July 20, 2008
Finally today I have started the true “field work” component of my research. Literally, I sat in fields and talked to farmers under the shade of palm or banyan trees. And it was so much easier than I thought it would be. I worried about how I would find farmers who would be willing to talk to me if they had no idea who I was or why I wanted information. I thought about offering them money, I tried extensively to find organizations who worked with farmers, or lists of producers from sugar cane plants. Turns out, if you just walk out into a field where someone is working and ask if you can talk to them about their farm, they are very happy to give you as much time as you like. In fact, usually, you’ll get their attention and that of any other locals who happen to be around. It is a curious thing to them, some white girl walking into a farm field and jotting notes about everything they say.
More than just that, these are just such friendly and open people. This is one thing I have truly come to love about India. The people are really wonderful. Here I am, an American who carries around a bag of electronics that are worth more than they will make in three years, and they do not ask for anything from me in return for their help. The most anyone asked was that I go use my English to talk to the government, tell them how poor they are and that they should give them money to help.
Granted, I did need a translator and a driver to facilitate this wandering about and conversing, but that wasn’t so hard either (especially with the oh so helpful connections of my dear friend Ari who has been here for a month already).
So for the next week, I will be running around talking to as many farmers as possible about how they grow their crops, how they use their crop wastes, and what they use for cooking and heating water. Turns out, the stories of the biomass power plant that uses crop residues to generate electricity are not true (not surprising…they have lied profusely about many things). Even on their Clean Development Mechanism application, they say that all these materials are not used at all, they just get burnt or rot on the side of the fields. But in this country, hardly anything gets wasted. There is too much need and too many resourceful people for good things to lie by the wayside for long.