After all of our interesting and informative village visits last week, we decided that we wanted to return to Mehsana for our last village visit to ask some clarifying questions. Mehsana is one of three districts we’ve visited and they are currently under-performing in both Castor procurement and RUDI goods processing and sales. After visiting the districts that are performing at a higher level, we had a better idea of the questions to ask the farmer’s group, district association employees, and processing center workers to help with our comparative analysis.
We began the day at one of the four district market yards in Mehsana, where farmers who are not selling to RUDI take their Castor seeds to individually sell them to a middleman. For castor, one of the benefits of working with RUDI is that farmer’s can collectively sell to a farmer’s group, who then directly sell to the mill which produces castor oil. It was very interesting to see an alternative to the RUDI method. It was also the most intense case of becoming the village spectacle that we’ve had yet. We had a posse of guys following us around while we wandered around the market yard – mainly a product of very likely being the first tourists visiting this village, but also having so many women in our group!
There was also a camel “parking lot” in the middle of the market yard, which we all enjoyed documenting.
We then drove back to Ganeshpura (the organic tree farm/eco-tourism center) to meet with the RUDI processing center workers from Nandasan and Mehsana district association representatives. This was our third visit to Ganeshpura (one the first night in Ahmedabad at a SEWA celebration, one on our previous district visit, and today). We were shocked to drive in and see a monkey sitting in the open space where we had sat around enjoying music and dancing only a week before! There wound up being a number of monkeys jumping around that thankfully didn’t get too close (we heard they bite), but were close enough to capture some great photos and video.
After three visits, it was nice to see some familiar smiling faces at Ganeshpura. The meeting helped clarify some of the main challenges of this district – recruiting and retaining Rudi-ben, cash flow for farmers, and significant market price variations for Castor. Our final stop was the Mehsana district office in Nandasan, where we asked more specific questions about the planning, goals, and operations of the processing center we had visited the previous week.
Upon our return to the hotel, all of the teams met together for another great traditional Gujarati meal at the House of MG. We ate on the beautiful rooftop restaurant and had the opportunity to tour parts of the hotel, which was once the home of a famous Gujarati family.