The Best Days in the Field

As I go through my last days of being in the field, I am finding it hard to imagine myself doing anything else, especially in two weeks when my time in India will have ended for the summer. Since I have spend the majority of my time here working on the case studies of the women whom CORD has identified as Progressive Women Farmers, I would like to update a little on how that has been going.

Originally, my goal was to write 100 case studies, both so CORD could track the women’s yearly progress in the program, and because NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development), who is one of the major funders of the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana, had also requested this to be done. However, after beginning the project and being able to gauge how much time it would take me, it was determined that in the time I had here I would complete 50, which I am happy to say is a goal that I will meet just in time. Last week, I finished interviewing 50 woman farmers, in 7 different panchayats (unit of local self-governance). I have now been going back to take photos of their work and to document the new techniques they are using.

These days, the women have just finished planting rice, according to the system of rice intensification, an organic method which involves planting single seedlings in rows, rather than placing seeds directly into the rice paddy. Doing so decreases the amount of seeds needed, decreases chemical use, and has also been increasing rice production. I also enjoyed learning how to plant the rice seedlings myself, one day when our interviewing finished early, and the woman who we had just finished interviewing was also going to her field to plant the rice.

This week, I have been catching up on typing the case studies out on the computer, and taking some more pictures. The computer work has been taking time, since the case studies are both qualitative and quantitative, and a few pages each, First I write about how they got involved with the program, and how their experience has been, and then I compare production and income, and expenditures for major crops, vegetables, and milk, comparing data from the year before joining MKSP and the year after joining MSKP.

Though I will only be able to see, on average how much production and income has increased, once I finish writing them all up, for now, it has been great to see, one story at a time, the different results that the women have been having. Common themes are that they are happy to have formed groups with other women farmers in their village, many of whom they hadn’t met before, and that they have also found it very useful to learn how to make new types of organic manures from household materials, rather than buying chemical fertilizers and pesticides from the market. Most of them have seen increased production, and most of them have also decided to increase the amount of land under cultivation of vegetables, increasing self-sufficieny and income from selling their surpluses. I am excited to finish the report in the next few days, to be able to see more of the bigger picture.

These last few days in the field have definitely been my favorite for many reasons. Because I’m just taking pictures and asking any last-minute follow-up questions, I don’t have to ask for much of their time. However, most of the women have more time these days, since the planting is done, so we can talk more informally about the program, or anything else, without any need to rush. We know where the houses are now, which makes everything easier. And, best of all, they already know us, we already know them, and I feel much more comfortable with Hindi than the first time around, so there’s been lots of talking and laughing. It is such a good feeling to go house to house, and again meet be able to meet so many of the woman farmers who I was able to talk with before.

For almost 10 weeks, going into the field to do interviews has become normal day to day work, so I think that there was a point where I didn’t think too much about it. However, now that it is sinking in that these days are coming to an end, I have found myself trying to be as present as I can throughout the day, something that I became aware of only after a few days. For example, I’ve been listening with as much attention as possible, and found that I am understanding small small bits of Pahardi, the local language, rather than assuming I would not be able to understand. I’ve also been noticing all of the different ways in which the weather changes as the day goes by, and how much greener everything looks now that we are in the monsoon. I’ve been thinking about how much I enjoy taking the bus to the different villages, and being able to pass my favorite wooded areas and steep valleys and rivers. I have even been noticing how my energy in the field is more or less, depending on whether I go to walk in the mornings, or based on what I eat. Over all, I am having trouble pinpointing exactly how I feel, from wishing that I could stay in a rural area for much longer (I am not a city person at all), to being very excited to travel for a few days when our internship ends, to feeling like there is so much I still have to and want to do. Though I wish I could stay a little bit longer, I am also happy to have some quiet time before school, because I feel like I won’t be able to understand fully what this experience has meant, or all of the things that I have learned or come to understand, until quite some time after it has ended!

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About lopezmichellle

At Penn, I am majoring in International Relations and minoring in Environmental Science. I'm in the class of 2016. Through CASI, for the summer of 2015 I will be interning at Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development, in Sidhbari, Himachal Pradesh.