Mizoram IAS officer tackles malnutrition with a bright idea

This inspiring story comes to us from Mizoram, India.

When she visited the remote hill slopes of Lawngtlai District, Mizoram, for her new posting, Shashanka Ala, a 2014 batch IAS Officer was struck by the sheer time it took for her to get there.

Lawngtlai District is Mizoram’s most backward and disaster-prone area. During the monsoons, 40 of the 170 villages are entirely cut off. Most fruits and vegetables that come on trucks from Silchar in Assam, and being 180 km away they take two days to arrive. Once they reach Lawngtlai these perishables are not fit for consumption and the area always faces difficulty in procuring fresh food to eat. The problem is one of logistics and is not to be batted away easily.

Shashanka says “the market is driven by what’s pushed from Silchar and not what’s bought from Lawngtlai district. The children in this district mostly belong to the Chakma and Lai ethnic minorities and they are not even fed a variety of quality vegetables because locals believe they won’t even get them. “

Consequently, the district is home to the highest percentage of stunted, severely wasted and underweight children under the age of five.

Shashanka who is the Deputy Commissioner of Lawngtlai district was slowly settling in when she was apprised of the situation. She dabbled in gardening as a hobby. 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 tackle malnutrition in her district Shashanka and her team designed a unique solution- KanSikul, KanHuan which in English translates into My School, My Farm. Blending in with the Centre’s PoshanAbhiyan scheme launched last year to address malnutrition; this initiative seeks to fulfill the dietary and nutritional requirements of children.

Shashanka informs “Every school and Anganwadi will have a small kitchen and nutrition garden in their own premises. There is no plain land available so all the gardens are made on terraces. These schools and Anganwadis source the fruit/ vegetable seed and compost directly from the district administration. They can now cook the mid-day meals using the food they have grown themselves instead of waiting for a truck from Silchar or Aizawl”

The Deputy Commissioner has worked with members of the village council, local nonprofits, school headmasters and mid-day meal coordinators to implement this initiative which has received a lot of accolades for its scope and vision.

The first phase of the initiative which was launched last week covers 213 schools and Anganwadis. Phase 2 will cover 500 schools and Anganwadis. Phase 3 will witness an emphasis on poultry and natural livestock.

“This inspiring model should be emulated by district administrations and schools across the country”, said Venkaiah Naidu, the Vice President of India.

Image source: Sakshi

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