By: Harish Pathak
As part of my travel abroad experience at Temple University Japan, I was able to take a class called “Non-Governmental Organizations and International Development.” This class covered a variety of topics from poverty alleviation through micro-credit/finance to human rights in developing countries. For the last two weeks of this class we were able to travel to India directly from Tokyo to see specific NGOs in New Delhi to Chennai. One highlight was to see M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai and in nearby villages that had grass-root projects. MSSRF is an NGO that focuses on a job-led growth strategy for rural areas in India by making sure that it is pro-poor, pro-environment and pro-women. MSSRF does extensive research in advanced bio-technologies to help aid in sustainable environmental development as well as communications using state of the art technologies to reach and help the rural poor gain important knowledge and education otherwise not available. After stopping in Chennai at the MSSRF HQ, we then took an overnight bus ride to Dindigul, where we would meet with many initiatives supported through MSSRF. The different type of initiatives we took part in included the Seed Growers Association, Jhansi Rani Women Self-Help Groups that created eco-enterprises through micro-credit, and Village Knowledge Centers that provide literacy training and weather and market data for farmers. Our group was lucky enough to be a part of a commencement ceremony for the opening of a new village knowledge center.