After an early breakfast we left Mumbai for a 3.5 hour drive to tour Syngenta Foundation Villages located at Jawahar in the Thane District. The drive took us up into the arid hills through many small villages. Although the fields were bare now, this district is a traditional rice growing area in the monsoon season from June to September. In the dry season villagers make bricks from the heavy red clay soils, and take hay stored in stacks and bale it with the help of oxen, to be sent as feed to the cities. We arrived at the Syngenta facilities at 11:00 a.m. where we were welcomed with a hot drink and a quick orientation. The Syngenta Foundation Villages partner with NGOs that have the common goal of helping small land-hold farmers of 1-2 acres, explore new opportunities for their lands in the dry, non-monsoon season. The hopeful outcome is that the farmers have a new source of revenue to keep them on the land and not migrating to large cities like Mumbai.
After the orientation meeting we loaded into 5 land rovers to travel the rural roads and see the farmers’ projects. Each project involved 4-8 farmers using new technologies like drip irrigation, mulching and shade covers to grow new crops from tomatoes to gourds to jasmine and cabbages. For only being in the second year of the project the AALP class saw some beautiful, well tended produce. All the Indian farmers agreed that the new technologies and teaching has made their farms more viable. These farmers truly are leaders pioneering new techniques and sharing their learnings with neighbouring farmers. The highlight of the day was interacting with the wonderful, friendly people of the villages, some of whom had never met with white people before! As we head back to the booming night life of Mumbai we remember that the villagers we met will be safely inside to avoid the prowling tigers and leopards of a countryside night.
Steve Palmer, Adam Garniss – AALP Class 14 bloggers