Juli – August 2014
by Christina Dietze & Julien Weber
We, Christina Dietze and Julien Weber, have had the chance to do a six-week internship with WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust) in Ahmednagar, India. This report gives an insight into our experience at the NGO and in India.
WOTR is an Indian NGO, founded in 1993 to initiate inclusive watershed developments, and has since evolved into organising many more programs for poverty reduction, especially in the context of climate change adaptation. WOTR describes itself as having hands-on experience and a participatory approach, while maintaining a big network of programs and resources; currently they are active in several hundred villages in 7 Indian states. Projects include, inter-alia, women empowerment groups, health and education promotion, and sustainable livelihood activities (Their website features a good overview of their projects: http://wotr.org).
Before the internship, we received little information about our actual work, as this was decided together, two days into the internship in a more laissez-faire approach, but the information about accommodation and other organisational matters was sufficient. The transportation from Mumbai (Airport) to Ahmednagar turned out to be trickier. Since we arrived very late in the night, we got a shared-taxi to Pune and from there, a bus to Ahmednagar (not all bus drivers/controllers speak English). The way from the bus station to the office is rather easy once you know it, but for the first time it is useful to tell the rickshaw drivers “Social center/Sampada trust or behind the market” (which is the building opposite of the office). 2 For the duration of the internship, we could stay in WOTR’s guesthouse, located opposite of the office, which was very convenient to get to work. The guesthouse’s facilities are basic, but it has western-style toilets and showers with hot water about 4 days a week. The dormitories (separated by gender) sometimes have to be shared with other visitors, who for example have a training session or do research at the office. Concerning our work, we first were given the opportunity to get to know WOTR and the projects more in detail. WOTR did not have any pre-set agenda, but they let us chose to do some research in an area of our interest. We settled for writing about community land, wild edibles, and women empowerment. In order to gain an understanding of WOTR’s work, we visited several villages that had programs related to our interests. We spoke to villagers and collected some information about them and the changes happening around, as well as the impact of WOTR programs. It was very moving to listen to the people living in these villages. We met a lot of people greatly helped by WOTR, who would run leaps and bounds for the motivation of the NGO, as they were helped with the availability of water, in producing school material, or with empowerment in social groups. But, we also visited one more rural village that has not been part of WOTR’s projects for very long, where some people were less optimistic about the opportunity provided by WOTR, especially after failed government intervention in some form or the other. At the office, we would usually start working at 10 am with our own laptop until around 6 pm. At around 11 am and 3 pm, tea was provided for everyone, which quickly got us into the habit of drinking tea. At around 1.30 pm, we would have a lunch break with everyone, we got our lunches from the nearby mess (who cooked for some of the neighbourhood), where we also often went to in the evening. At the big road (with the bus stand), there are several more restaurants that also offer good food for little money. We also always bought some fruits at the market and water/cookies at a small shop next to the market.
We have made incredible experiences and made a lot of friendships. The people we have met were amazingly warm and nice; they were really interested in our culture and habits and offered to show theirs. And even though most people 3 outside the NGO in Ahmednagar do not speak English, they did their best to make us feel comfortable and share the perks of Indian culture and life. During one of our last evenings, the people from the mess even invited us to celebrate a small festival that turned out to be an amazing experience. During the (European) summer months (July to September), it is rainy season in India, which means that it is not too hot, but that the sky is usually very cloudy and it often rains one or two hours a day. Mosquitos are also very present, which makes a strong anti-insect spray important. During the internship, we often used the weekends to travel to some surrounding places and do some sightseeing; the MSRTC buses are useful for reaching most cities around Ahmednagar (travel in some buses is an adventure as well). After our internship, we went on to travel for three more weeks through north-western India, which was a completely different experience.