This Indian officer tackled malnutrition with a brilliant initiative – ‘My School, My Farm’
When Shashanka Ala, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, got posted in the Lawngtlai district of Mizoram – a small, hilly northeastern state – she was stunned by the time it took to reach the area from Aizwal, the state capital. The journey took almost 10 hours on a bad road that during the monsoons is struck by landslides, resulting in delays that could take up to an entire day.
Lawngtlai is also Mizoram’s most backward and disaster-prone district. Most essential supplies including fruits and vegetables come on trucks from Silchar in Assam, which is a further 180 km north of Aizawl, and take two days to arrive. Once they reach Lawngtlai, these perishables are unfit to consume, and the quality ones are too expensive to purchase.
Consequently, the district is home to the highest percentage of stunted (35.3%), severely wasted (5.9%) and underweight (21.3%) children under the age of five in Mizoram.
Now during the time of her posting, Shashanka Ala developed an interest in gardening. Growing native varieties of local fruits and vegetables in her garden, she had an idea—why not extend the same to schools and anganwadis, instead of waiting for them to be transported from Aizawl or Silchar?
To address malnutrition in her district, Shashanka and her team designed a unique solution—’Kan Sikul, Kan Huan’ (English translation: ‘My School, My Farm’).
Blending with the Centre’s Poshan Abhiyan scheme launched last year to address malnutrition, this initiative seeks to fulfil the dietary and nutritional needs of children.
“Every school and anganwadi will have a small kitchen and nutrition garden in their own premises. Since there is no plain land available, all the gardens are made on terraces. These schools and anganwadis source their fruit/vegetable seeds and compost from the district administration. They can now cook their mid-day meals using the food they have grown themselves instead of waiting for a truck from Silchar or Aizawl,” informs Shashanka.