As part of a special daylong drive to tackle malnutrition, the Chhattisgarh forest department planted some 5 lakh drumstick (moringa) saplings across the state on Monday. The saplings were planted on the premises of anganwadi kendras (child day care centres) as well as government-run hostels and schools as part of the state-wide campaign. “It was a one-day special drive. We selected protected places with boundary walls, fences and barbed wirings so that the saplings can grow undisturbed,” Keshkal divisional forest officer (DFO) Dhammshil Ganveer said. In Keshkal division, 6,000 saplings were planted as part of the campaign.
According to the DFO of Dantewada, Sundeep Balaga, malnourished children and anaemic mothers can now directly source much-needed nutrients from drumstick trees. In his division, 3,720 saplings were planted. In Sukma, about 3,200 saplings were planted.
Local communities also participated in the campaign. “We have asked school and anganwadi students to adopt the saplings and take care of them. This is a new thing even though the forest department takes part in such drives from time to time. Moringa is a super food. The saplings were procured from our nurseries,” Ganveer added.
Rakesh Chaturvedi, principal chief conservator of forests, Chhattisgarh, said, “We planted about 5-10 moringa saplings wherever we found space. We have a commitment to end malnutrition in the state. Moringa is rich in protein and minerals. We had prepared for this day well in advance. We want children to eat its stick and leaves in their daily diet. It is a systematic approach towards malnutrition.”
Manish Kashyap, the DFO of Bhanupratapur, informed over phone that 20,000 saplings were planted in his division through the help of volunteers. Through this drive, we want to spread an important message to malnourished children. Local communities can also consider employment opportunities later through moringa, he said. Shalini Raina, chief conservator of forests, Durg, said the saplings were planted with the help of the education and the women and child development departments.
Moringa or drumstick is a super food and rich in iron and vitamins. In Moringa oleifera: A review on nutritive importance and its medicinal appplication, it is said that the tree can withstand severe drought and mild frost. For this, it is widely cultivated across the world. Every part of the tree is suitable for nutritional or commercial purposes. “The leaves are rich in minerals, vitamins and other essential phytochemicals. Extracts from the leaves are used to treat malnutrition, augment breast milk in lactating mothers,” it says.
Chhattisgarh has a high burden of malnutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16), 37.7 percent of children under the age of 5 are underweight and 37.6 percent of children are stunted. The National Nutrition Strategy published by the NITI Aayog in 2017 has a vision by 2022 to achieve Kuposhan Mukt Bharat or eradication of malnutrition.