Help on the Ground

In addition to student exchanges, the Khorana program supports rural development projects between CALS faculty and partners in India. CALS and UW Extension dairy scientists Jerry Guenther, Bob Kaiser and Ken Bolton, for example, are working with women’s self-help groups through the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust to improve dairy productivity in the state of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest places in the world. Their efforts helped double the dairy and agricultural productivity of many of the some 50,000 families they worked with, notes Aseem Ansari.

And CALS soil scientist John Peters, director of the University of Wisconsin Soil Testing Labs, partnered with Indian industrial conglomerate Mahindra and Mahindra to establish a nationwide network of some 120 soil testing laboratories and full-service agricultural assistance centers, called Samriddhi Centers from the Hindi word for “prosperity.”

Peters recently returned from almost two years in India, where he helped establish the centers and train staff. “In general, the farmers traditionally follow the same practices as their predecessors and neighbors,” he says. “Now they can actually know the acidity, alkalinity, salt content and nutrient levels of their soils to make sound decisions regarding their farming practices.”