In the last five years, the mothers served by a program called Suaahara (“Good Nutrition”) have seen remarkable gains for their children and themselves. They grow so many vegetables that they no longer need to use precious funds to buy them. They can feed their children eggs—a valuable source of animal protein—daily. And their children are healthier, thanks not only to a nutrient-rich diet, but also to good habits like hand washing.
Added together, these changes will improve the health and nutrition of children and mothers in the critical 1,000 day window between conception and the child’s second birthday. This is the goal of the USAID-funded project, now led by Helen Keller Intl, which works in 40 of Nepal’s 75 districts.
The women have something else in common: The program has empowered them—and the determination of a mother to create a better life for her children cannot be stopped.
At 20 years old, Sarita already runs a successful brooding business and grows a variety of leafy green vegetables to sell. Lack of opportunity in the village of Melamchi where she lives in the central region of Nepal caused her husband to seek work in Saudi Arabia.
“I shoulder the responsibility of running a household and taking care of my family,” she says.
It may take time for the businesses to become profitable enough for her husband to return home to help, but to those in her village, she is an inspiration.
Before the devastating earthquakes that struck Nepal in 2015, Pabitra had 30 chickens—but only six survived.
“I am busy with the mother group meeting which takes place once a month, vegetable gardening, taking care of cattle and I also extract honey once a year,” she says.
In her village of Dolakha, Pabitra is also a model farmer, growing vitamin A-rich orange sweet potatoes, pumpkins and green leafy vegetables as well as iron-rich beans, cauliflower, radish, peas and cucumber not only to sell but also to teach other families. To ensure her crops receive adequate water even during the dry season, she flows her waste water into her garden—an invention that caught the attention of Helen Keller Intl Nepal’s country director, Dale Davis.
“This is a learning for us and we must share such innovative ideas in Village Model Farm orientation,” Davis says.
Inspired by her mother-in-law, Gamala has served the community as a health volunteer for the last seven years. She is busy caring for her family, but she takes pride in helping other women.
“The fact that I get to meeting interesting people every day is what makes this role exciting,” she says.
Thanks to the Suaahara programs, she supports her family by selling the produce from a large home garden and chickens she has diligently raised. It’s not just her own family that benefits—she persistently encourages the families she serves to incorporate vitamin A-rich green leafy vegetables and animal protein into their diets. She understands firsthand how important the added energy from proper nutrition can be for hard-working farmers.
Fulmaya skillfully employs the baby chicks, vegetable seeds and training on growing green leafy vegetables received from Suaahara to earn money for her two children. The mother’s group she is a member of recently obtained a rice and wheat tiller to help the women prepare their soil more efficiently for future harvests.
“Recently I sold a chicken for NPR 2500 ($25),” she shares proudly. “I also make additional income by tilling other women’s land.”