Volunteer Overseas · Volunteering in India

Volunteering and Rural connotations (incl. community management)

Agriculture has impacted culture (agriculture is CULTURE too with an A before it!) with festivals centered on the monsoon, harvest, and even animals are usually revered or prized as assets conferring a social stature. It has come to be a way of life,especially in rural areas where land based agriculture is practiced to a great extent.

City/town based volunteers – like yours truly used to a different way of life (milk from a bottle for example!) have to keep these in mind and be prepared to a sometimes complete absence of radio, television (there may be no electricity there), newspaper, water on tap (oh! the drudgery of carrying and storing untreated water – remember they have been doing it for generations), while venturing to pursue their STUDY or IMPROVEMENT of agriculture. Tactless remarks are not called for here (I remember a person laughingly ask why someone was riding a log behind the plough) – the farmer was merely adding his body weight to breaking the soil clods and leveling the soil.

The pace of life is mostly dictated by agricultural operations. One may need to time training or evaluation programs for half a day over an extended period, either during the forenoons or afternoons and provide catering, transport too. Do keep in mind that people like to retire early at night. Few night owls here!

As reiterated earlier, women play a prominent role in inter-culture (weeding, earthing-up etc.), harvest operations and very often these are their entire family’s sole means of year-long livelihood, so especial care is to be taken while holding programs (we had to hold the program for Women’s Day over an extended period of a week (it became a Women’s Week!) during each afternoon and since they would be tired after the hard work, offer substantial lunch too).

Even when you realize that things could be done better or easily, hold your horses, remember that there could be a reason for doing it the way it is done (after all they have years of experience, trial and error behind them).

We are very likely to be in close relation with small and very poor farmers, so cost will be a major consideration for them which could provide a way out for introducing newer methods or technology.

Another grim truth is that volunteers or those working with NGOs get branded by partners from the scientific bodies as being capable only of pulling in the ‘crowds’ so that they get to complete their work in peace. It is completer knowledge, better appreciation of the prevailing local conditions and an awareness of the global situation which alone will stand you in good stead.  It is for this reason that a course on appreciation of ‘Rural Development’ was designed for the partners of the scientific partner organizations complete with a wide spectrum of readings, references etc. so that there is a realization that an NGO’s work is backed by a body of evidence.

The next post shall deal with some ‘resource’ issues of agriculture.

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shesThis post is written Seshagiri Rao who is selected as a VSO volunteer ( http://www.ivoindia.org). Seshagiri Rao is a 50 year old agriculture and management professional keen on channeling knowledge towards development.

After formal education, he spent over 26 years in the corporate, NGO, academic, and consultancy worlds (ITC, Jain Irrigation, ICFAI etc).  The longest and cherished part of his professional career was with the BAIF Development Research Foundation working towards development in the rural areas of Madhya Pradesh. At ICFAI he explored ‘Rural Marketing’ with post graduate students & moved on to developing the portal http://www.efreshindia.com after seeing the need for a unified approach to agricultural development as an important lifestyle component.

He is presently engaged in guiding entities towards a cohesive approach to human development with the consultancy activities.

Leisure sees him travelling, writing or putting his views across on natural management issues at various conclaves; pottering with amateur radio  or simply following the time tested habit of reading.

Sehsagiri has agreed to write on iVolunteer blog and we thank him for that.

13.06.2013

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