Small drop, wide ripples
Alongside the fish ponds and farm fields, something less tangible -- but equally important -- has been built in Shahadra
Community members agree: the projects they started with help from FAO have changed things in Shahadra.
"There have been lots of improvements in the way we live. We are more comfortable than we were 20 years ago," Aththan says. "Before, we had nothing; now we are living comfortably. The fish project is bringing us extra money. We can buy things, pay for our children's weddings, fix up our houses."
Nathiyadevi nods. "Before these projects there was no way for us to make money. Now we have a way to grow food for ourselves and even save a little," she says. "We get shares of fish, wheat, rice and vegetables. We are not hungry any more."
She adds: "Before, life was unpredictable. The worst thing was not knowing where the next meal was coming from. Now it's not like that."
With their extra money, Nathiyadevi's family can now make capital improvements to their small, one-room home in the old army barracks, such as buying whitewash for the walls. Last October, they purchased a used refrigerator to keep their food fresh longer.
Building social capital
But beyond such material improvements something less tangible, but equally important, has been built here too.
Aththan gestures to the fields, the pond, the chicken coop. "Because we have done all this," he explains, "we feel more confident in ourselves."
Says Surinder Singh: "Working on the projects has brought us closer together. Each of us feels responsible; if others are working hard, then we should work too."
"I always told the children they must provide for themselves and that with a project like this if they work hard, then it will give back to them and they will be able to take care of themselves," his mother adds.
Surinder, who has been involved in the FAO projects for seven years now, also works off and on in construction, earning around 135 rupees a day.
"Because I have these skills on different sides, I am confident that I will always be able to find work and take care of my family," he says. "Because of this, I hope that my son will get the best education possible. We'll see what he can do then."
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