This blog post was originally published on Bread for the World’s Bread Blog after a visit to see Helen Keller International’s Homestead Food Production in Bangladesh in action. Photographs are by Laura Elizabeth Pohl and text by Molly Marsh.
The afternoon hours are Tohomino Akter’s favorite time of day. That’s when she can take a break from her household tasks, rest, and play with her 17-month-old daughter, Adia. Like any toddler, Adia much prefers movement.
Adia runs through the four rooms of their home, her pink sundress and plastic pink shoes contrasting against the gray tin walls. First is her parent’s bedroom, then the room where her father’s parents and brothers sleep. Then a small room that contains clothes and dishes, and finally the kitchen, a skinny corridor that opens to the outside on one end, where her mother prepares their food over a fire.
Adia stops suddenly at the front steps, looking out at the familiar faces of Char Baria, a village in the Barisal district of Bangladesh. In front of her lies Tohomino’s garden, a 25-foot square of spinach, amaranth, chili, and pepper plants, an important source of nutrients for Adia and her family. Spinach and red amarinthe are Adia’s favorites.
Tohomino planted the garden after receiving training in “Nobo Jibon,” a program administered by Helen Keller International, a nongovernmental organization that works in several Bangladesh districts. The vegetables she harvests have increased the nutrients available to her family, especially her daughter. What’s more, the extra money the family earns selling the surplus vegetables goes toward buying additional food for Adia.
In the program, Tohomino learned why a diverse, healthy diet is important, and also about the importance of breast-feeding her daughter. Tohomino attended classes for almost two months, hearing from health workers the benefits of giving Adia only breast milk during her first six months of life.
Tohomino has stuck to that schedule, introducing supplementary foods only after the initial six-month period, and she’ll continue to breast-feed Adia until she is 2.
“I did not do many things [before taking the class],” Tohomino said through a translator. “But after learning, I am keeping things clean and hygienic to prevent diseases, and cooking nutritious foods to keep me and my family healthy.”