Anna's Journey with KVM
Anna Helfers(from Germany) joined KhetiVirasat Mission (KVM)in August 2018 for a project on straw management in Punjab. The project was run by KVM,Center for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) and the Swiss-based institute RanasMosler. Within the project Anna collected data for her master thesis in environmental psychology. She first joined KVM for some weeks at the head office in Jaitu before leaving for a 5 weeks journey through Punjab. I spent two wonderful months working with KVM at Jaitu in a project on rice straw management in Punjab. In the following, I would like to share my experiences on arriving in India, staying at KVM and travelling through Punjab.
The journey to Jaitu takes quite a while. I arrived early morning at Delhi airport and took theFirozpur Shatabti Express from New Delhi Railway Station to KotKapura. At the airport you can directly buy a local Sim-Card. Airtel works best for Punjab and charges 999 Rupees, providing 1.4 GB per day for the following 3 month. I would strongly recommend to get a Sim-Card, as free Wifi is not very common in India. (It takes some hours until the card is activated!)For transportation within Delhi, I recommend using the metro. It is cheap, fast and clean. Also, you can escape the smog and metropoles’ hectic pace for some minutes. In the metro you find “women only” coaches in the front or back of the train, which is especially nice if you are travelling alone. If you travel with baggage, taking a cab might be more convenient. You can book Ola-Cabs in advance and pay the fixed price online. You will identify your driver using a code, provided by the application. My train ticket was booked in advance, including seat reservation and a veg meal, so I only had to find the platform and my coach in the mess of New Delhi Railway Station. The Delhi-trash-belt ends after approximately one hour drive. The train speeds up now and rushes through bright green rice fields. While the sun is setting, you can see buffalos taking their evening bath in ponds next to the railway.Arriving late at night at KotKapura Railway Station, Rupsi from KVM were already waiting to bring me “home”.
The house is located in a quiet and decent part of the small town. Even if the crowded market is only 10 minutes’ walk away, it feels like living on a small island here. In the evening, kids are playing on the streets, letting their kites fly in the warm evening breeze.From the rooftop – a nice place to be alone for some time – you can see the surrounding fields. While joining Rupsi for her daily evening walk, I slowly got to know the whole neighborhood, stopping here and there for a small chat. KVM’s house itself is a co-living-and-working space. Currently Umendra Dutt and Rupsi Garg are the main inhabitants of this house. The walls are plastered with newspaper articles about organic agriculture, the MSP and the big transformation Punjab’s society is running through. In the book shelfs you find books on farming in India, traditional knowledge and political theory. On the billboard upcoming events like “mushroom workshops” or “discussion on rice straw burning” are announced. The environment inspires to discuss about society, nature and human values, finding strong discussion partners and inspiring practitioners within KVM’s staff. At daytime, there is always a rush of staff members and volunteers going in and out. They are working in the office, sorting seeds in one of the rooms, processing crops at the rooftop, and planning upcoming projects... Manju, the housekeeper, is coming every morning to cook tasty homemade organic food for the day, sometimes offering an extra banana-shake and of course some tasty Chai. I shared the room with Rupsi and in the evening hours I could join her for some Gandhi-like spinning.
After two weeks, the field phase of our study began. We left for a 5-weeks road trip across Punjab. Our core team consisted of eight enumerators (students from the Amritsar College of Engineering and Technology), Rupsi and me. For some days we were accompanied by members of the projects’ partner organizations. In total, we interviewed approximately 700 rice farmers.The trip was organized and coordinated by Rupsi, making sure we would always have a decent headquarter to stay and to regenerate after long days in the field.We learned a lot about agricultural techniques and the challenges, farmers face in the different regions of Punjab. KVM has a broad network all over the state. So, we had the chance to meet some KVM-associated farmers in different villages. It was very impressive and inspiring to discuss with them and to learn how they decided to step away from chemical farming.Working and travelling in India is of course sometimes challenging, but travelling in the team helped me a lot to feel safe and comfortable. Farewell: Time was flying. After eight weeks I already had to leave back home. Leaving India was hard. I am already missing the friends I found within this short but intensive time. I hope to see all of them again one day. Thank you, Umendra ji and Rupsi ji, for having such an inspiring time at your organization. I would love to come back one day, to get a deeper insight in KVM’s other projects, to learn about the women-run kitchen garden project, to join for some seed conservation workshops and all the other inspiring projects and ideas KVM is engaged in. Whoever is considering to join KVM for volunteering, an internship or work:You will not only find “a job”, but people who are passionate about their work and who know to combine hard work with a lot enthusiasm and fun.