Thursday, 26 January 2012

GRA Camp: Report of 2009 Summer Camp at Gujrat

Place of Camp: Amul, Oreva and Kutch (Gujarat)
Duration of Camp: 5 days, 24-29 April, 2009

A general idea of GRA camp is that of visiting and staying in villages to understand their lifestyle, conditions, problems, solutions practised (and if possible, provide suggestions), etc. through a direct exposure in a participatory manner. The summer camp 2009 was aimed at giving an exposure of India's technological marvels through its village based cottage industries and an insight into certain existing industrial models working to solve the problem of unemployment in India. The camp took us through Amul, India's largest co-operative system; Oreva, an Industry based on labor intensive production; and the traditional cottage Industries of Kutch (Gujarat).
Amul, the Co-operative System
While the last 6 decades saw the dwindling of farming communities in the West, largely due to the mass production ideology, in the heavily populated India evolved a cooperative strategy, popularly called Amul, to sustain the dairy communities. Apart from getting to know the history and evolution of Amul, the trip also gave a glimpse of the system at work. Amul is not just about Milk collection, but it starts there. The instant payment to farmers, the education of farmers about milk quality, the cattle feed plant for nutritious food for cows and bu aloes, the arti cial insemination, cost-e ective animal health care and accessible veterinarians are some signi cant building blocks which have sustained villagers' faith on Amul. On the other side the collected milk undergoes a world-class technological setup in the form of storage and processing to be converted to
numerous milk products that are widely known. A visit to the milkman of India, Dr.Kurien's house within the Amul premises, showed the impact he and Amul had made to the world over, in the form of hundreds of awards.
The learning in this case was in the form of a detailed presentation by the PRO of Amul, a factory walk-through and a visit to Navli village near Anand.
Oreva Factory and the Village Women
The second day of the camp took us to Ajanta's Oreva factory in Bachau, Gujarat. It was a perfect example to prove the viability of labor-intensive production even in the electronic Industry. The factory works on the
Gandhian ethos of `production by masses' and employs rural women largely in the age group of 18-25. The rural women bene t from the nancial option they get by working for a few years before their marriage. The challengeis to provide the village women with a system which gives enough faith to the conservative villagers to send them. The Oreva management does this in the form of a strict transport and hostel system. The hostel stay shows them a world beyond their villages and exchange of new ideas with coworkers.
On the other hand, employing women has some obvious advantages. The less distraction compared to
the men and hence a better e ciency. But the fact that most women don't wish to work after marriage are some factors.
The learning in this case was in the form of talk/discussion with the HR of Oreva, visit around the assembly units and discussion with the working women.
Shrujan and Kutchi handicrafts
Traditionally, the arid Kutch region has been very rich in its handicrafts, given that agriculture is next to nothing. But the artists' works largely stay within their houses or villages. Back in 1969, motivated by the idea to give a continuous income for the Kutchis, Chandaben Shro envisioned to bring the embroidery art of the locals to the world. After lots of visits and persuasions, Chandaben could get the villagers work with alien designs and colours, more suitable for customers around the world in the form of exhibitions and showrooms. Forty years on, today Shrujan's e ort covers 3500 artisans spread over 125 villages around Bhuj.
Shrujan's e orts is not about the 3500 artisans, but about the change in the mindset of the artisans to make
use of their tradition in a changed world. Today a number of NGOs work in the Kutch region supporting di erent handicrafts. A number of exhibitions in the region (including one in the dusty Bhujodi village) provides the Kutchis a platform to display and sell their works. TheKutchis also travel the world over to display their skillsbefore a wide variety of audience.
The learning in this case was through long discussion with the HR of Shrujan, understanding Shrujan's back-
end works, visits to Sumrasar village to see Shrujan at work, visits to Bhujodi village to see other handicrafts at work etc.
The Life that we saw
More than the handicrafts, the Kutch region is famous for the arid climate and the 2001 earthquake. The
trip provided us a glimpse of the life of people post earth quake, and how they survive the extreme weather. Thiswas in the form of visits to Bhujodi village near Bhuj and in Ghordi village in Banni region.
The 2001 earthquake still remains in the minds and eyes of the Kutchis. But a little bit more talk would reveal that they have come a long way to shrug-o the sorrow and moved forward. The discussion with the villagers showed that in ample evidence in the form of their determination, as the team split into three and moved around Bhujodi. The post-earthquake renovation, apart from bringing in infrastructure unseen before, also brought in factories and special attention to the Kutchi handicrafts. The villagers remark that the earthquake was a blessing in disguise with a wry smile.
As we go through the arid Kutch region, especially the \In nite Runn of Kutch", it feels like to have landed
in an alien world. But the visit to Ghordi village in the Banni region, the discussions with the Sarpanch Miya
Hussain and a walk around the village gave glimpses of life there. The discussions with the Sarpanch gave a detailed picture of how the villagers manage the day to day life, in a far more peaceful manner than imaginable in the cities. It was a great surprise to nd that there is hardly any water crisis, even though the region hasn't received rainfall for the last 2-3 years, largely due to the innovative methods employed. It wasn't then a surprise that 2001 earthquake hardly had an impact here due to the Kutchi Bhungas'(huts) architecture.
As we Close
The Camp provided the largely city dwelling fresh minds into the true living of the rural world, breaking a
number of misconceptions on the way. The experiences and the brainstorming at the end of every day gave them an appreciation for the learning beyond classrooms and fundae sessions. For the experienced heads, it provided some new opening of thoughts. A detailed camp report is available at the GRA website.

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