Most of the time, I feel inspired when I come back from my field trips. Especially the previous trips to Kenya, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso have been inspiring. I had the privilege to talk to dozens of farmers on practical techniques they adopted to cope with the changing environment.
In Africa, most of these stories were encouraging, positive, with a "rolling up our sleeves"-attitude. Not so for my India trip. Not much of that "rolling up our sleeves", and me not feeling invigorated.
I realize I only saw a small part of India, and my views are just snapshots, fragmented and highly subjective. Even though it was my third or fourth trip, the time I spent there was nothing but a mini-flash of the whole picture which India represents.
We flew into Hyderabad, where I gave training sessions about social media on the ICRISAT campus, an oasis of calm and peace in a hectic Hyderabad. I loved that part of the trip. Truly inspiring to see the other side of the "food chain": the nonprofit agricultural research.
Then we flew to Delhi, drove to Punjab for interviews with farmers, drove back to Delhi, flew to Bihar for more farmer interviews, and flew back to Delhi.
Much of my impressions are the same as those I retained after my visits ten years ago: hectically busy on the streets, people wherever you look, cars honking endlessly and purposely, smoking chimneys wherever you look, smog, dirt almost everywhere.
I don't think I saw a single river which was not filled with crap. I don't think I stood at any point where I could say "this is rural". High-tension electricity poles, mobile phone towers and factories about everywhere.
Luckily, it was winter, and the temperatures were low to moderate. In Delhi and Punjab, a mist-slash-smog hung over the cities. While we did the interviews with farmers in Punjab, against the bright green wheat fields, topped with a white misty sky, I thought I could be standing in a field back home in Belgium, during spring. Not much of a difference at first glance. At least not on the surface.
But there are things on the surface and then there are things below the surface.
(to be continued...)