Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Final Words

For those of you who have just stumbled upon this website, it contains a blog of the two years I spent working in India for an NGO called SELCO Foundation. I hope you enjoy reading about some of my experiences; the blog is now finished.

As I write this, my bags sit stacked in the corner and my apartment is looking almost as bare as when I arrived. It’s been a frantic last few days trying to sell all my things, tie up loose ends and say my goodbyes, but I’m finally there will be leaving this small town for good in just a few hours.

I realise it's been a while since my last post! The work with agricultural machinery has been moving along but at its normal, slow pace. Farmers are still very interested in the transplanter, but it seems it can take years before most will develop enough confidence in a machine to buy one, and it’s not yet even on the shelves for the more progressive farmers who are ready to buy one now. Even so, and despite various setbacks, we’ve just finished a relatively successful transplanting season, with more farmers beginning to trust the machine and some other organisations that work with farmers starting to look into taking it on.

Unfortunately I’m going to miss threshing season this year, but we’ve bought two new threshers (one from West Bengal and one from China) which will be tested shortly with farmers in Karnataka. If it either of them prove suitable, they will begin the same slow route the transplanter is now heading down, to raise awareness and make them more easily available.

Although SELCO’s main business is with rural home lighting systems, they do some larger solar installations for schools and institutions. I’ve been working on a project to branch into small wind, so that SELCO will be able to provide wind turbines as well as solar panels for these larger customers. We’ve recently installed a trial solar wind hybrid system in Chennai to try to learn more about how these things work, and how to go about installing them and we’re just starting to look for more customers. I’ve also been involved in a project to develop a low-cost datalogging anemometer (wind-speed measurer that can record data), which is just about finished now, and will help us to work out whether a site is suitable for a wind turbine.

There’s been a similar project to develop a SELCO solar water pumping product, mainly aimed at farmers without access to reliable electricity, which I’ve been quite heavily involved in. We have installed several systems already now and are planning to officially launch the product this month.

After three months of an unusually wet monsoon, the rains are beginning to relent and the clear skies have brought beautiful sunsets all week. I will miss a lot of things about Ujire, apart from its beauty: the treks in the forest, swimming in the rivers, motorbike rides through the Western Ghats, visiting farmers, watching flocks of huge fruit bats fill the sky, and the many friends I’ll leave behind. It has often felt like home, but I’m ready to move on. It has been a fascinating and enlightening experience, trying to cope as (normally) the only westerner in a small rural town, but it has been tough, and at times lonely.

As I head back to the UK, I feel it's right to take some time thinking and praying through my next steps before jumping into anything. When I first accepted the offer to join SELCO, it was not an easy choice knowing the sacrifices it would involve but I felt it was where God wanted me. I'm still amazed to look back and see the intricate ways God has used this chapter to teach me lessons I couldn't have learnt anywhere else and how he's used me to bless others so many times. I don't yet know what I will be doing next, but I believe that God has it planned out somehow.

                Lab meeting on Anand's farm

                Learning to harvest paddy by hand

                            A trip to Bandaje Falls with my sister and brother-in-
                            law when they came to visit.

                              Our catch after a day's fishing around Mangalore

                Trekking to Kudramukh Peak