Sitting on the terrace looking at the beautiful mountain view of the Araku Valley, breathing in the fresh air and seeing the swaths of children running around during their summer vacation, I know that I made the correct decision in accepting this internship.
A fellow CASI intern and I arrived at the Delhi airport via Lufthansa airlines around 1 AM IST on May 20, 2017, and we were both wide awake. Despite our plan to stay awake on our flight to best adapt to the time difference, we both made the mistake of sleeping a majority of the way. Wide-eyed, we made our way through customs and baggage claim before being greeted by drivers holding signs with our names on them.
We arrived at India’s Habit Centre, the gorgeous hotel that would be our home for the next three nights. Since we were unable to sleep, we started planning our next day’s adventures as we wanted to take in as much of Delhi as possible before starting our respective internships.
After two fun days in Delhi, all of the interns headed to a modern clothing store where an ice-cream social had been organized by the Penn Club of Delhi and UPIASI, the CASI affiliate in Delhi. There we met Delhi Penn students both past and future. It was great hearing their experiences and being able to see the differences and similarities between my Penn experience and theirs.
Early the next morning, my co-intern Gabriela—or Gabs as she prefers to be called—and I made our way to the Delhi airport to fly to our new home for the next 10 weeks, the Araku Valley.
We flew into Visakhapatnam, or Vizag as it is commonly referred. There we were met by our driver Santosh, who took us to meet a man from whom we would learn lots of information from, David Hogg. Over the next three days, Hogg, the Chief Agricultural Advisor for Naandi, would depict the ins-and-outs of Naandi and the specific Coffee Farmer project that was centered in the Araku Valley.
In addition to learning about the projects and coffee agriculture and what Naandi does, we learned of how there are seven mandals or sections that house thousands of coffee farmers who all work with Naandi to produce their increasingly popular Araku coffee, which recently opened up its first store in Paris, France.
This first week has been a whirlwind of sunscreen and insect repellant, hikes to different fields of coffee and mangoes (lots and lots of mangoes), sitting in lecture-style sessions to learn of the inner workings of the Coffee project, meeting and interacting with different farmers and their families, and taking in the natural beauty that is the Araku Valley.
Before starting my internship, I must admit that I was not fully clear on what it was that the organization does, especially in the Araku Valley region. Since coming, I now know that the larger organization has a slew of different projects that help promote the advancement of different in-need populations individuals. These projects include meal programs, girls’ education, water purity, and, where Gabs and I will spend most of our time, a coffee farmer project.
The original purpose of the coffee project was to provide farmers in the Araku region with a better means of income while utilizing the land and resources available to them. Naandi came in and showed the farmers how to properly raise coffee, a crop that was originally planted in India by the government, and taught them how to grow the red cherries needed to produce the best coffee. By teaching the farmers, they have gained the proper skills to take their income into their own hands, which in itself can be considered a success.
The exact project that Gabriela and I are to work on is still somewhat in the air, yet we do know that we are going to be completing some form of socio-economic research to analyze the impact of the increased income received by farmers, especially as it relates to nutrition and cultural norms.
I look forward to seeing what is in store for the remaining nine-weeks of my internship!