ANTHRA – Experience Report 2016

July – August 2016

by Liliane

Anthra – the organization

Anthra is a non-profit organization, which was founded in 1992 by a group of women veterinary scientists. The organization focuses on issues of livestock development in the context of sustainability and works mainly with marginalized communities of farmers-dalits, pastoralists and landless groups. Thematically, Anthra is specialized on farming systems, crops and fodder as well as medical plants and health care traditions. Hereby the organization targets the protection and distribution of indigenous knowledge provided by the communities. Anthra has two offices; one in Hyderabad and one in Pune. During my internship, I was in the office in Pune.

My work at Anthra

Right in the beginning of my internship I was introduced to all current projects, so that I could choose which one I wanted to work for. I decided to work for a project focussing on a food exchange, of which the idea is to bring nutritious and healthy excess food from the rural poor to the urban poor. Being an entirely new project to the organization, my task was to do research and come up with ideas, how the according business model should look like. As this required having knowledge about the communities, and especially their habits, I accompanied my colleagues on their regular field trips to the communities. Here I did not only get in contact with the communities and learn about their culture, also I saw a lot of the state of Maharashtra.

As the project progressed, I joined for a special field trip in order to interview local communities about their willingness to contribute to our project. This field trip was especially interesting as we visited two villages working completely differently to each other. Here we did not only learn that there is indeed an interest to contribute to the project, we also gained further information which was of special value for the project. Hence, visiting these villages was a special experience for me. Generally, the work at Anthra offered me the opportunity to enter topics completely new to me. Not knowing the cultural context, I was very happy to have friendly and supporting colleagues, who answered my questions and helped me, when I faced a challenge. Besides working together, I spent lot of time with them after work or on weekends, where they took me for little city tours or to great eateries.

Living in Pune

During my 5-weeks stay, I lived in an apartment Anthra organized for me. Fortunately, it was located just across the road of the office in a residential building. The apartment was very nice and offered everything one needs. Also contrary to what I was told by Gateway to India, I was not supposed to pay any rent for my accomodation. Regardless of the amenities and although I was told, that the building and the area is safe, I did not feel very comfortable at first, as I lived alone and did not know anybody else in the building. Also there were quite many power breakdowns due to heavy monsoon rains. However, after some days I got used to it and started to enjoy my neighbouring area with all the great eateries located near to my house. Contrary to all prejudices, I felt very safe when walking around alone, as the people were very friendly.

As my apartment was located a 45-minute rickshaw ride away from the city centre, I stayed in my neighbourhood during the week and only went to explore the city on weekends. However, when going to the city and taking a rickshaw, I always made sure that someone in the office knew where I was planning to go. I also always carried my address written in English and Hindi with me, which turned out to be very useful when going for little trips to the city and negotiating with rickshaw drivers. In comparison to other places in India, Pune is a rather safe, yet busy city, representing the new India. There are many universities, theatres and shopping malls and a crowded city centre. Although there are various commercial sites, the centre is located around MG road, where I went a few times to do some shopping and try food. Also there is an old market, where you can find almost everything for almost nothing. This is a fun place to go, as you can experience the vibrant and colourful Indian culture at its fullest.

The time I was in Pune, was the time monsoon hit Maharashtra. Although it was told monsoon was not as bad in Pune, the rain was quite heavy and steady, creating a challenge to dry laundry and wet shoes. However, after three weeks, the rain faded leaving behind a beautiful green Pune.

Conclusion

With all the food I tasted, the people I met, the culture I saw, the things I learned, the sounds I heard and the daily challenges I faced, my stay in India was an incredible experience I will never forget. India is an extremely fascinating country with lovely people, great food, vibrant colours and a lot of spice. Also the organization was very nice and took good care of me. Whenever I had a question or a problem they were happy to help me, making me feel safe and taken care of. Although I waited almost three years to be confident enough to get into the adventure India, going to India turned out to be an eye-opening experience allowing to expand my horizon and making it one of the most valuable things I have ever done. Concerning the internship and the organization I was very happy and can definitely recommend it. However, as I was the only intern at that time, I would strongly suggest to go with a friend, making traveling and exploring a bit easier.