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Statutory Warning

This Blog is meant purely as a personal diary of a rural manager in making. It exists to record information, experiences and opinions about various issues encountered in the line of duty. Any person, institution and organization mentioned here don't assume any liability for its contents. This is not a deliberate attempt to defame anyone. And if you have actually read all that is written in the blog and are not mad at me, then thanks for your time and patience !

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014 - Year of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)

I always remember the words of Chinese Premier Deng Xiapong - "It doesn't matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice." So, now NGOs and government are finally coming to the phase of acceptance of market forces in the development sector. Cooperative movement is already a failure except few notable examples. Government has never managed to manage any scheme efficiently. Government are partnering with various professional organizations for setting up new institution in the country - Farmers Producer Company (FPC) / Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO). The legal framework is ready under Companies Act. According to this new law, only farmer – producers can be members of the FPC and the farmer members themselves will manage this company. It takes care of the flaws in the cooperative societies but has also borrowed the strengths of the corporate companies.

FPO/FPC will be dominating in future debates of livelihood and its success depends on implementation and design of the program. Evidences will come for pro and cons of such initiative, no matter how reliable, have to be interpreted. Interpretations can differ, and do differ, and such differences account of explanation. That is a future full of possibilities. I will be updating this space related with FPO. The chart will give an overview of the FPO structure and purpose. It is bit late to post here but Calendar year 2014 is declared as “Year of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)”.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Annual General Meeting of UAPCL

Udaipur Agro Producer Company Limited, UAPCL, is a social-enterprise company focused on strengthening the livelihoods of the community. The organization was registered on June 29, 2010. The company’s main concentration is building the surrounding community through direct collaboration. The company is comprised of 1635 members. Each member is a local farmer mostly small and marginal who owns a share of the company.

UAPCL Annual General Meeting
Share Certificate Distribution
ACCESS Team with UAPCL Board of Directors
ACCESS Development Services is working in the area of livelihood with FPOs (Farmer Producer Orgainzation). Here is a glimpse of Annual General Meeting organized by one such - UAPCL attended by 700 members. Here we see smallholder farmers not as marginal recipients of charity instead as customer entrepreneurs. I will be updating more on FPOs in this space.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Consultant Job

Let me start with a joke: I have a MBA degree and wanna be consultant in future! Does any development organization need consultant ? Yes, they do. Analyst and Consultant form a core area of jobs created in the knowledge economy. Whereas a leader can win people over in an instant due to oration and vision, an analyst can do same with the technical wizardry. But the most over-hyped and over-mocked job belongs to consultant.  Consultants are not brought on to be unbiased. They are hired to confirm a particular bias. There is a popular one line gag on consultant - "If you are not a part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem."

There is always a lot of conferences and consultations on ‘labour rights’ that continue to be held at five star hotels — which for one are known to underpay their employees — without a hint of irony. It may seem wrong, pragmatic, or indecisive and confused? Take your pick. A consultant must focus on collecting data and analyzing the results but always look to field for the ground movements.

Complete package of Engineering and MBA is gradually becoming a shortcut route of becoming a consultant in India. The advantages of a MBA degree isn't really only classroom learning – a degree is easily achievable and online courses available if one wants, it's hidden in network effects and networking opportunities: government, private companies, civil society, and donor agencies. Our classmates are going to form major career networks moving forward. One may say the same for most fields.  I always take words of Henry Mintzberg with bitter pill - "The trouble with ‘management’ education is that it is business education, and leaves a distorted impression of management” & “Not much will to manage, but plenty of zest for business”. ( Managers Not MBAs: A hard look at the soft practice of managing and management development)

I haven't taken MBA degree for fast tracking progress of salary, but to seek a clear relation on public policy and rural India. I want to live as decent human being who engage himself and others substantially in an inclusive development. I don't want to be limited in a AC room as consultant, waiting to speak to field staff who would have nothing but contempt in seeing a waste of financial resource as sunk cost in me. Someone once told me a mantra- "What is difficult in field training will make life easy in a consultant job." I do hope to become a better consultant one day myself.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Volunteer

It's fine to have people working in development sector with degrees from the elite colleges. But even if they are good at statistics and analysis, they cannot be decision-makers without a grassroots experience. Problem with today’s education is that it doesn't have any relationship to the real world.Images get reinforced over time with newspaper, media and cinema. Innocent Villagers, Shrewd Businessmen, Corrupt bureaucracy and Selfish Political leaders become stereotype. Such perception breaks with each intersection and performance in the field.

Living in the village with no other business but to follow native life in the present day of social media buzz and 24*7 connectivity seems bizarre. But one sees the traditions, ceremonies and transactions over and over again. What it leaves one with temporary chaos in the beginning. In addition to fostering mutual understanding, perpetually curiosity and occasionally confused volunteer start to see the way of living of a community. A long stint of month or more can create less-domineering, nonjudgmental volunteers who are not obsessed with the pursuit of the emotional highs (and photo ops) of the altruism they put effort for. It makes volunteer adapt to the culture, to be flexible, relevant and realistic. Even the long times doesn't alter you so much as the people you meet along the way shape you.

True development cannot be heralded without market, intellectual, cultural and scholarly liberalization. The very best mainstream economists/scientists were the radical youths who questioned authority when they were students. An exposure visit can give limited understanding but volunteerism/internship grooms a different aspect of personality. Our rural side has survived without services of elite rich throughout ages. They will survive but a youth needs mixed dose of idealism, activism and academic expertise. The volunteer takes more than what it gives. Giving back can be very good for career. Most of the volunteer/interns end up as consultants in international aid and lending agencies. The opportunity cost seems high in short run but benefits individual and people around.

Some people volunteer because they want mentoring while other for the sake of different experience. Even volunteer experiences work for different people from frustrating to fascinating, depending on their goals and organization policy. Too often, volunteers are thought of as a “nice to have” rather than a “necessary” resource, and facilitating agency / NGO's apply little or no rigor to evaluate their impact. They are not paid due to budget constraint and then termed as priceless instead of unpaid . Communities can mold the young as future change agents and social entrepreneurs.

There are bigger question involved in the business of volunteerism. Is voluntarism ultimately about the fulfillment of the volunteers themselves, not necessarily what they bring to the local communities they visit ? Does an intervention of a volunteer make the cure worse than disease ? Are volunteers/interns unpaid contract labors of NGOs?  An article in Onion ( 6-Day Visit To Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture) mocks volunteers with a hard hitting sense of humor. There is also a  good article showing the narcissistic side of global volunteerism. The articles are full of sarcasm but looking on the positive side, it reminded me of a line by Professor Peter Hayes: "Live somewhere else, on the terms of the people who live there, for six months. It will change your life."


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