Posts which have been tagged with: spirulina.

Aranganur

Aranganur is a poor rural village with a population of approximately 2000. The village is at the heart of the Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry agricultural belt with extremely fertile soil and “sweet water,” though land in the region is being converted into residential plots at an alarming pace. The majority of families in the area depend on subsistence agriculture, agricultural and seasonal labour work as their main income source. All are low paying and cannot sufficiently support the entire families. This often leaves people unemployed for a substantial period during the year.  70% of the families in Aranganur are living in “hut”-type housing with no sanitation and running water and only have one electric light provided by the government.

Aranganur is the site of one of Sharana’s collective sponsorship programs, run through the local Government Primary school (lower Kindergarten through 5th standard). The program effectively “adopts” the school, providing children one daily meal and nutritional supplements, notebooks, textbooks, uniforms, school fees, bus fares, medical care, laboratory instruments, geometry sets, and other school supplies or fees as applicable for the entire academic year.

Aranganur is also the site of Sharana’s Resouce Center. Sharana had been on the lookout for an appropriate location to begin its Spirulina production project. The organization also was looking to build a space conduct its yearly summer camps for children, which were (since 2001) being held at local youth hostels and other community centers, at considerable expense.

The Aranganur land of one hectare was procured in 2006. This location, like Angalakuppam, is situated in close proximity to villages on either side of the Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry border which have very limited access to services in either state. It is a location not tied to any single village, but therefore an ideal place from which to independently conduct select projects (such as training and summer camps) while also reaching out to the region’s multiple, dispersed communities that are, quite literally, neither here nor there.

A two-storyed building, complete with kitchen, separate facilities for volunteers/social workers and male and female students, and meeting hall was inaugurated in 2010. Separate facilities for spirulina production were constructed at the other end of the same property. Funding for this initiative was provided largely by France based organizations: SOFICOR, Sharana France, ADIS, and Pas sant tois.

The land in between the resource center and the Spirulina production building is judiciously used to cultivate vegetables, with a large percentage of the available space dedicated to banana cultivation. The vegetables produced on this site are used to support the meal programs at the resource center and at Sharana crèches, with excess being sold. In 2010, the local government’s department of agriculture rewarded (by way of subsidy) Sharana’s use of land to grow bananas in recognition of the general shortage of banana cultivation in the area.

Spirulina


Spirulina is a blue-green algae that thrives in warm, alkaline fresh-water bodies, and is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids (a type of antioxidant that can help protect cells from damage). It contains nutrients, including B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid). Spirulina’s nutrients are in an easily assimilable form. Studies show that it has histamine-blocking, pro-biotic properties that serve to boost the body’s immune system and make Spirulina a natural nutritional supplement.

For Sharana’s beneficiaries, Spirulina supplements are one way by which to boost the nutritional content of their daily food. Although some research shows that nuts, legumes, and meat provide efficient nutrition, making these available to large numbers of village children is expensive and not always possible. Spirulina, on the other hand, is inexpensive to cultivate throughout the year, requires minimal water, has a considerable shelf-life, and can easily be added to snacks and “mixtures” which Indian children invariably love. From production, cost, accessibility, and nutritional perspectives, therefore, Spirulina is an ideal supplement to what are otherwise normally poor diets.

The objectives of the Spirulina Project are four-fold:

  1. To address the problem of malnourishment by providing regular nutritional supplements to children;
  2. To develop a project that is self-financed through sales of part of the produce;
  3. To commit to sustainable development through using environmentally friendly methods of cultivation; and
  4. To promote the role and involvement of women in the production process.

Sharana’s spirulina is produced at a unit at the Aranganur resource center. The production, hygiene, and regular testing of water and spirulina produce are overseen by a designated social worker. About 70% of spirulina produced at Aranganur goes to nutrition programs sponsored by Sharana in Puducherry Town, Angalakuppam, Aranganur, and Mathur, but also those initiated by other NGOs such as: Lead Society for Children, Arul Ashram and Jeeva Nivas (for AIDS orphans), and Sandosham Nanban (which works with street children), and Chemin d’enfance which conducts a Ludo Mobile project for children’s development.