[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Feeding a billion people every day

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Listening to NPR’s special report yesterday, I was astonished to learn that some of Nebraska’s farmers manage as much as 2500 acres, with help from few humans and monster machines. I hear Nebrasks’s corn belt is booming but I was left to wonder how could just few people farm thousands of acres? I cannot fathom this conquest of agricultural technology – virtually erasing farm labor from the equation. You may also want to know, Twitter too is part of Nebraska’s success story! (more here)

Nebraska's Farming Profits Abound

On the other side of the globe, Indian farmers are struggling to keep up with rising demand on one hand and age-old, labor-intensive agro practices on other. Add to that the dependence on a lackluster monsoon season. For its part, the government of India hasn’t provided the infrastructure support for electricity, irrigation and storage. As much as half of farm foods don’t get to the people and rot even before it reaches its first trading post. This is pathetic and colossal waste of human and natural resources. Consequently, inflation in food prices is at unbearable levels – leaving most Indians to spend all of their income on just feeding the families. Though GDP growth is elevating many out of poverty, many wonder if it is as effective as economic theory suggests.

Such is the state of food production in a country that must feed over billion people every single day. About 250 million of that are adolescents – whose health and nutrition is crucial for the future of India. There is no concerted vision or effort from government or private sectors to address these problems holistically.

India’s problems are manifold and which one is a priority is debatable. In fact, the endless is debates amongst political groups and media is one reason decisions are stalled. I believe the livelihood and as UNICEF attests, the future of the country, rests more on agriculture than on information technology or skyscraper-studded cities. Yet, it appears there is no sense of urgency or apprehension around state of agriculture. No doubt, the decision makers are enjoying a smooth ride on the GDP bullet train. When would they have the time to step back?

Pegging our hopes on India's budding entrepreneurship

There were times when some of India’s leaders had the will, but not all the means to make it happen. Today, there are probably many ways to address this issue within a 10-year timeframe, but a vision, leadership and of course, the will, is obviously missing.

The one ray of hope is the phenomenal power of India’s educated youth. I know they are entrepreneurial (Tarun Khanna, a Harvard Professor claims billions of entrepreneurs here and here!) with the will and capability to take the best from around the world and mix it with the best of India’s past to revolutionize its future. May the almighty bless my wish to come true soon!

PS: Think Change India is a wonderful place to check out and keep track of growth in social entrepreneurship in India, specifically around agriculture.

Firing the hungry spirit of rural children

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

My next article for ThinkChangeIndia is available here. This time I had the opportunity to speak to another Ashoka Fellow, Ramji Raghavan, who runs the Agastya Foundation in India. He has started an organization that directly serves rural children’s creative needs. Among other things, Agastya operates mobile science museums, an innovative idea, since the core problem is the reach. Agastya takes the science museums to the children in rural schools, instead of expecting them to visit them. You can read more in the article and through their website.

Article of DHAN Foundation

Monday, January 11th, 2010

My next article for ThinkChangeIndia on DHAN is online. I had not heard of DHAN before and it was edifying experience to research and write about them. For over two decades, they have been doing some phenomenal grassroots work, getting thousands of people out of poverty. I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the senior staff there, including the head, Mr. Vasimalai and I must say it was an eye opening few hours worth of discussion. The extended version of the article and recording of the interviews is available for anyone who might be interested (email s k c h a r y @ y a h o o . c o m)

Classes in Boxes

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

I wrote an article about the Digital Study Hall project for ThinkChangeIndia. Its a fascinating project that is attempting to blend digital technology with rural classrooms in India. I know it sounds far-fetching, but its actually working. You can read the full article here.