A Week in Orissa

Posted on November 11th, 2009 by


This past week we began our third course, “Environment Ecology and Livelihood,” with a morning flight and a 4-hour jeep ride to our destination in Orissa, a state on India’s east coast. We stayed with an NGO called WIDA whose mission is to aid in the development of the surrounding villages. They welcomed us warmly (hospitality in India never ceases to amaze me) and gave us a tour of the organization’s facilities for farmers—a mill, a garden that serves as an agricultural model, and a lab for testing nutrient quality in soil and other things. The next day we had the opportunity to see the sustainable agriculture model put into practice in several different village communities, as well as a small hydro-electric dam. We also had a group discussion with the villagers there.
Later in the week we split again into two groups and had an overnight stay in two different villages. For a couple days, they adopted us into their communities. It was a great chance to interact more closely with the people we are learning from. In Putsil, we got a full tour of the fields and forests: we saw papaya, jackfruit, lemon, tapioca, and blackberry trees bordering plots of turmeric, ginger, and garlic. We walked through terraced rice paddies and learned about the variety of medicinal plants collected from the forest. Later we sat and exchanged information about climate change in our different parts of the world, shared songs, and experienced some traditional dancing. They enjoyed watching us do the hokey pokey (it’s a lot less dorky when done to tribal Indian drum beats).
We returned to WIDA and went out to observe megaprojects in the area: several large dams and bauxite mining by NALCO. We discussed the positive and many negative impacts of these projects on the environment and on the people in the area.
On our final night at WIDA, our friends from our village stays came to the NGO where we had a fabulous dinner together, shared music, and danced together one more time. Before catching a train to Hyderabad, our group got to spend a couple of hours at the beach.


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