Mang Doungel

What is your position at Thrive for Good and what do you do?

I work as Program Manager in Thrive for Good, presently based in New Delhi, India. I work with partner organizations to help communities and churches get access to healthy and nutritious food so that they may have a sustainable livelihood, better health and life.

Why did you want to work with Thrive?

One of the key challenges within the rural community and urban slums in India is getting access to healthy, nutritious food. For the majority of them, getting access to this is a luxury and still a dream. As a result, malnutrition is still high and the community has to spend most of the meager income they earn from daily wages for medical expenses. Thrive for Good gave communities the opportunity to empower themselves by providing them with the required knowledge and skills they need to grow nutritious, healthy, life-giving vegetables through a simple technology where any individual can learn and do. This interests me to be part of the Thrive team and bring changes that will benefit the wellbeing of the community.

Why did you want to go to Africa?

Thrive has been working in Africa for more than ten years now. The project in Kitale is one of the best demonstration life gardens which Thrive has. For a starter on organic farming, visiting this demonstration garden is the best thing you can dream of to learn and start your own life garden. So, one main reason that drives me to visit Africa is to learn from experienced staff and see tested life gardens firsthand, understand the way how it’s done and bring that knowledge to India and share my experiences and learning with the community in India.

How did you help when you were there? What activities and work did you participate in?

During the three week stay in the project I am involved in many different activities. There is new learning every new day. Except for Thursday, which is set aside for visiting a project, I am involved in a physical demonstration of different activities. From preparing the soil with double digging to preparing seeds, mulching, etc. we did all that is necessary to start an organic farm. Making our own compost (both solid and liquid) and pesticides from organic material is really fascinating and exciting. At the end of the day knowing that with all the activities you do you are bringing healing to the land is quite satisfying.

What were the people in the Thrive communities like?

They were lovely and amazing people. They are jolly, courteous, hardworking and kind-hearted. They are always willing and ready to help and advise when you are in trouble.

What was the most memorable or rewarding part of the experience?

The visit to Showground primary school, Kitale, where Thrive helped the school authorities to start their own life garden was really memorable. The interaction with the students, listening to their transformation stories of how they learn about organic farming and explaining to us with ease the benefits of some of the herbs they planted (like artemisia, lemongrass, etc.) in the garden was amazing. Making the students aware of the importance of organic farming and also teaching them the skills and knowledge give hope to the next generation for a better life and health.

The experience, knowledge and skills that I gained from this trip gave me the confidence to start my own life garden.

What was the most challenging part of the experience?

There has been so much learning within these three weeks. Trying to grab every learning in detail within this specific period and making a learning tool for future training programs was the challenging part. However, the video clips and notes taken down during the entire duration will help me a great deal.

What was the most surprising part of the experience?

One thing that surprises me is the weather. I have the intention that being in Africa, the weather will be hot and humid but I was surprised to experience one of the best weathers with temp fluctuating between 10C to 25C.

The skills and knowledge of the staff to work efficiently with different partners, especially with the prisoners, is (not actually surprising but) really appreciated.

What do you most want people to know about what is going on in the communities Thrive helps?

The transformation of an Individual and the community as a result of Thrive’s intervention is something that stands out. The harvest from their life garden not only gives nutritious, disease-free food and sustains them throughout the year but also the surplus from selling the vegetables to substitute for their family expenses. Medical expenses are cut down and money used to purchase junk foods is minimized as the community becomes more aware of the impact that it can have on their health.

The knowledge and skills they gain have given them confidence in life.

Their health gets better from consuming fresh and healthy vegetables which were denied before they started the life garden.

The project also provides food security throughout the year

Why do you think it’s important for us here in North America (or other parts of the world) to support the work Thrive is doing?

Thrive, through its collaboration with different partners across the world, is able to reach out to communities where food security, malnutrition, and other health-related issues are a serious cause for concern. Through its skills and experience of working in different places over the years, Thrive can provide a solution for the problems faced by the community which is usually neglected. So supporting Thrive will indirectly mean giving a better life to an individual and a community who are otherwise neglected because of their ignorance and lack of awareness.

Did this trip change you? If so, how?

Yes, this trip has changed my perspective of looking at health and kitchen gardens from a different angle. It reminds me of how the things we consume are so important for our health. This has made me decide what to eat and how to eat.

Another thing is the concept of a life garden. I am convinced that limited space in your backyard, terrace or even a balcony can be used to provide healthy and nutritious food – with zero chemical pesticides. Space has always been an excuse for many not to start their own life garden but my trip to Kenya has shown me options. I have decided to start my own life garden within the next couple of months with the limited space that I have.