Friday, January 07, 2011

Jagriti Yatra Diary - Agriculture, an ocean of opportunity neglected

Jan 3 - Gijs Spoor from Zameen Organics made a short presentation on the work his company was doing and about his own story. He was originally from Amsterdam, when I quizzed him what he was doing so far away from home, he said he saw the opportunity and decided to take the plunge! He was in India studying agriculture, spurred by the plight of our farmers in Vidharbha, he got into cotton farming there!!

He was a good speaker, comfortably mixing Hindi and English kept us glued to his presentation on his company, their policy on fair trade, emphasis on organic farming and their 'pants for poverty' advertising campaign. He re-emphasised the need to switch to Organic farming - lower input costs hence lower risk if the crop fails due to drought, no chemicals, hence safe on the environment. Check www.zameen.org

We were all quite excited at the opportunity to learn more about the Tatas - one of India's largest businesses. The overall experience was so disappointing, the lesser said the better :(

We arrived in the evening at Jamshedpur, where we were driven to the Rusi Modi centre for excellence at Jubilee park to find one of the panelists for the CNBC TV 18 panel discussion on enabling agro enterprises missing, after a long time a local replacement was found and we got started.

Apart from Gijs Spoor the other panelist was Kaushalendra Kumar of Samriddhi. An IIM-A alumnus, his work on directly procuring agro-produce from the farmers, bar coding them, bringing them to Patna for distribution to various markets etc was creating profit for the disadvantaged and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. His mic was so bad that most of us couldn't understand his words. The third person was from the Jamshedpur university, couldn't get any details.

At the end of the day the re-emphasis by the speakers was striking, agriculture is where an ocean of opportunities lay in India and the youth of the country was neglecting the field.

An amazing dinner courtesy the Tatas later, we were put on buses and started off to we were hoping some quarters inside Tata Steel. While all 240 guys were packed into a room with bed and blankets, the women were less luckier with the bed and blankets, while they had toilets, we didn't :( Certainly the lowest low of TJY 2010, I hope the organisers don't push the bar further!

PS: I'll update the blog with some pictures later
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