Our social enterprise project - beyond the finish line

Cotton Sense Project Team, India

A group of our students are currently in India setting up a pioneering social enterprise. Sam, who is part of the team, shares his thoughts on his final days in India.

Meeting the Field Supervisors
Today we again spent the day with our project partners Chetana Vikas, although instead of working with the wider group of women from the community as we have over the past few days in Wardha, we’ve focussed today on the Field Supervisors. They are a level of management within Chetana Vikas’ womens’ programmes, which each co-ordinate a region in the area surrounding Wardha. We met with 8 supervisors, to discuss the work we’ve been doing remotely over the past few months, in the lead up to our trip to India. Questions from both parties included logistics, cashflow to the beneficiaries, communication and responsibility for the project as a whole. The session went really well – despite most of the Pearson College London team not speaking Hindi, we were able to successfully resolve the majority of the questions in the room.

India’s agrarian crisis
After finishing our morning sessions and having another fantastic homemade thali lunch, Naranjana from Chetana Vikas took us on a tour of their Alternative Agriculture Resource Centre, and learnt about the ‘green revolution’. We found out more about India’s agrarian crisis, and what Chetana Vikas are doing to help counter it. We learnt about their research, and low cost solutions, which are all aimed at making farming more sustainable, providing extra income for farmers and showing them that they do not need to take risks to improve their yield. They showed us a prototype solar fence, which they could build with only one third of the budget of its nearest competitor; this was designed to stop one of the foremost causes of crop failure: wild animal damage. The profits that Cotton Sense brings in through donations will enable farmers to invest in such solutions, and will ensure a more sustainable income from agriculture from farmers, in a region where up to 70% of people work in agriculture.

Riding the wave of enthusiasm
That evening we had a meeting back at our hotel in Nagpur, finalising our product designs and messaging. Hungry after a long day, we went to Haldiram for dinner; India’s first sweet shop and a popular fast food chain, before fitting in another session into the early hours, discussing financial and legal constraints around the project, before turning in for the night. Next steps for us are to get full clarity on legal and financial issues, finalise responsibilities between all of the project’s partners, and set a date to formally start Cotton Sense!

In light of the really enthusiastic response we had from our beneficiaries, one of our key objectives is to try and ride the wave of enthusiasm and ensure that it carries on.