What I’ve Learned from GRAVIS

As a teacher and a geographer, I have always taken a keen interest in education, the environment, and its conservation, with a special focus on agriculture. In these fields of my interest, particularly the latter, GRAVIS has been my teacher for the past five years.

Now, at first glance, it may seem as if learning from an organisation devoted to improving livelihoods in rural India is like acquiring nostalgic, slightly obsolete knowledge, considering that we live in a highly modern world. After all, there is no time for subsistence farmers in a globalised economy with industrialised agriculture and rapid advances in technology, is there?

I truly believe this time should be made available and I value my teachers at GRAVIS so deeply because they make time and resources available for those left behind. In these times, where quantity comes before quality, where money is prioritised over nature, and where basic human needs are all too often taken for granted, GRAVIS serves as the voice of the people whose livelihoods still need improving.

By understanding that uplifting those in need can only be done in its own time, by employing indigenous knowledge and working with the people for the people, GRAVIS holds the unique key to linking local wisdom to modern knowledge and thus to unlocking a new, brighter future for rural Rajasthan.

National and international efforts at improving livelihoods have come and gone. Hoping for a Green Revolution has left many areas with nothing but hopelessness. Irrigation projects, GM seeds, and foreign varieties of plants and animals can be seen as other examples of short-lived, large-scale attempts at quickly revolutionising India’s agriculture. These giant projects have often ended up alienating the rural farmers from their most precious assets: the meagre arable land they have to cultivate and their indigenous techniques and knowledge for doing so. Additionally, these projects and efforts were costly, not tailored to the needs of the local ecosystem and its people. If success did not materialise within short project periods, these efforts were abandoned.

GRAVIS, on the contrary, is looking for and employing sustainable ways of improving livelihoods. Its holistic approach at the grassroots does not seek a quick solution and an easy way out. As a geographer, I cannot but highly regard GRAVIS’ wisdom because they never look to solve an issue in a complex system by linear intervention. They understand the interconnectedness of our environment and its people and are willing to look at all parts in the jigsaw when addressing problems. GRAVIS is a rich source of local knowledge, connected to organisations locally and worldwide. It keeps setting examples of how success, when people’s lives and their natural resources are at stake, does not always have to be fast, but persistent. GRAVIS keeps showing that improving livelihoods is not a selfish process in order to gain fame, but that it is best shared for the benefit of all. I wish GRAVIS all the best and am looking forward to the new lessons we will all learn together.

*Eva Schmitt, Volunteer from Heidelberg, Germany.

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