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Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. - Psalm 82:3

To cater to the needs of the needy, orphaned and downtrodden children, Hermann Gmeiner, an Austrian philanthropist, established the first SOS village in 1949 in Imst, Austria. Since then, the organization has been active and expanding throughout the world. At present, SOS Children's Villages is active in over 133 countries with over 500 SOS Children's Villages and 400 SOS Youth Facilities striving for the welfare of the children in need of care and protection.

In India, the organization caters to over 25,000 children and there are 32 SOS Children's Villages in 22 states in India

 

On the 10th of January, the IARD group of 2019 had an opportunity to visit one of the SOS villages located in Mulayam, thrissur.

Thrissur, also known as Trichur is a hub for economic, educational and cultural activities, where tourism, too plays a vital role in being a source of employment and income generation for many.  Even though the city if progressing, a large portion of people still continue to depend on agriculture and fishing to earn a living. Over the years, the city has seen a rise in the number of people living under poverty. Inspite of attempts to improve the standard of living, but owing to a huge rise in population, there has been an increase in the number of people living in slums and unsound living conditions.

The most affected groups of this condition are women and children, who are seen to be most prone to malnutrition and illnesses such as diarrhoea.

The SOS Children’s Village here started its activities in the year 1983 owing to better the conditions of these women and children. The village mainly takes in children after the age of 5 as before that period, there are possibilities for their adoption. At present, there are over 170 children in 17 family homes, who are living under the care of 11 SOS Mothers, two SOS Aunts and six Mother Trainees.  Each mother gets to take care of 10 children in a single house with all the basic amenities including television sets, refrigerators, and beds to sleep on etc.

The mother basically had to undergo training for two years and only those persons are selected to undergo trainings who has no family of their own or women who do not have the desires to get married. The village mainly consists of Hindu and Christian families. Family is the heart of society. Within a family, each child is protected and enjoys a sense of belonging. Here, children learn values, shares responsibilities and form life-long relationships. A family environment gives them a solid foundation on which to build their lives.

The children all gets proper education, vocational trainings etc. so that they become independent on their own later on in life. The village shelters boys till the age of 12 afterwhich they move to youth houses and all mothers are free to visit their children in the youth house whenever they wish to and so are the youth.

All festivals of national and international importance are celebrated in the village with fervour. On such merry makings, youth, mothers, children and all village co-workers gather together to celebrate; this helps to secure and protect the bond between all mothers and their boys in the youth house.

With the skillset they acquire, the students have to move out of the youth houses at the age of 18 and become independent on their own. This way SOS childrens village shines as a bright light in the otherwise dark futures of the oppressed children which would have been inevitable otherwise.

 

Manjaly, a tiny village in Ernakulam district of Kerala is transected by the Periyar river which serves as the main source of irrigation water. It is one of the places severely hit by the flood that happened during last year in Kerala. Being the second day of the visit, IARD 6020 team was able to visit the fields in the Manjaly village. Manjaly farmers have many specialities in their cultivation. The main crops cultivated include Banana and tuber crops.

                          In case of banana, the main varieties include Nendran and Robusta. They usually go for intercropping of cowpea (on ridges) in between bananas (on furrows) in order to fix nitrogen in  soil as well as to add on the income even if main crop fails due to any unforeseen reasons. Cowpea plant is even trampled into the soil after harvest as green manure and in the next season the ridges are converted to furrows and vice versa.
                         The second important crop was Cassava (Tapioca). They cultivate usually the local variety, Kottarakkara Local which is comparatively a viral mosaic tolerant variety with appreciable yield. In Manjaly, the cassava is planted on ridges to avoid waterlogging. Another peculiarity of cultivation is about the planting time. Usually planting is done during April and harvested by March. But here they plant during August- September  to avoid waterlogging during monsoon rains in June-July and harvest by May when the price is high.
                         Finally we saw the cultivation of Elephant foot yams (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius). He cultivates the local varieties taken from the high ranges. It is planted in the pits taken in the furrows 4-5 inch deep from the surface soil. He uses corm cuttings with single sprout weighing around a kilogram as the planting material. This can give approximately a 6-7 kg corm at harvest.
Some highlights of farming in Manjaly are the liming practice prior to planting, planting tuber crops especially cassava on ridges, intercropping of cowpea with banana etc. Except for the initial tillage (done by tractor), farmers' employ manual labour for rest of the works. According to the farmer we met, he runs a profitable farming.  Since he is also a member of VFPC-K (Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council- Kerala) he has assured markets for his produce. The farming community in Manjaly suffered heavy losses during the flood and in spite of all that, they are back to the track of farming to meet the ends with great struggle. I am sure my friends from Cornell had a great day in the Manjaly village where they might have traced the path of resurrection.

On our way to Cochin, Thrissur, the Value Addition team visited the Ex-service men cooperative society. This society was formed back in 1952 with an aim of helping men, who served the country during the Second World War, rehabilitate and resettle back to their lives. To facilitate their rehabilitation process, the government of India provided the selected ex-service men with 4 acres of land each with which the society (originally comprised of 200 members) decided to use for agricultural purposes.

Harvested Jackfruit

The Ex-service men cooperative society located in Vettilappara, Thrissur is known for jackfruit production. Value addition is primarily a marketing strategy that this society uses in order to capture better prices at local markets.

During our visit, we were able to see raw jackfruit get cut and processed to produce pulp. From this  pulp, various kinds of products such as  juice are made.

 

 

 

Chips made from Jackfruit
The jackfruit pulp is sent to an ice cream processing plant which sends back already made ice cream.

 

In addition to jackfruit processing, the society grows other fruits as well such as passion fruit. It produces crops such as long beans, banana, cassava, and is also involved in rubber tapping.

Passion fruits
Long beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rubber Tapping

 

Banana. Stem
Banana Fiber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What really stood out to me was how they get fiber from a banana stem which is used to make various handicraft products.

value addition team entering in to meat unit

 

this unit operating by Department of Livestock products technology, Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University, this unit used for both academic and research purpose. team interacted with faculty about activities, they were mainly developing meat based products like, beef and chicken pickles, beef keema, chicken samosa etc

beef keema manufactured at meat unit
chicken pickle
beef pickle

department providing training on meat processing cum plant operation for interested individuals to promoting meat processing.

another important activity is processing of meat waste in  to fat which can be used in soap  industry; and production of pet food from meat meal and blood is used for manufacture of blood meal which is rich in nitrogen and used as manure in agriculture

discussion with meat unit faculty

 

observing slaughter house

 

gamma irradiation chamber chart

 

manure prepared from meat meal

 

fat and meat meal extracting unit

 

the unit procures animals from their own farms and Kerala Livestock Development Board (KLDB) and some times from farmers too. they operate unit once in week and they have their own marketing outlets (about 3-4 outlets at different locations) to sell products.

marketing outlet at meat unit

 

 

Tourism is one of Kerala's largest industries, and the Athirapally Falls present a major tourist attraction. This site is not only the largest waterfall in Kerala, it is also surrounded by beautiful, thick green forestry. The Chalakudy Puzha (river) is the origin point of this grand waterfall and is known for its great biodiversity in freshwater fish, such as Cyprinids, Bagrid catfish, and hillstream loaches.

Bukola Anifowoshe (CALS '19) in a handstand position overlooking the scenic Chalakudy Punha.

The Chalakudy Puzha also has an interesting history of local activism. In the past, local communities along the Chalakudy coalitioned to stop the construction of a hydroelectric dam upstream from the Falls, which would have "submerged more than 140ha. of forest, dried up extensive riparian areas downstream and destroyed the Athirapally Waterfall" in addition to destroying the "critical habitat of many important species, including the rare Cochin Forest Cane Turtle, the endangered great Indian hornbill, the lion-tailed macaque and the Nilgiri langur" (KeralaTravels.com).

Unfortunately, in 2016 the Athirapally Hydroelectric Project (AHEP) presented a blow to the local dwellers within this river basin. The project meant forcible diversion of river water that thousands of residents relied on for their sustenance, ie. drinking and irrigation (TheHindu.com). The region's history of environmental activism and resistance puts many of the signs that we saw on the premises into context.

Two of several powerful environmentally-charged signs present at the Athirapally Waterfalls.

 

After visiting Athirapally Falls, the Agricultural Systems and Rural Infrastructure groups visited the Kaada Tribal Community, located in the buffer zone of the Sholayar Reserve Forest. The indigenous community spoke in Malayalam - Kerala’s official spoken language. Our group was introduced to the forest ranger whose work involved monitoring the community on a regular basis. When we first entered the community, much of the place looked barren, with trees that look unorganized and government-built concrete houses that stretched along the sides of the winding road. The community resembled that of a small village, with wooden fences that keep wild animals like elephants out.

Government-built concrete houses with wooden fences
IARD team walking towards the forest homes

 

The family whom we talked to was an elderly woman and her husband, who had two children and two grandchildren.

Family we interviewed in the Kaada tribal community

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When asked about their new “urbanized” life in the forest, we heard both positive and negative responses. Before the government decided to urbanize the tribal community’s way of life, their day-to-day lives involved gathering non-timber forest products, honey (during summer months) and other edible plants as well as walking to the nearby river to collect water. However, with the government’s recent intervention, clean, drinkable water is readily accessible through pipes in their new concrete homes and food, education etc. are provided free of charge.

Forest honey collected by the families in the Kaada tribe

 

While the Indian government’s attempt to urbanize the tribal community has provided them with easy access to relevant necessities, there is a trade-off. By providing food, water, housing, mobile phones and other resources free of cost, I am concerned that this will increase the community’s dependency on the government and prevent them from being self-sustaining. Introducing urban life to the community may seem like a noble activity, but doing so also risks losing a significant portion of the unique indigenous culture that the community has preserved for many generations - more specifically, their inherited ability to self-sustain.

After asking the families themselves, they said that they disliked the concrete houses built by the government 4 years ago - with the reason being that they are uncomfortable with the heat inside their concrete homes. Before the government introduced this change, the tribal families lived in houses made out of bamboo and palm leaves. Although this may seem relatively primitive to urban housing, these houses, in fact, offered better cooling during warm summer nights. In addition, the family revealed that they must live in the concrete houses in order to obtain government support for their necessities. With this requirement in place, it seems like the government is forcing the tribal community to adopt the mainstream urban lifestyle, and while there are benefits in doing so, there are unintended consequences. Although the tribe no longer faces problems mingling with the public, introducing them to urban life may shake the foundation of their unique identity as an indigenous tribe that self-sustains. As such, there is still much to consider when caring for such indigenous communities and ensuring that their unique cultural practices, family traditions, and social norms are preserved.

Glimpse of the tribal community before we entered the complex

 

~Elena Setiadarma

On the second day of touring, the Value Addition team visited Mangala Marine Exim. Mangala Marine Exim prepares and ships frozen seafood exclusively to markets in the US and Europe.

Their products include both farmed and sea caught shrimp, Cuddlefish, and squid, with shrimp being their primary product. While they are located near the coast of Kerala, the majority of their farmed shrimp comes from their own farms in the state of Andra Pradesh while the wild caught is procured through third parties.

With large customers, like Walmart, Mangala Marine Exim is content with the current size of their business and not looking to expand. This took me by surprise because I believe that with an increasing middle class, world wide, tastes are changing and they could tap into a new market through heightened demand for luxury food items such as seafood. Furthermore, frozen seafood would cater to increasing demands for convenience foods. This seems especially applicable in India, where India's middle class has grown from 304.2 million to 604.3 million between 2004 and 2012 (1). However, during our visit, we learned that in India, where seafood is eaten, it can be procured by consumers fresh, very easily, and there is little infrastructure for home refrigeration of any frozen seafood.

Additionally, I was interested in the prospect of entering markets that are landlocked and ones which traditionally do not consume seafood, but Mangala Marine Exim didn't seem extremely interested in this possibility (as previously mentioned, they are content with their current business). However, Cyprian, a peer on the Value Addition team from Uganda, also queried with the idea. He explained that seafood is not widely consumed in Africa and was interested in what it would take to introduce frozen seafood there.

Lastly, during our discussion, we touched on Mangala Marine Exim's CSR efforts. I was surprised as it didn't seem like a topic they discuss or think about much, and CSR is a hot topic in the US. However, they did explain that their efforts are manifested in their farmer training programs and infrastructural support through items like toilets.

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After a discussion about Mangala Marine Exim, in which we discussed the topics and questions above, we were lead on a tour of the processing facilities. The procedure for freezing and preparing the frozen seafood was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and nothing I could ever forget. The operation for shrimp has multiple stages but has steps including the peeling/deveining (only done by women!), the soaking of shrimp in paprika to help retain its color, and a series of freezings to, as Haley Oliver from Purdue University explained to me, ensure the shrimp remains frozen as it enters a series of thaw cycles on the consumer end.

Below, I have attached some photos from the visit.

-Annie Weiss

Peeling of shrimp
Waste from peeled shrimp is used for pill capsules!
Me and Chaitre wearing our hair nets, masks, coats, not-pictured-boots for the tour
Cuddlefish
Shrimp on ice

 

(1)https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/TvcFydQcN6KEFkvdW7BprM/Indias-burgeoning-middle-class.html

 

The value addition team on January 4, 2019 visited the synthite private limited company which is one of the biggest player in the global oleo resin market with a market share of 30 per cent. The firm was more like a monopolist in the industry for more than two years after its establishment and now caters to the plant extracts need of large buyers like the coco cola, KFC, Nestle, other food manufacturing firms, pharmaceutical firms, the perfume industry, and  textile industry. Any industry that depends on oleo resin or AI extraction from plants are depended directly or indirectly to synthite.

They engage literally all the available methods of extraction and extract products from almost any available plant. They buyers just have to specify their requirements - quality and quantity vise and synthite will have the product ready. They offer the best facilities for the workers and is a certified best place to work. The corporate social responsibility wing of the firm is involved in health care, education, sanitation, insurance and housing for the under privileged. To have the first hand experience of the processes and management of such a successful venture was really amazing.

More details about the firm can be collected from theirwebsite: http://www.synthite.com

After a long 22 hour journey, our team comprising of 26 members (Faculty + Staff + Students) from Cornell reached Cochin airport yesterday Jan 4, 19 around 10 AM. The group was amazed at the facilities /infrastructure of Cochin airport. One of our members did not get his bags so after the necessary paperwork everyone was met by the big smiles of Sathguru folks (Hema and Pradeep) who escorted us to the bus. We did a quick check in had lunch and all the 3 groups were off to their respective field trips. The sunshine and the walk in the fields kept us all awake.  In the evening we had orientation and a great lecture on India's advances and future challenges in meeting its food needs for the next century by Vijay from Sathguru.

We are encouraging students at CU and India end to regularly post their blog on this site by adding their daily impressions on the visits plus some good pictures so that you all can get an idea of our daily activities.

Best wishes for the new year

KV

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