it would be impossible to identify if the soil is enriched with nutrients or not.

After the CCRI, the farmers’ visited the Seed Processing Unit of the Sindh Seed Corporation. The focal person at the Unit, shared and demonstrated the process of adulteration, the removal of broken and shriveled seeds, and the process of seed grading,  to ensure the production of the best seed quality.

As the last stop of the exposure visit, the farmers were introduced to the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) and to different methods of adopting sustainable agriculture practices. The Senior Instructor at the ATI demonstrated different and cost effective methods of farming. These included compost making, plantation with pitcher irrigation, drip irrigation by using water material, propagation via air layering and organic gardening, all carried out at the ATI.

Ashraf Memon, Instructor and Veterinary Doctor at ATI, not only shared better livestock management practices but also responded to queries and prescribed medicines and indigenous techniques to control the various diseases.

The farmers were very appreciative of this exposure and learning opportunity. Not only did they learn various crop management techniques first hand but would also take back the learnings to share among their farming communities. For them it was much appreciated the visit as they learned different techniques of cop management which will be useful for them to implement in their field of work.

Since our forefathers’ time, we used to sow either by placing the seed or a vegetative part of the plant in the soil. The technique of Air Layering, i.e. to make new plants from the  branch which is in the air, was very new and  we couldn’t ever imagine that we could produce a new plant this way. This exposure visit has taught us innovative techniques of farming which can be beneficial for us.

Ghulam Mustafa Kaloi, farmer from Babar Kaloi village, Badin.

It was the first time for me to ever visit such specialized institutions. Visiting the Cotton Research Institution was a great opportunity for us to witness  and learn how to develop new cotton varieties and manage pests through an integrated approach.

Muhammad Zaman Lalial, Ghulam Hussain Lalial village, Badin.

We waste many thing which, if processed properly, can be very productive for the land. One of the example is the dispose off the medical infusion drips after utilization however we have learnt that that wasted drip can further be used for drip irrigation where there is scarcity of water. This was a new learning for me at the Agriculture Training Institute Sakrand. Water scarcity is a serious issue in our village and we cannot afford expensive irrigation Drip and Sprinkler irrigation systems due to our weak financial status. I learnt the simple and no-cost DRIP irrigation technique by using the waste material at the ATI and I applied that technique at home for kitchen gardening. I am very thankful for being given this exposure visit as it has taught me a lot.

Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Sheedi village, Badin.

Kitchen gardening activities conducted under the Sustainable Farming project in Badin aim to improve food security and household nutrition for disaster affected communities. Mirzadi, wife of Photo Khan and mother of eight children, belonging to Abdul Karim Leghari village in Badin, is one of the most active participants of the kitchen gardening trainings in Badin.

Six of Mirzadi’s children are married while she lives with two of her unmarried sons, who work for daily wages as labourers and sharecroppers in the area, supporting their mother and their very old and unwell father.  The family does not own any land and relies solely on the income of the two young boys.

Mirzadi had no experience or expertise of growing vegetables before the kitchen gardening training. Earlier, she purchased vegetables for cooking from the local markets. This was expensive for her as she had to travel a distance to reach the markets and then buy the vegetables at whatever rates were offered. Considering the menial income of her sons, this was difficult to afford very often.

At the kitchen gardening trainings, Mirzadi learnt basic gardening skills and the knowledge to grow her own vegetables in her own little garden. Mirzadi found the “nutrition session” most interesting as it highlighted the importance of providing her family with nutritious food by consuming fresh and chemical free vegetables.

Upon the completion of the training, Mirzadi prepared a patch of land near her house to sow the seeds she received after the training. Soon after the seeds cultivated, producing fresh nutritious vegetables, Mirzadi observed a substantial decrease in her household, especially kitchen, expenses. This saving allowed her to keep the money for other domestic matters and healthcare needs. Mirzadi is successfully growing spinach, carrots, radish, garlic, coriander and tomatoes in her garden.

“My family is regularly consuming nutritious food including fresh and green vegetables from my kitchen garden,”

Mirzadi happily expressed.

“Kitchen Garden has proven to be very useful for our family as it has ensured a greater degree of self-sufficiency. Though my grandsons and granddaughters are living separately, I send them freshly grown vegetables from my garden to ensure their healthy diet as well.”