Weeks 5&6

Joona Kathiwada 12-26 December, this is the type of travel experience I would recommend to everyone who has the chance to do it.

For a part of my project I had to travel to Joona Kathiwada, a rural village in Madhya Pradesh. My task there was to find out if villagers use medicinal plants in their daily life. Furthermore, I had to choose few plants for further analysis, encourage the villagers in cultivating and conserving medical herbs and we also studied the possibility to sell plants in the market for generating a better income.

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I left the campus at 3pm of November 10th and I reached the village on the 12th at 10am. Despite the smell of the train, people coming and going, the fact that I was a bit nervous and very curious to see where I would have spent the incoming 2 weeks, I was able to sleep a bit on the train and enjoy the various landscapes from south to north.

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The landscape that welcomed me was amazing. Nevertheless, no houses have functioning toilets. Villagers did not allow the government to build a road to the village, claiming that they need the space for agriculture, so there is no fix path to go to the village. Electricity is irregular, on average for half day, usually at low voltage. Most waste ends up disintegrating in the fields (snack packages, glass bottles, and pan packages), as there is no common dumping site, nor garbage awareness. Alcoholism is an issue. Education level is quite poor with no discipline in classes.

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100% of the villagers are farmers. Size of the average land worked by every cultivator is 1 to 2 acres but the yield of the crops are only sufficient to feed the family.

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Kids drop off school to work in the fields.

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Social work in this village only started in October 2016. Anju (the social worker who has helped the village for 1 year) has already done lot of work and built an impressive relationship with the villagers. For instance, as people suffered by malnutrition, she settled various crops in the village as corn, wheat, dhal, rice to have a more balanced diet. She started to create awareness about the importance of nutrition, education, cleanliness and health.

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Anju also welcomed us in the village and we shared the room. I learned a lot from her and she became an amazing friend. Aunties cooked for us delicious food and despite the language difference we could share lot of emotions. Before leaving, Aunty called me her “third daughter” and I could not keep my tears.

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Total population is 382 persons, in 55 household. In the village children attend school only up to 5th grade, and only a small percentage of them actually goes to classes.

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Every morning, from 7am to 10am we gave classes to the kids. Start of the day was with some physical exercises to warm up and then we teached some math and English. The kids also showed us some typical dances, songs and games. In general, kids are very shy but interested in learning and after a few days we built a good connection.

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Baba, the local herb practitioner, took us to the forest. Plants are not cultivated and as no street in the forest, availability is difficult. Walk was pretty hard but it surely worthwhile! As many villagers are afraid of hospital, they rely on Baba who cures them with plants.

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She is the Mantra woman of the village. Together with Baba, is the person to whom villagers go when they are sick. I had the unique opportunity to meet her. Against my ear pain, she lighted 2 incenses and sang for me with lot of love.

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That day we left home 3 in a scooter, no helmet, to sell the tomatoes of the village door by door and later to the market. We had breakfast there, bought some spicy masala to bring home and vegetables for the week. Markets take place every Friday and people come from many surrounding villages.

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In the village there is a Royal family, who is living there since 700 years. The queen, Ranj, invited us for tea in her palace and we discussed about our projects. She has 19 people at her service, a huge beautiful green garden, and it looks another world compared to the village outside. She is interested in rendering the villagers economically independent. One night she invited Anju and me for the Puja (Hindu prayer) and therefore we dressed up.

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The queen Ranj came with us to distribute one sweater to each family. Clothes are provided by Amrita students.

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To welcome Ranj, villagers dressed up in local clothes, sang traditionals songs and played the drums.

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Indian colours

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On the left, a common hobby between kids.  On the right, a men taking alcohol from the palm cortex (looks like a spumy beer, very sweet).

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After meeting with this man, we found out he had been attacked by a dog a month ago. Baba gave him plants to cure but the wound was still highly exposed. We convinced him that it was better to do something, and the day after we took him to the hospital. He was pretty scared and sceptical, but remained strong and even if he hated the vaccinations he continued smiling.

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A friend congratulates with the man after he went out of the hospital.

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Transportation, full as usual. I could not take a picture because they are always in movement but in a scooter they can fit an entire family!

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We went house-to-house to discuss with the locals, asking information about plants, health, education and migration. Many families don’t know the importance of school and thus they are not interested in sending their kids to classes. No families plans are present, most of deliveries occur in the houses.

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Waterfull, half an hour walk in the forest. Sunset on the way back

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Common expression of villagers when showing the picture you took of them.

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On the left, man showing lamp working in his house. As major habitants still don’t have electricity, Amrita university is working on a project to charge batteries while biking during the day so that can use at night, this will for instance allow the kids to study after the sunset. On the right, Hindu temple between the rocks.

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Warm up around the fire during evenings. Locals always welcomed us to join.

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Goodbye Joona Kathiwada, thank you for the warm welcome you gave me.

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