On July 12, 2014, NSLI-Y students in Pune, India went to Baramati Farm, an NGO trust that works as a farm cooperative in rural Maharashtra. During the day they learned how the farm trust has worked to use cutting edge, sustainable farming techniques in an arid region. A branch of the organization also helps to support farmers' wives in micro-finance efforts. Many of the women in Baramati make and sell spices in small cooperative groups while receiving small loans from banks. The students met with ten of these women who explained in Hindi how they help to support their families through this work. NSLI-Y student Sophia shares her reflection about the excursion below:

Our first group excursion and taste of rural India was Baramati farm, a popular agrotourism destination about three hours from Pune. We departed by bus early in the morning and watched the entertaining Bollywood movie, "Om Shanti Om," to pass the time en route. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a farm fresh breakfast and tour of the grounds. We learned how at Baramati, they engineer super-crops, by splitting the stems of saplings and binding them to stronger, faster growing stalks so that they grow together to make a stronger plant. They use this process to increase the farmers' profits and specialize the trees. I still don't quite understand how they can create mango trees with a different kind of mango on each branch, but this was something they are able to do.

We saw fields and orchards of sugar cane and mango, pomegranate, jackfruit, and custard apple trees. We also saw animals on the farm, including cows, goats, chickens, and silk worms. We visited the flower nurseries and learned about thte farm's irrigation system. It took all of our will power to resist the urge to jump into the well on such a hot, humid day. We were all relieved to go into the air conditioned visitor center to watch a short film on Baramati's history and impact on the surrounding community. Later, we took a tractor ride, which doubled as a game of limbo because we frequently had to duck under low hanging branches. We also took a bumpy ride in the beautiful bullock cart.

After lunch, we visited a women's self-help group, or co-op, in a nearby village. The women told us about how their business works. They each made a down payment to join the group, which takes out a very low-interest loan to get a business on its feet. The women sell crafts and spices and save the profits. Any member can borrow from the group in their time of need, like to fund a child's wedding or education, or a medical procedure. At the end of five years, the women split the remaining profits. They explained how the co-op has empowered them and made them less financially dependent on their husbands. The group enabled one woman to get her college degree, and now she hopes to pursue a PhD in Hindi. It was incredible to interact with these women. Our discussion left me very uplifted and inspired.

  • Sophia, NSLI-Y India, Summer 2014