By Amanda Thorsteinsson, Canadian Foodgrains Bank Communications Officer
October 16 is World Food Day, a time to remember the over 800 million people around the world who don’t have enough to eat — people like Surender and Surji and their family in India.
When Binod Malto comes home from school, it’s his job to help take care of his family’s livestock in their village of Amla Beodo, Jharkand state, India.
Binod is only nine. But even though he’s still young, he doesn’t come home from school very often — he lives there for a lot of the year.
“I just come home on holidays,” he says. But there’s a good reason for this.
Binod’s family is part of the Malto community, one of India’s indigenous tribal groups. They’re often referred to locally as ‘hill people’, as they live up in the isolated and difficult-to-access hills surrounding larger villages.
Because the Malto are outside the traditional Indian caste system, they have little status in society. They are often excluded from larger Indian society, and have difficulty accessing government services.
Worst of all for children like Binod, education isn’t readily accessible for Malto families. If they can afford it, parents send their children away to boarding school.
For Binod’s parents, Surender and Surji, boarding school wasn’t always an option.
Traditionally, the Malto people gathered and foraged for food in the hills, raising a small amount of livestock, and planting a little bit of upland rice and cowpeas on poor quality land unwanted by others. For many years, Surender and Surji struggled to gather and produce enough food to live on.
“We ate most of what we grew,” says Surender. “If we had a little bit of cash, it usually ended up being used to buy medicine when someone was sick. We had a few goats, but they were small.”
When the opportunity to learn about animal rearing and vegetable gardening was offered to the family through Canadian Foodgrains Bank member World Relief Canada, they were happy to give it a try.
In 2010, through World Relief Canada’s local Indian partner EFICOR, the family received a male goat of a superior breed to what was available locally.
“I bred it with the goats I already have to increase my herd,” says Surender, who notes that he now has about 15 goats.
“I sold two of them last year, and earned 17,000 Indian rupees (CDN$354),” he says proudly. It’s a significant sum of money.
“Our oldest daughter never went to school,” he says. “But I hope Bindon will continue and be a doctor, and I hope our other daughter will be able to become a nurse,” he says, adding that a year of schooling for Bindon, including tuition and transportation, costs about 8,400 Indian rupees (CDN$170.)
And even though Bindon is busy taking care of livestock during his time off school, it doesn’t mean he’s off the hook from studying.
“We’ve been able to send him to a tutor so he doesn’t forget what he’s learned,” says Surender. “Thank you to Canadians who have supported us and prayed for us.”
You can help support the work of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Visit their website at http://www.foodgrainsbank.ca to find out how.
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