Category Archives: Agricultural Development

International Development Design Summit

Yesterday I attended the final presentation of the International Development Design Summit at MIT – the brainchild of Amy Smith, MacArthur Fellow and lecturer in MIT’s Mechanical Engineering department. This, now yearly, event brought together nearly 60 students from 20 countries around the world to work together with a team of mentors and staff to tackle a number of design problems facing NGOs and non-profits in developing countries. Continue reading

Vigyan Ashram – A Hidden Rural Education Jewel

I had the opportunity to visit Vigyan Ashram in February. Vigyan Ashram is a residential rural education center founded 25 years ago by Dr. Shrinath S. Kalbag in a hamlet outside of Pune. I was fortunate to have gone to school with his son Ashok Kalbag, who took me on a tour of the place. Over the years, Vigyan Ashram has significantly changed the local economy, providing livelihood to many in the region while training scores of youth and making them self sufficient. More importantly, it has now been formalized as a regular course on Rural Technology and taught at 25 schools in the state of Maharashtra.  An article I wrote about the place appeared in Lokvani in March.  You can see more photos about the Ashram by clicking here.

Vigyan Ashram – A Hidden Rural Education Jewel, Raj Melville, Lokvani.com, 03/17/2008

Three hours from Mumbai and an hour off dusty side roads from the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, lies the tiny village of Pabal. Here, twenty five years ago Dr. Shrinath S. Kalbag ventured forth to setup Vigyan Ashram an experiment in teaching rural youth through a curriculum of non-formal education. Today, Vigyan Ashram stands as a shining example of an organization that is helping revitalize the rural Indian economy through appropriate training and education.

After completing a Ph. D from the University of Illinois, Dr. Kalbag returned to India and pursued a successful research career eventually heading Hindustan Lever’s Engineering Sciences Department. In 1982, hoping to apply his scientific training to help India’s rural population, Dr. Kalbag quit his job and began to look for a place where he felt he could make a significant impact. He chose Pabal as it was a drought prone village lying in the ‘rain shadow’ of the Western Ghats. He hoped by living and working with the villagers, he would be able to understand their needs and to help them improve their livelihood. When he first moved to the area in 1983, the village consisted of a dirt road and a few farm houses. He setup Vigyan Ashram on a barren hillock on some land donated by the Government of Maharashtra.

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BAIF Development Research Foundation – Sustainable Development To Support Rural Families

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend a month in India and visited several NGOs while there. One of the innovative organizations is BAIF (Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation) that originally was founded in a village outside of Pune, and is now at a number of locations in India.

I visited their operations outside of Hubli in Northern Karnataka state and wrote an article about their work for Lokvani.com, the e-magazine for the Indian community of New England.I have reproduced the article below. You can see some of the pictures I took on the Photos Tab of this Blog.

BAIF Development Research Foundation – Sustainable Development To Support Rural Families, Raj Melville, Lokvani.com, 06/12/2008

The dry ground, baked hard and crumbling, stretches out all the way to the horizon as we rattle along in a Sumo 4-wheeler a half hour out of Hubli in Karnataka State. A few scrawny bushes, struggling against the wind and heat, dot the landscape. Our host, Dr. Bhat from BAIF, points out some of the geographical features as we pass through several villages, each one smaller than the previous one. Finally we pull over in front of a compound and hop off as Dr. Bhat proudly points out the cluster of buildings that are BAIF’s rural training center.

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