IntroductionRural folk in India, contrary to public perception, have too much of a knowledge about nature and its properties. They would know far better water conservation, management and utilization, far better than the urban folk. They have a huge amount of native intelligence. Their organic farming methods are now the toast of too many people who have begun to understand what it takes to get back to nature. Simply said, the rural folk can be effectively utilized, as business partners, to revive agriculture and also to set up small businesses in the surrounding towns. Specifically, the trick is to totally involve them in making them evolve their own solutions, using their own resources. In this connection, we can a) make them aware of their own strengths b) get them to know of new opportunities c) help them pool resources d) make them look forward to better strategies and e) consolidate on their own success.
Make them aware of their own strengthsEvery single rural family, need not, and should not, move to the cities. The rural folk have themselves quite a lot of common sense and are shrewd enough to understand the complexities of modern life. However, they lack knowledge of their own strengths and just need some more guidance here. For instance, a group of agriculture graduates from the prestigious Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, (TNAU), Coimbatore, made an impact in three villages near Tiruchirapalli, by helping four agriculture families to switch to planting a variety of lemon trees. This was not difficult to adapt to, and the farmers were pleasantly surprised to see the yield in a short period of time. At the very same time, to help the farmers tide over the interim period survival needs, they secured jobs for their educated sons in a BPO organization at Tiruchirapalli. Between them, the four families had seven sons, all of them of more or less same age, and law graduates. This supplemented their income and the farmers had not even heard of anything called a BPO. The graduates were surprised too, for they imagined that only a great command over English would get them the job. The focus was on the Tamil BPO job and they learned the art of spoken English from a Tiruchirapalli institute as well. The farmers were also helped to grow spinach in one of the farms of half an acre, and the buyback arrangement with seven-gated communities in a particular area of the town helped them get regular income. The boys would support their fathers in marketing too, in terms of delivering the fresh spinach to the gated community residents right before 6.30 AM in the morning.
The key was the confidence with which they took on the new job of doing their own agriculture, but with a new focus. The agriculture graduates, all natives of the town of a small town called Kulithalai (45 minutes from Tiruchirapalli), wanted to identify business potential in that area. They invested money in three more acres of land, all leased from the farmers and grew spinach and tomatoes. It worked. The agriculturists brought in others too, who helped in the venture. In this same fashion, one hears of so many success stories -- all case studies of using native intelligence.
Getting them to know of new opportunitiesIn the aforesaid case study, the farmers were so shy to speak to the residents of the gated communities, thinking that they would speak only in English. This myth was broken and they knew that they could converse in the local language too. Secondly, they were made aware of this golden opportunity of eliminating the middlemen and selling direct. Since the market was assured, the farmers became more confident. For them, the big city seemed to another Chennai. Their misconceptions lead them to not believe that they could market to "educated" people.
Similar misconceptions have to be removed. The urban cooperative banks are doing an excellent job in many places. They are encouraging the rural folk to take jewel loans to set up small businesses in the marketing of agricultural produce, in small businesses such as selling organic fertilizer, or catering or making durable plastic bags. There are NGOs also involved. However, one has to just scale up and ensure that the rural folk understand all the new opportunities and the market realities to utilize all their strengths. The involvement of more NGOs and the students of the Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW), colleges, specializing in community development, is needed in this regard.
Helping them pool resourcesThis is already happening in some pockets of India, as rural folk are fed up with the slow pace of development of their areas. However, in Tamil Nadu, where the literacy rate is slowly increasing in the rural areas too, it has become rather easy to help the rural folks to pool their own resources. For instance, the rural folk have a huge amount of their savings in gold. They often keep in their houses in unsafe conditions. The bankers are now motivating the folks to take regular jewel loans, The money is then utilized to set up small businesses under the self-help group initiatives, for which there are special loans given by co-operative loans. Yes, there is quite a bit of activity, but this ought to become a pan-India practice.
The rural folk can also be encouraged to set up the indigenous methods of rainwater harvesting. This is done rather haphazardly in many places. This also needs to be corrected.
Make them look forward to better strategiesBetter methods of drip irrigation, and seed utilization is already beginning to make an impact. There are other areas too. For example, there is nothing wrong in helping the farmers to enable their first generation learners to become doctors, or chartered accountants and so on. Unfortunately, the rural teachers are ill-equipped to handle the task of counselling in terms of careers. Most of the teachers themselves do not know or are totally uninterested in this area. It is here that the voluntary help of urban professionals is needed. For example, one understands that in even smaller towns like Erode, Hubli, Nellore and so on, there is a big movement towards making the rural students study for their NEET examination, at a reasonable cost. The State Governments should also chip in with their own resources to create more awareness and provide the right motivation.
It is sad with even this kind of advanced information technology facility available, rural folk do not know about career options. Alongside their career guidance, the students also need, pan-India, special coaching in the nuances of spoken and written English. This will go a long way in helping them gain a lot of self-confidence.
Consolidate on their own successOf late, there is an increasing tendency among huge sections of the rural folk to celebrate their success again and again. The process of consolidation is to simply encourage them to do this on an even more consistent basis, by sharing their knowledge with more people on a regular basis. Once this is done, they would be even more self-confident.
ConclusionIt is absolutely foolish to expect every single rural family to migrate to the cities. This would invite more trouble and only destroy their strengths. Instead, their own strengths should be more effectively used to enable them to become better equipped to handle all their challenges. The aforesaid points are some areas where the process of self-confidence building can help. We also need more case studies to understand the nuances of the process, utilizing native methods of teaching and communication for better results.
These days the youth in rural areas are also getting advanced in many ways. Thanks to the evolution of the fastest communication systems and internet. But unfortunately, they are not very much focused. So one should try to make them understand the opportunities available to them and see that they will be in the right direction. For this, the teachers in government schools and NGOs should come forward and educate them in the right direction.
In AP, in a village near Kakinada, the Sarpanch of that village arranged special classes to the educated youth of on the opportunities available to them and he managed to see that all the youth from the village attended the classes. Like this, if the local administrators in other areas can also give it a try.
There are a lot of tools which can improve the lives of the rural people but the only thing is that they are not aware of the basic facts that can strengthen morally and financially. This needs someone having farsightedness in the application of the latest techniques in augmenting the production of different agricultural yields, timely getting financial assistance from the cooperative Banks in procuring loan - both short and long-term at the nominal rates or the facilities providing one the basic needs of the medicines in case of ailment.
The Mukhia / Sarpanch can take leading roles in arranging such classes where the officials connected with the respective fields would turn up to provide inputs to the villagers so that they are conversant with the available schemes provided by the government to ease the lives of the rural people.
The author has illustrated examples how the people of Andhra have been benefited with the exposure of the lessons provided by NGO's and the extension of such coverage would help the villagers of other parts to transform their lives.