Monday, March 22, 2010

Visit to Darin (Uttar Pradesh)

An early morning view in Darin

As a Business Development Fellow with Driptech’s India office through LGT – Venture Philanthropy’s “iCATs Program,” I went to Darin, a small village in Uttar Pradesh, to learn the nuances of agriculture and explore village life as part of my work.

Sunil, the driver, who is a resident of Darin, was my primary source of contact for this village. I stayed at his place, a "kothi." These are like row houses, typically having two to three floors. Soon after reaching Sunil’s kothi, I left to meet the farmers in the village.

I have learned and heard over the years that villages and villagers in India are generally poor. Now, however, the goverment is buying the farmers’ property for city planning. Darin has been proposed to become incorporated into the city planning of “Super Noida.” Many in the village have recently seen a lot of money due to a steep rise in prices as a city is being planned around their villages. People who at one time struggled for a square meal a day are now feeling almost rich.

This was the first thing that struck me. The first farmer I met there had just sold half his agricultural land for Rs. 14 million, the equivalent of about $31,000. He still continues his work as a part time farmer on his remaining property and as a laborer for others at Rs. 200 a day, about $4.40. Like many others in the village, he is extremely down to earth and does not want to change his lifestyle, which he has been born to and brought up in. For this reason his house is still very basic and not crowded with materialistic things. It had only recently been roofed and still had no basic amenities.

A village storehouse

“We do not have any water shortage,” was one of the first things I heard from an elderly farmer, clearly not taking a long term perspective. Farmers rely on rains during monsoons. Due to the increasing shortage of rainfall every year, these farmers have been forced to keep going deeper into their tube wells for water the rest of the year. Also, there are times in summer when they do not cultivate a part of their land due to water shortage.

Even though they have been able to find water, they need to use the diesel pump to water the fields. The village does not have power for more than 12 hours a day. Generally with all the diesel costs and limited power, it costs them a fortune. “A farmer operates on no profit, no loss. He is into farming because he has land to do so,” said another farmer. After further questioning, I realized they end up with Rs. 800 profit, about $17.60 , every harvest which does not include their own labor charges. Other than this Rs. 800 that they earn, they are able to get enough food to sustain their family.

"Baithak" (meeting) of the elderly

Interestingly, when explained in detail, a lot of interest in Driptech’s product was shown by the farmers. These people knew the value of technology and time. They realized that drip irrigation could really save them a lot of water and diesel, in turn providing better income levels.

It was an interesting two day field visit for me with hopefully a lot more to come.

Mustard Plantation ready to be harvested

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