Tag Archives: Agricultural Development

Why you need to go beyond the numbers to view rural poverty

In the past decade, much progress has been made in India and people have been justifiably proud of the improving economic situation. While most observers point to the top line numbers that show the number of people living below the “poverty line” has been consistently decreasing, by focusing on just these aseptic numbers, they fail to understand and capture the continuing anguish in the rural countryside. Continue reading

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TIECON Social Enterprise Track Provides New Perspective

For the first time TIECON EAST – TiE Boston’s annual conference on entrepreneurship and innovation – had a dedicated track on Social Enterprise. The three panels in the track – ‘Healthcare Innovation in a Global Village’, ‘IT & Communications for the Developing World’ and ‘Feeding 9 Billion people’ – were all well attended and engaged the attentive audience with the incisive discussions. Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote for Lokvani about the sessions. Continue reading

Reply to comment about Rural Indian Consumer

In response to my recent post on Rural Consumers, Joost Bonsen of MIT commented.

Thanks much for your survey of the rural consumer landscape in India. I’m curious how what you’re observing either reinforces or differs from the Hart-Prahalad BOP thesis and the cases they give, such as Hindustan Lever, etc. Plus how much of the consumer goods sector is dominated by MNCs or affiliates versus homegrowns? And finally, what’s the rural analog to Walmart or the old Sears Roebuck catalog or other innovations in the distribution systems?

I got to thinking about what he had asked and decided to write up a separate post instead of replying as a comment. So here goes. Continue reading

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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