workworkworkSHOP! prelim report

Well, I did it! Or rather, I ~helped~ to do it, because the workshop I designed was really undertaken by a fantastic team here at Dilasa (aka everyone who helped me overcome the language barrier and took care of logistics, finding local language videos, and buying supplies). So, in complete honest, I just came up with a halfway decent proposal that was totally revamped and then made a nice PowerPoint to go along with it. I also did the original talking and explaining, but for most participants that was probably more entertainment that education due to the language barrier. Regardless, it was still everything that I could have wanted and much more on top of that. Today is the last day, and the women will present any ideas for their farms or villages to manage their water resources more sustainably or adapt to climate change, but the content of the workshop has been completed.

Some information covered:

  • The changing water situation in Waghola, India more broadly, and the world (with a spotlight on California!)
  •   Climate change and global warming
  • Innovations and traditional techniques in agriculture
    • Returning to native seeds and integrated pest management
    • Soil sensors
  • “Wicked” problems (just a very short run through) 
  • Design thinking as a framework
  • Women making change on Indian, and global, farms  

Topics the women were assigned:

  1. Yield versus irrigation in cotton farming (Waghola’s main crop alongside maize) with drip versus flood irrigation – more crop per drop! 
  2. Group farming to adapt to climate change 
  3. Changing cropping pattern to increase soil health and adapt to climate change
  4. How to increase recharge of water
  5. How to address poor soil
  6. How to increase the profitability of farms and crops
  7. Adapting to climate change: how and with help from who?

In a day or two I’ll post a final report/conclusion on the workshop and some reflections. But, I’m sure I will have a lot to talk about, so I decided to split it up into two segments! And, stay tuned for pictures. For now, here’s some insights and challenges through the process

Insights & Surprises

  • Only about 25% of the farms in Waghola use drip irrigation. Drip has become super popular in dry environments – invented in Israel it, can be credited with a lot of the process of turning a desert into the land of milk and honey – and I was under the mistaken impression that it was very common throughout India (also because it’s noticeable where it is present) 
  • Although the village certainly has a long way to go in terms of becoming more efficient and water-friendly, the villagers are all acutely aware of how the rains are changing and constantly complained that the biggest obstacle for change was a lack of technical expertise. They don’t know how to implement these water-saving techniques or technologies, and being handed some equipment without any training means the tools go to waste or aren’t properly maintained
    • One villager was so aware of the rains that he literally cited the period between 1974 and 1990 as a time of very good rains. Then, in 1991, it all changed
  • The videos on climate change struck a chord with the participants; it seems most of them had not realized just how widespread of an issue drought and changing climate is. The videos of the women farming successes also seemed to be the most impactful (female empowerment, yeah!)
  • The women were not only willing to take home assignments, but more comfortable doing so
    • The first group activity/discussion/”ideation” session that I wanted to do, the women asked if they could just take it home and work on it there within their groups – this is the part where being flexible with any agenda comes in 😊
  • Any program with women must accommodate all the kids of course! I was surprised at how separate the kids were though. While some of the little ones sat directly with their moms, most of them were relegated to the back and sides (on the floor, and not the rug in the middle) and constantly hushed.
  • Speaking of the kids, everyone kept calling me Ma’am or Madam and it’s still a bit…weird for lack of other words. I also had a mini fan club of girls that would get to the hall really early and then shake my hand every night, congratulating me (I think they might not know they should just say goodnight instead of congratulations). That did make me feel extra cool though 

Challenges

  • Availability of/reliance on electricity: initially plugging in the projector switched off the electricity 
  • Time: the villagers are extra occupied as this is the planting season and women especially have the additional burden of caring for the children and the home
  • Language: Names not speaking Marathi prevents me from fully engaging with the participants and forces me to wholeheartedly rely on my translator (who, thankfully, I fully trust for accuracy and positive embellishment). Again, this is part of why I felt so uncomfortable – for lack of a better word – when I came to India. I have never been in a place where the language is so foreign for me
    • This also disrupts the flow of the presentation and makes each segment longer since it must be repeated twice (more or less)
    • No matter how great the translator is, the project or presentation might change a bit in translation without the original presenter really knowing, even just as a result of discussion with participants
    • There’s also ALWAYS that irrational fear of “oh no, they’re laughing at something. It must be me.” That never helps
    • Language, surprise!, also makes names really difficult. Considering the 30+ individuals in attendance, names were no insignificant challenge. On the bright side, it was a great icebreaker for everyone to laugh at my struggles 😊 sometimes it’s good to make a fool out of yourself
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