Management students help farmers adopt modern practices to improve yield

It seems to be the time to teach students to ‘give back’ to society even as they get hands-on experience. Business schools are out to promote social responsibility among the managerial workforce. One such example is the Goa Institute of Management (GIM), Sanquelim, north Goa, where students undertake various projects under a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative known as ‘Give Goa’.

The Governing Board of GIM felt it was time to emphasise social responsibility through the curriculum, towards preparing more responsible managers. This has been imbibed as a graded course in the first year of the Post-Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) programme. Since its inception, this initiative has been growing through constant efforts from the faculty and students. The GIM recently received the silver award at the first Indian Management Conclave (IMC) Awards 2013 for excellence in ‘Innovation in Curriculum’ for its ‘Give Goa Initiative’.

Projects are taken up broadly in the fields of education, social welfare, agriculture extension and public health. They are finalised based on inputs from the CSR coordination team, the client organisations, and the students of GIM.

Currently, GIM has 42 groups of students working with various client organisations such as banks, NGOs, government departments like the Zonal Agriculture Office, NABARD, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and the State-owned GHRSSIDC Ltd., a corporation promoting handicrafts and small-scale industry products in Goa.

ICAR role

Through this initiative, the GIM, in collaboration with NGOs and other firms, tries to address the social issues related to the welfare of society and improvement of the Human Development Index in various villages in Goa. One such group is working in collaboration with Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Goa, in the village of Aldona in north Goa.

Students of the first year of the Post-Graduate programme are formed into groups of six to undertake a project at an organisation in Goa. They visit one of 20 client organisations every Thursday (for 20 Thursdays). Each group is guided by a faculty member and by a project coordinator in the client organisation.

ICAR has been working to improve agricultural practices in the State over several years. GIM is working with ICAR in Aldona to spread scientific methodologies and technologies among the farmers. The intention is to benefit the farmers of Aldona and eventually the State, in terms of revenue generation for the farmers and the State, and to contribute to the environment, say the joint promoters, GIM and KVK.

The KVK, north Goa, has been the knowledge centre and the hub of the agricultural technology transfer wing of ICAR since its inception in 1984. It has been doing a lot to improve agricultural practices in the State over the last four decades. An essential requirement of the project is that student-groups reflect on and document their experiences and outcomes. A lot of OFT (On Farm Testing) and FLD (Front Line Demonstrations) activities are implemented in the village to enable the farmers to utilise the available resources better.

Successful

In a State where there is no formal education available in the agriculture sector, KVK has taken it upon itself to educate the farmers about modern practices in agriculture that are superior to the traditional practices in many ways. They have successfully implemented the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method in paddy cultivation in the village. They have also initiated projects in vermi-composting, green gram cultivation and integrated farming system, says Hiralal Prabhudesai, Subject Matter Specialist [Agronomy], who is the mentor of the group working on two projects, viz., technology for ‘green gram’ under rice fallows, and ‘vermicomposting’, with adequate training to the students in the subject matter.

New perspective

GIM, being a third party, provides an alternative view to the scientific approach of the KVK. It gives a different perspective to the issues relating to successful transfer of technology from KVK to farmers and facilitates reverse learning. The GIM students try to look at the problems from a managerial perspective and try to provide innovative solutions.

They also try to impart their subject knowledge to help farmers in cost cutting, cost management and marketing their products effectively, thus going beyond merely improving their productivity.

Six students working on this project with KVK are encouraging farmers in the Quitla ward of Aldona village to adopt appropriate technologies, thereby improving farm productivity by doing the following: understanding the current practices followed by the farmers and persuading them to use better technology, helping scientists conduct On Farm Testing, organising frontline demonstrations of suitable technologies to compare the performances of old and new technologies, and helping in organising extension activities such as Kisan Mela.

“A project like this helps the students to understand the basic problems faced by farmers and let them use their learning to help and solve the problems by coming up with innovative solutions. A project like this one as part of B-school curriculum make the students learn practically,” says Divya Singhal, faculty of GIM.

The student group is led by Pranali Naik and is guided by Mr. Prabhudesai. The project will run till February 2014 with visits to the village on weekly basis.