In Baran district, northwest India, the sun beats down on a scorched landscape.
But on the veranda of the home shared by Radha, aged 18, and her 16-year-old brother Ram, there’s a refreshing cool breeze.
The teens attribute this to the large shade tree and fruit and vegetable garden they are nurturing in their front yard. From banana palms to eggplants, guavas and mangoes, they’ve created a green oasis in a region experiencing a severe dry spell.
It all began three years ago when the children were given saplings to grow through an environmental awareness program in their community supported by Australian child sponsors.
“At that time, there wasn’t a single plant here on our front yard. This entire garden has come up over these past three years,” says Radha.
“Now, we hardly buy fruits or vegetables from the market,” adds Ram, a sponsored child, and he says that this has helped his family cope amidst the prolonged drought.
Ram also says that learning about the local environment has been fun and interesting. “We didn’t know our ancestors had such rich heritage of indigenous plants and trees here. We want to bring that back to our village.”
Radha in the family garden. Being able to produce their own fruit and vegetables means they can now eat two square meals a day.
A growing passion
A few villages away, there are other children learning about the benefits of growing trees and plants. Local mother, Sulochana, is happy her children have this opportunity as part of a World Vision children’s club in her community.
“When my children came back home with saplings in their hands, I saw them and was filled with joy,” explained Sulochana.
Watching her children develop a passion for the environment inspired Sulochana to set up her own garden. The local World Vision team helped her till the soil and build a fence. Together with her children, she waters it every day.
“We haven’t had rain in our village for the past two years; it came only twice or thrice. But I don’t want to give up on this garden,” she says. “My children and I are nurturing this. And we hope this garden becomes a source of vegetables and fruits for other families in this village.”
Children and youth in these communities have learned about environmental degradation and climate change, and also the ways in which children can help tackle these challenges.
They won’t give up
The environmental awareness program aims to empower children and youth to become changes agents in their communities, igniting a green revolution. Because of the lack of rainfall, many children must walk long distances to collect water for their gardens. But they’re committed to the cause.
A survey conducted in four of the 15 villages where World Vision runs this program shows that over 80 percent of the trees planted by the children are thriving, with many of these already bearing fruit.