From The Fields : Which gulab jamun was your favorite?

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By Deepa Iyres
Cecoedecon – sounds mysterious – is it a recently discovered dinosaur, the Latin name of an indigenous seed, an exotic Indian dish with a strange spelling?
Actually, it is an amazing organization, but let’s talk about what the buzz is really about.

Which gulab jamun was your favorite?
Photo courtesy of http://www.bengalisweet.com/item_details.asp?item_id=133
Photo courtesy of http://www.bengalisweet.com/item_details.asp?item_id=133

Was it the denser, softer one, or the one with saffron and a crispier skin?

Do you prefer your gulab jamun hot or cold?
These are the highly debated issues on the WEA Learning Exchange. Please feel free to place your vote in the comments.

As an aside, we did visit an organization that is committed to training villagers to train and organize their community members, called Cecoedecon. This organization addresses issues such as community health, agriculture, women’s empowerment, and many others. Their approach is to raise issues with villagers in rural communities in Rajasthan, and support their own process in coming up with local solutions.

After meeting with the directors, we met with a group of about 15 women from surrounding villages. As soon as we sat on the floor with them, there was a playful mood in the air, so we immediately started our gathering with a very silly game called wah. In this game people have to scream loud, raising their arms in the air, and just be silly. We all ended up laughing, and sat back down to begin our introductions and our listening to the women’s stories. These women believed in themselves, and spoke with a hope for a better world and a confidence in themselves that moved some of our group members to tears. To see women who in previous years would not speak up, who were now laughing joyfully, taking positions of leadership, organizing themselves, and designing solutions to their own problems was truly inspiring. They managed to organize a cooperative bank that after a few years now has a loan base of 7.5 million rupees! To end this meeting we, of course, had to exchange song and dance.

Afterwards, we went to an organic farm run by Ram Kissan, an elder gentleman who was very excited about organic farming and about showing us his project. He said that he also trains local farmers on the techniques of vermicompost – building piles of cow manure mixed with dry plants, water, and worms – which after a few months can be added to the farm fields to improve the health of the plants. On his farm, he and the men and women that work with him grow amla (Indian gooseberry), spinach, millet, lemons, eggplants, and more. We had a short amount of time to speak with the women who farmed, but they seemed very excited to show us the plants, and share the lemons and other fruits with us.
After this amazing day, we were invited to dinner at Navina’s aunt’s father-in-law’s house. We were welcomed with amazing rose garlands, tikka, and a delicious meal ending with jelabi, rasgoola, guava…and this really helped to soothe the gulab jamun debate for the moment.
deepa iyer_thumb[2] Deepa Iyer After receiving her education from Brown University in Biology in 2000, Deepa began work as an environmental educator in New Jersey, where she was born. Deepa led students on hikes in the woods, and led pond study with a local watershed organization. At the same time she worked on an organic farm, assisting in the field and with the CSA program. In 2002, she worked at an environmental education and sustainable living center called Slide Ranch, on the coast north of San Francisco. At Slide Ranch she learned about her passion for sustainable food systems, gardening, education, and communal living. She took those passions into the next step, working with three other educators from the ranch to start an educational and cooperative living project in Oakland, CA called sol – sustaining ourselves locally. At sol, they strove to live as lightly on the earth as possible, with an emphasis on food choices, and to share those choices and engage in dialogue about sustainability with youth in our neighborhood, through garden-based activities.
This is part of a series entitled From The Fields which follows WEA’s Women and Agriculture delegation on their 10 day journey through Northern India. Read more about this initiative here.