Work Worth Doing

If you have thoroughly read my “About” page, you would know that the research project I’m doing here at the SM Sehgal Foundation is titled, “Comparative Study of Micro Irrigation: Present Scenario, Adoption, and Future in Mewat”. I don’t know about y’all, but I get excited when reading that title. I tend to love the idea of in-depth research that covers a specific topic over a period of time. Lucky for me, that’s exactly what my project consists of.

Quick side story before I talk about my current project: When I was a sophomore in high school, I wrote a seven page research paper on the topic of malnutrition in India. It was a combination of assessing the current situation, identifying problems, and suggesting solutions. That paper/essay was what led me to the Iowa Youth Institute (IYI), Global Youth Institute (GYI), and now, in part, to this internship. I can’t help but remember, rather vividly, the months of research put into that one paper. Although the time it took was probably strung out further than it needed to be, it was rewarding to hear one of the roundtable moderators at the GYI refer to my paper as one that resembled a college dissertation. This moderator was a professor at Purdue University and although his suggestion was probably made more in jest than in seriousness, the compliment certainly made me feel good (after I looked up what a college dissertation was, of course😄). That compliment and the subsequent discussion with other students made all of the time and effort worth it. Throughout the entire process, I learned an immense amount of information about a topic I had previously never thought about. Despite a few corrections I would make today, I remain proud of that research I conducted as a sophomore.

I wanted to mention that paper I wrote a couple of years ago because the process, the result, and the pride that came along with it are all things I hope to encounter with this new project. I want to find helpful data and come to useful conclusions. All research takes time and perhaps the most exciting part of it (some may argue with me on this) is when you’re right in the middle when you have no idea where the research is leading. Nevertheless, in my experience, it all seems to come together in the end (amidst my optimism, it’s probably important to note that my experience is relatively little😉).

Even more satisfying, and by far the most important, is the application of your results. Far too often, labs and research institutions and scientists studying food insecurity or water scarcity or good rural governance or empowerment research and draw stagnant conclusions. Yet, the active and meaningful role of implementing these solutions, these ideas, and these hands-on necessities is hardly ever brought to fruition. If all we do is research the topic of rural poor in India and yet do nothing to lift them out of poverty, what good does the research do? It’s a question Sehgal Foundation has thought a lot about. That’s exactly why the Sehgal Foundation is, in all that I’ve seen, a group of people and initiatives that sincerely work at transforming lives. They empower villagers through good rural governance, transform village lives with good water management, and assist rural farmers through agricultural development. Now, I sound a bit like a spokesman for the foundation, but in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen the good that this foundation has done in the close-to-twenty years of its existence.

I mention the goals of Sehgal Foundation, because it’s my job as a research intern to hopefully provide useful information to the foundation that they can then use to best pursue their endeavors and help implement agricultural solutions like micro irrigation. To be specific, I’ll be looking at the reasons why some villages/villagers decide to adopt and use micro irrigation (drip or sprinkler irrigation) while others don’t. Hence, the “comparative study”.

In preparation for field visits, I have designed a questionnaire to be used for focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with farmers. I’m not so sure it would interest y’all (the readers of this blog) to tell you the questions, but feel free to ask me all about specifics of my project by sending me a message in the contact form or commenting below if any of it intrigues you. You can also just wait for when I post a synopsis of my research when the end of my time here rolls around. When I complete my report for the World Food Prize Foundation, I’m sure I’ll share that on here, as well. After all is said and done, I’ll hopefully come up with research and reasoning that assists SMSF in doing its best work.

OK, at this point, you’re probably wondering, “When is this guy going to mention ‘Work Worth Doing’?! He has to mention it because it’s in the title!” Well, hang on for just a minute, buckaroo. We’re getting there. Here we go.

It’s daunting. It truly is. I could sit here all day and share with you the gut-wrenching statistics like one that states 795 million people around the world are undernourished (FAO). The country with the most undernourished people? India. I can tell you that as of 2016, 29% of India’s children under the age of five are underweight (in the US, it’s 0.5%) (Economist). The under-five mortality rate (U5MR) for every 1000 births in India is 48 (in the US, it’s 7) (UNICEF). With all of that said, I can also tell you that the 795 million mentioned above was 962 million just a decade ago. That 29% was 44% in 2006 (World Bank). The U5MR for every 1000 births in India was more than 100 a decade ago. Progress is being made. Through all of the disheartening statistics and complex challenges, people are making a difference.

I’ll be honest, though. All of the impact that people have as individuals whether they be in the government, an NGO, non-profit, for-profit, the World Food Prize Foundation, or Sehgal Foundation slipped my mind. As the entire office staff at SMSF drove two hours to the rural district of Mewat (a district that has fallen far behind in progress and development) for Foundation day, the view became progressively more discouraging. I saw lifestyles I had only seen in photos. I saw children in situations that I can’t imagine as being ideal for health, sanitation, or development. I felt helpless. I couldn’t fathom how my measly abilities could help. I felt little motivation. After all, “a bad future doesn’t require anything of us today,”(Tomorrowland). As people with wealth, position, or power, it’s simple to accept bad circumstances around the world as unchangeable because that notion requires us to do nothing. On the other hand, effort is required to create a good future for our world and its people. It can feel painstakingly slow. It can feel as though there’s no endpoint. And it can sap the incentive from you when seeing the difficulties up close (or quite the opposite).

I did some thinking after the trip to and from Mewat. I went into my Google Drive and found the one-page essay I wrote about why I wanted to be a Borlaug-Ruan intern. The following two sentences are how I ended that essay:

“As Theodore Roosevelt would say, ‘Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.’ There would be no greater honor or prize than to work diligently and unequivocally at the work that is, by definition, worth doing.”

I soon realized that no matter how small my contribution, no matter how trivial my interpretation of the situation, my efforts will add something. I’m not willing to accept a bad future just because it requires no effort. The effort is worth it. With any luck, I’ll help add to the improvements of statistics like those mentioned prior. I know that if my time here, whether it be directly or through SMSF’s future work, is able to positively impact the life of just one person in a difficult situation, it’ll be worth it. Just like Theodore Roosevelt said, it’s the prize of a lifetime to work hard at something worth fighting for. Let me tell you, first-hand, that this is work worth doing.

I know this is a somewhat vague and broad post, but I hope you enjoyed reading it. I promise I’ll get into more specifics of my time and experiences here in a jiffy. Hang tight. Peace and blessings.

 

NICK BATTLES

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