In July 2017, the agricultural machine manufacturer AMAZONE sent four of its trainees to northeastern India to learn from and actively participate in the local Welthungerhilfe project that it supports.
Up to their ankles in mud, Stefan Kemme and Kevin Pelke fight their way through the rice field behind the plough. As soon as the soil is prepared, the seedlings are planted by hand, forcing the planters to spend hours working stooped over. “We prepared intensively for the trip, watching films and reading documents. However, the conditions under which the farmers are really working here were simply unimaginable to us in Germany,” Stefan Kemme tells me. I am travelling to the Indian district of Deoghar with the 23-year-old, three other Amazonen-Werke trainees and Head of Personnel René Hüggelmeier.
For three years, the Hasbergen-based company has been supporting a local Welthungerhilfe project for sustainable agriculture with donations of EUR 90,000 to date. Their cooperation, however, goes far beyond financial. As an integral component of their education, the young women and men use real case studies to develop ideas for how farming families can farm effectively despite droughts and depleted soil. They drew lots to determine who would go to India. The four trainees are now learning about how worm composting works, how valuable cattle urine is and why manufacturing organic fertiliser saves smallholders immense amounts of money. In the community centre, they crouch with the farmers, talking about what they need.
Fully Engaged: New Ideas for Equipment to make work Easier for Indian Smallholders
“Some of the farms here are as big as an allotment at home. However, one of these fields needs to ensure survival,” Jan-Hendrik Voss tells me. All of them take home depressing memories, such as the great poverty, but happy impressions predominate, for example the farmers smiling proudly about their successes with the project.
Ideas for new tools are already in the works: For example, a manual planting machine and a compost distributor are to be developed. Everything will be mechanical because the complex electronic technology with which the young professionals usually work in the company would be too expensive and too difficult to maintain. “The first two to three metres of planting rice seedlings are easy enough. After ten metres, however, the work gets to be quite difficult. So we thought to ourselves: There must be an easier way,” says Stefan Kemme. “Many ideas arose from our own helplessness. In Germany, we would never have achieved such results.”
“We still discuss our designs one more time with the farmers via Skype and then build the tools in our training workshop. Afterwards, they are tested in India and hopefully also find use in other Welthungerhilfe project regions,” Lukas Escher adds at the last communal dinner in Kolkata.
Being Innovative and Making Things Happen
“Why did you not come three years ago?” Babita Sinha, head of project for Welthungerhilfe partner PRAVAH, delivers an enthusiastic evaluation of our visit. And René Hüggelmeier is even more convinced that the concept of Amazonen-Werke is proving successful: “With these challenging responsibilities and experiences, our young employees grow and contribute to families in India being able to generate better harvests even beyond our donations.”
I, too, am very thankful for the partnership with Amazonen-Werke on behalf of Welthungerhilfe and in particular of the Indian Smallholders. Placing this cooperation with which we can make such a difference together into the hands of the trainees is a great, innovative and also courageous commitment. I am greatly looking forward to working together with the new trainees and to the fresh ideas that they will bring to our partnership for India.