Marta Vanduzer- Snow, wanted to change the world and she got down to it. An American PhD student, who moved to India four years ago, she worked in the villages in Rae Bareli and Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh, to build more than 80 low-cost toilets and 27 solar power plants, with her own money.
When she was in her 20s, she read Amartya Sen’s book Development as Freedom. This book set her thinking. She realised that the American dollar would go far more here in India and she would be able to achieve more with her exchange rate.
She explains how opportunities brought her to India. A Rutgers University scholar, she had been experimenting her economic theory on development, which focused on education, healthcare and infrastructure. While she worked with some people in Delhi for her books and research, she zeroed-in on Rae Bareli and Amethi. “I wanted a small scale model based on my theory that I could execute. So, I did some research and found that Amethi and Rae Bareli had quite a few active self-help groups. I decided to learn, practice and contribute.”
But first, she had to win people over. She spent two months in the village. During this time she “did morning readings, cleaned the local primary school”. Slowly, the village and the community began to support her work. They volunteered their time, gave land and more.
As a result of this, she got 82 low-cost evapotranspiration (the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces and by transpiration from plants) toilets, permeable roads and solar power homes. She is working with other projects too — organic farming, water, food and transport.
She says her programme co-ordinator Pawan Singh provides help on the ground while also doing physical labour alongside everyone else.
Marta has identified three more neighbouring villages to work with this year. She is financing this project through crowdfunding.