This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday. They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them. I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.
In 1993, an amendment to India’s Constitution formally established ‘Panchayati Raj’ (local democracy) to provide representation for small rural communities.
38% of representatives in every Indian village council must be women.
In Maharashtra state, women officials have lobbied for medical clinics and facilitated significant reductions in polio cases, among other accomplishments.
One specific and especially shining example of results is evident in Wanoja village in Maharashtra state. Here, a woman official named Nirmala has displayed inspiring leadership.
Rural India is heavily dependent on agriculture, and there is a 4 month (and sometimes longer) intense monsoon season. While this season is a gift to the farmers in terms of providing much-needed water to the crops, it often also wreaks havoc by washing away the fertile and necessary topsoil. In the absence of any sophisticated irrigation systems and other ways to prevent this from happening, Nirmala started to experiment by collecting and placing small stones all around her farmland. She gradually created a high-enough makeshift dam that did, in fact, help stop the strong currents during the next rainfall. Seeing the results of her work moved the other farmers to action – including those who previously watched with some confusion and amusement as she had worked to create her individual stone piles. Thus, Nirmala’s action-oriented leadership has led to the construction of small stone dams all around Wanoja village and saved many-a-yield from destruction.
A second example of inspiring leadership is seen in the case
of Chavvi Rajawat. Hailing from a village in the Rajasthan state, Chavvi left
home to earn an MBA in the ‘big city’. She went on to work for multi-national
companies for a few years to gain some hands-on work experience. In 2018,
Chavvi gave up city life and her cushy job prospects, and moved back to her
village, going on to become India’s youngest Sarpanch (head of the village
council). Under her leadership, the village council has found solutions for
building roads and toilets, and has lobbied to bring water and power to the
7000 residents of the village.
In 2010, a young gentleman named Roman Gaus happened upon a ‘farm’ in his town in Switzerland.
In 2011, drawing inspiration from that farm, and based on his vision for sustainable, real, robust and scalable feeding solutions, Roman co-founded a company called Urban Farmers. The organization’s key mission was to increase food security and resilience to climate change, while respecting local ecosystems and creating an ‘urban oasis’ within cities and communities.
Urban Farmers was founded based on the principles of aquaponics – a method of combining fish and vegetable farming in a self-sustainable way that requires no soil.
In 2017, based on ‘environmental scans’, Roman came to realize that the communities he was operating within were beginning to want a different interaction with their urban farm. People wanted an experience where dialogue and gatherings became the norm. With this in mind, Roman is currently revamping his purpose and organizational structure to include intentionally designed events and gatherings.