Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 10 - Chandigarh to Delhi

Minister of State, Tariq Anwar and Class 42
Travel day and meetings in Delhi.  We boarded our bus early for the 6-hour trek from Chandigarh to New Delhi for meetings with India's  Minister of State focusing on Agriculture and Food Processing industries, Mr, Tariq Anwar.

Chandigarh Countryside
Along the route we were able to view the countryside of Punjab and Haryana while enjoying each other's company and developing lifelong friendships with each other in true 'AgLeadership' form. In Delhi, Mr. Anwar shared with us his views on technology transfer from California to India's agriculture community as well as the issue of retaining labor of younger generations in the field of Agriculture.  

Delhi Traffic!

We capped the day's activities by sharing a dinner with another Agricultural leadership development group, the Advanced Agriculture Leadership Program (AALP) based in Ontario, Canada.  During dinner we enjoyed collaborative dialogue about each other's respective programs as well as making new friendships and connections. We're thankful to AALP for braving the India rush-hour (it's always rush hour in India) traffic and joining us for dinner. 

We also bid farewell to our trusted tourguide and new friend, Raj before we packed and prepared to go onward to the 2nd part of our trip, Nepal

Day 9 - Chandigarh

We woke up Sunday to clear and sunny skies, which was a welcomed change from the drizzly weather Saturday.  Chandigarh is regarded as the most beautiful city in India.  The city was formed after the partition of British India into India and Pakistan approximately 60 years ago.  On our way to tour the Rock Garden we felt like we were in a whole different country; this city has little to no trash on the street, the vehicles and pedestrians follow traffic laws most of the time, and there's little to no honking.    The reason for this contrast is that Chandigarh was the first city to be designed before it was built, with collaboration from American, French, and Indian architects and engineers.  The Rock Garden of Chandigarh is a sculpture garden, also known as Nek Chand's Rock Garden after its founder Nek Chand, a government official who started the garden secretly in his spare time in 1957.    This park "rocked"!

After the tour, we met with the Agricultural Minister of Haryana  P.S. Chauhan and his delegation.  We learned that 85 percent of the total land in Haryana is under cultivated agriculture.  This is a very productive state, accounting for 70 percent of India's agriculture exports.  The largest crops grown are rice, bajra(another cereal crop), wheat, mustard(cooking oil), and cotton.  Labor costs are $5 per day for field labor.  The Chandigarh government is in the forefront of government regulation and implementation, so why have we not seen similar results in other states?

While in Chandigarh we experienced their shopping districts first hand for a couple of hours in district 17 and district 22.  We got to practice business transactions, negotiation, and patience while attempting to push through a sea of shoppers.  There is no concept of claustrophobia in India, another drastic contrast to our culture’s respect for personal space. 

For dinner we were hosted by a delegation from the Modikhana Charitable Trust.  This business meeting was with Indian business men that are looking into investing in the US for different purposes: educational, business diversification or citizenship.  One of the highlight of this meeting was hearing from councilor and ex mayor Bibi Harjinder Kaur ji.  To this point of our trip she has been the only women government official that we have met.  It was another full and rewarding day.

Day 8 - College, Didar's House, Temple, and Museum

On Saturday morning we departed Amritsar, with the eventual destination to be Chandigarh.  The distance to cover was less than 300 kilometers, but we had a full day of stops along the way.
Our first stop was at Khalsa College of Education Sant Baba Hari Singh Memorial, an affiliation of Punjab University of Chandigarh.  This University's core curriculum was technologically focused, but also offered degrees in the arts and science.  When we arrived, we were once again greeted with flowers and refreshments.  Since it was a Saturday, the school was not in session, yet over 100 students and faculty were present on their day off to welcome us and interact with our group.  We learned about the school from the Associate Professor of English, Dr. Kalwarn Singh, and conversely shared with them the background of the California Ag Leadership Program.  Both the students and CALP members were inspired by Dr. Thomas and Mr. Didar Bains, a graduate of Khalsa college.  Their speeches emphasized that learning is a life long process, and anything is possible if we value education and hard work as priorities.  After interacting informally with the students, we learned that many of the kids were obtaining their Masters and Doctorate degrees to become teachers in India.  They stated their motivation to become teachers was to increase the availability of education to all kids in India, regardless of caste or financial means.

Following our visit, we were treated to lunch at Karam Hotel in Hoshiarpur thanks to Karam Bain's father, Mr. Didar Bains.  We were then invited to his residence for some refreshments.  We were surprised to find a formal marching band waiting to greet us.  They put on a very impressive show for us as we entered the beautiful and comfortable residence.  Several of the villagers were also present to greet us and join us for refreshments.  Mr. Bains's hospitality was over the top, and we greatly appreciated the gesture.

After our libations, it was back on the bus to rush to the Punjab Holy Sikh Temple of Anandpur Sahib where we were presented with a beautiful sword.  Adjacent to the temple was the Khalsa Heritage Museum, a magnificent structure that was beautifully designed both inside and out.  The museum was filled with artwork and sculptures that depicted the history of the Punjab Provence and Sikh religion, which is expressly against asceticism and renunciation.  The Sikh religion was created to distinguish itself from Hinduism, founded on the basic principal that all people are equal; no caste, no creed, no country dividing.  The practicing Sikh lives his life through honest work and devotion to his duty, his family, and his society.

Closing another action packed day, our group was relatively docile as we pulled into our hotel after midnight in Chandigarh for a few hours rest.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 7 42 at the Golden Temple

Day 7 February 23, 2013
February 23rd will go in the record books for Class 42.  Due to our honorary Class 42 member,  Karm Baines, we have had an extraordinary experience so far, and this day was no exception.  Our day started with a bus ride to Amritsar, one of the largest cities in the state of Punjab and the spiritual center for the Sikh religion. Once we reached the city we all took a horse and buggy ride to Sri Darbar Sahib, more widely known as "The Golden Temple," Sikhism's holiest place of worship.  At the Temple we were greeted by the Info Officer of the SGPC(Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), Jaswinder Singh Jassi, who provided us with an education including the history and functionality of this holy place. The Sikh religion is presided by 5 Gurus, the principle Guru or high priest resides at the Golden Temple.  It was a great honor to be received by the high priest of the Sikh faith, Singh Sahib Jathedar, who gave us all a traditional Sikh blessing.  We all received orange headdresses and the men in the group were wrapped in traditional turbans.  The local media was  invited to our visit to which the footage of our interviews were played back home in California on PTC, a punjabi satellite station, along with our picture in the loca l paper here in Punjab. A thorough tour of the temple grounds led us to the on-site community kitchen which feeds approximately 70,000 people a day.  The temple is open 24 hours a day and everyone is welcome. The community kitchen is all run by volunteers and we even got in a little on the action by rolling naan bread and then sharing a meal with the community. We were grateful for the leadership lessons given to us by leaders at the temple, for their humility and openness in sharing their holy place of worship was truly appreciated by the group. The temple was beautiful and a spiritual experience that we will all never forget.  
Once we left the temple we all took motorized rickshaws through the streets of Amritsar back to the bus and headed to our next hotel to check in.  We then moved quickly over to our next destination, the Wagah border, the boundary that lies between Pakistan and India. We were spectators to the event known
as the changing of the guards, a combination of a high school football game and the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier in Washington DC. As fans from both sides of the borders cheered for their respective guards, a nightly ceremony consists of decadently dressed soldiers going head to head with the opposing country simultaneously swaying arms moving in synchronicity, and unusually flamboyant, with their measured strides resembling a forceful power-walk. The event ends with the country's flag taken down and returned to the place where it is stored for the evening. The event was enjoyable and gave us a another chance to witness important tradition in India. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Day 6: Class 42 Shines at PAU

Cade Johnson (42) explaining why he came back to the family farm 
The sixth day of Class 42’s international seminar began in the Punjab city of Ludhiana where the class visited Punjab Agricultural University. At the university, Class 42 was invited to engage in a panel discussion with several deans from the university, the director of communication and numerous professors. During the discussion, the members of Class 42 had the opportunity to share their unique knowledge of agriculture with the well-respected professors of PAU. Topics of discussion included:  water treatment systems and water availability, crop improvement, supply chain management, cold storage and how to attract more young people into the field of agriculture in India, as well as, in the United States. The representatives from the University were very impressed with the knowledge and advice Class 42 had to offer on issues that farmers are currently facing in India. Equally so, Class 42 enjoyed learning more about the realities and advancements being made in agriculture in India. After the discussion wrapped up business cards were exchanged and many new relationships were formed. The PAU faculty were also very gracious in hosting us on a tour of a Punjabi cultural museum and a lunch at the Chancelor's House. We believe, the California Agriculture Leadership Foundation, and the CSU and UC systems, can look forward to a continued relationship with PAU.

In the afternoon, Class 42 visited Mushkabad Farms, a small contract vegetable grower in the Punjab region. There we met Davinder Singh, a PAU graduate and the director of Mushkabad. Davinder Singh has modeled Mushkabad after farms in California and is one of the first in the region to incorporate greenhouse growing, drip irrigation and cold storage into his operation. Davinder is a hands on farmer who is passionate about growing food in an innovative way and helping to transform Agriculture in the Punjab State of India.
Karm Bains (40) talking with Davinder Singh of Mushkabad
Mushkabad's Greenhouse Grown Pepper Plants

After our farm visit, the class hoped back on the bus and headed for Science City, a museum on the outskirts of the city of Jalandhar. There we were greeted by an onslaught of smiling faces and flashing cameras. Science City, a large India museum focusing on all things science, stayed open late so the delegation from California could visit their facility. Even though it was late in the evening, the class enjoyed the museum’s interactive exhibits and the chance to be interviewed by a local paper about our visit to the country. 
Today was an excited day for Class 42. The morning session with the people of PAU provided the fellows of 42 with an opportunity to showcase their immense expertise on all subjects in agriculture. Throughout our journey in this program we are often moved to search from within and challenge ourselves to evolve our "emotional intelligence."  However, today the professional intelligence of Class 42 was on full display. Not only did we leave a lasting impact on the leading agricultural university in India, but more importantly we shared a moment together where we were reminded just how dynamic the Class 42 family is. Together we showcased the quality of the California Agriculture Leadership Program and represented how important California agriculture is to the people of the world.  Not only in the wide variety of products we produce; but in the knowledge, passion and belief in agriculture that we share.  At the end of a long day we retired to our hotel in Jalandahar, proud.  Proud of each other and proud to be on this great journey together.

For more on our visit to PAU click on the Punjab Newsline link below.
Class 42 and Deans of Punjab Agricultural University



Friday, February 22, 2013

Day 5- National Dairy Research Institute and Shahabad Co-Op Sugar Mill

Jugaar is a Punjabi expression widely used in India and by Indians around the world to describe their unanny ability to adapt and innovate.  Jugaar literally means an improvised arrangement or work-around, which has to be used because of lack of resources.  Today, like many of our days so far, we practiced jugaar as we encountered traffic, viisited a  dairy research institution, a sugar mill and to listen to a cotton presentation.
Wednesday was scheduled to be primarily a travel day with 2 stops.  After a 3 hour bus ride we reached our first destination the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) in the city of Karnal, state of Haryana.   We were welcomed with beautiful red roses by Dr. RJ Malik and his delegation.  NDRI was established in 1923 in Bangalore, and moved to Karnal, Haryana in 1955 where it is more centrally located for the dairy industry.  In 1989 the Institute recievied the status of a "Deemed" University, so that it confer degrees much like any of our public accredited universities. It currently employs 170 Scientists along with over 1,000 other staff.  NDRI is a large research complex that caters to the needs of India's Cattle production, animal genetics, and the country's premier Dairy Institute.  NDRI was home to "Pratham", the world's first IVF buffalo that was notably born in 1990 and earned the institute world recognition.   During the tour we also met "Mahima", a female buffalo calf born on January 25 to cloned buffalo "Garima-II"   "Mahima" is the first calf in the world to be born to a cloned buffalo.   All the fellows agree that this was a cutting-edge facility by any standard and an asset to the millions of Indian milk producers and consumers of dairy products.  

Our next tour was of the Shahabad Co-op Sugar Mill.  Captain Shakti Singh and his coworkers gave us a complete overview of how this operation and cooperative works.  Sugar cane is a perennial crop with a stand that lasts 3-8 years.  The tour of the mill was astonishin.  We saw everything from farmers delivering sugar canes to the mill to  it's final product, sugar.   We were surprised to find that sugar and milk are the only commodities that have formed successful cooperatives in India.  The Shahabad Co-Op Sugar Mill is owned by 8,000  (yes, eight-thousand) sugar cane growers growers.  This should not be a surprise when you realize the fragmented nature of Indian agriculture where the regular farmer owns less than 1 acre.  The mill is also a net PRODUCER of energy.  The owners have built a 24 kW generato, while using only around 6.5 kW to run the facility.  The rest is sold back to the local utility company.  Like many other agricultural processing facilities, the Shahabad Mill is seasonal, it's roughly 900 employees work about 180 days each year.

After the sugar mill we boarded the bus for another 3 hour ride to our final destination for that evening , Ludhiana,Punjab.  We arrived  just in time to listen to                                                                       one of our class of 42 fellows, Cameron Boswell, present to local textile producers.  Cameron was discussing the outlook for the 2013/2014 global extra long staple cotton market.  He also arranged for a presentation to Class 42 from a local mill owner about the Indian textile industry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Day 4 - US Embassy and Political Visits

U.S. Embassy
We started the day with a fantastic visit to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.  Many thanks to David Leishman, Allan Mustard, Sheila Desai, Santosh Singh, Amit Aradhey, Thom Wright, and the other great staff who gave us a broad perspective of America's role in diplomatic relations with India's agricultural sector. They helped us understand the challenges and opportunities that exist for both Indian and American agriculture moving forward.

India is home to 30% of the world's bovine population (30% water buffalo and 70% cattle), but only 5% of the world's pasture and forage.  30% of India's cropland is irrigated (by groundwater and publicly-available surface water), and the other 70% is farmed as dryland.  India's "grain belt" is located in three of the northern provinces, including the Punjab region we will visit later this week.  This area is irrigated by perennial rivers that are fed by the Himalayan glaciers.

Other notable facts are that 37% of the population lives below the poverty line (but this has been improving over time, every 5th child is malnourished, and there are more cell phones than toilets in India.

Final words of wisdom from our Embassy hosts were, "diplomacy and technical assistance are a lot cheaper than war."

India Minister of Minority Affairs
Next we had the opportunity to meet with Mr.  K. Rahman Khan whose Minister position is equivalent a U.S. cabinet secretary position. His role is to enforce the constitutional amendment that provides equal justice for linguistic and religious minorities.  We learned that there are a reserved number of seats in Parliament for these underrepresented tribes and castes, in addition to other social support such as micro-financing and subsidized fuel.
Minister of Minority Affairs with Dr. Thomas.

 Humayun's Tomb
We visited the tomb of the Mughal Emporer Humayun, which is built in a style very similar to the Taj Mahal. The tomb was commissioned by Humayun's wife in 1562. It was the first garden-tomb built in India.

Mike Testa, Dr. Flores, and JJ Gross in front of Humayun's Tomb, Delhi.

India Minister of Steel
We had a meeting with Mr. Verma, the Minister of Steel, whose role is to regulate the extraction, manufacturing, and exporting of steel.  Besides learning about the steel industry from his great policy staff, this meeting was also an interesting cultural experience.  We learned that India is the world's fourth largest exporter of steel, and that India's energy production consists of 60% coal, 20% hydroelectric, and the rest is from nuclear and gas.

Dinner with U.S. Embassy and Agriculture Industry Guests
We enjoyed a great dinner with guests from the U.S. Embassy, the India cotton industry, and the California Almond Board.  We really appreciated them taking the time to visit with us and help us understand more about Indian culture, as well as the relationships between the India and U.S. agricultural sectors.

Submitted by Cade Johnson, Cameron Boswell, and Elisa Noble

Day 3 - The Day of Epic Contrasts

4:30 AM Class 42 woke up early to catch the first train from Delhi to Agra.  The station introduced us to a different set of personal space rules and an accompanying set of challenging smells.  The country side was cloaked in fog and the short field of vision seemed similar to the Tule fog of the Central Valley.  On the edges of the wheat fields there were tent villages and trash everywhere.   We could see some of the field and track workers act out a normalcy that was shocking to us when they would defecate alongside the tracks as we passed.  Later we learned there is one toilet for every 500 people and that half of the population--600 million people—urinate and defecate in the open. 
Arriving in Agra, we experienced our first “exciting” bus ride where cars, buses, motorcycles, trucks, sacred cows, stray dogs, and walking people moved in 5 or 6 lanes down the two lane highway. Honking from all directions during the entire ride. And always and every there is honking. One of the more interesting observations was the mass of drying cow manure discs dumped from buckets alongside the roads and on top of homes that would later be used for home heat and cooking fuel.  Our noon time ride would reveal the open areas of the drying fields were used for dozens of cricket games by men without any other tasks to do.  After about an hour we arrived at our first of many 16th century red sandstone Moghul forts Fatehpur Sikri.  Raj (our guide) escorted us through very aggressive vendors and beggars into the fort and shared the history of Emperor Akbar (1569).  The emperor had 3 wives (one Turkish Muslim, one Christian, and one Hindu) for whom he built each a private home and courtyard.
After another entertaining ride back into Agra and lunch, our bus passed interspersed nice Western hotels and hobble homes built with dissimilar bricks and used pieces of tin and tarp on our way to the gates of the Taj Mahal. Built by Moghul Emperor Shahjahan in 1630 as a shrine mausoleum for his Queen Mumtaz Mahal and truly one of the world’s wonders, its sheer beauty, size, and grandeur were exacerbated by it dichotomy and  the apparent contentment with garbage, filth, chaos and poverty outside its walls.  Inside, it was amazing to see the European, Asian, Indian and Western modern families as if we had never noticed any difference outside the walls.
The day was passing quickly and our next stop took us to one of Mother Theresa’s ashrams.  It is difficult to share our experience without photos as we agreed not to put any images of children on the internet, but as we walked through the home of 200 residents and 9 staff we saw women, children, and men who were so outcast and unloved they could not even survive on the normal small sustenance we saw in the public.  The sisters cared and clothed each of their residents for $96/year, but more importantly they spoke with them, touched and loved them where in society many of them were deformed and outcast members of the untouchable caste.  It was amazing to see the children, many with severe disability, light up when they would grab our hands or hug us and invite us to the playground.  It was equally amazing to see each of the class members equally light up and feel the happiness as if the children were sharing more with us than we were with them.

"Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love."  Mother Teresa

Our touring finished with the fort of Agra , which left us perplexed about how these grand monuments of beauty and productivity can sit amidst a society of hapless energy.  Passing through the gardens we had one more view of the Taj Mahal and the river as the sun began to set against it. 

At the train station, Dr. Sabol’s knot tricks made us many new friends.  We even learned a new trick to share from a man on the platform who felt compelled to share his own rope trick with us.  Another two hour train ride took us back to New Delhi by 10pm where we ended our trip at midnight.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Class 42 India Day 2

First day, we arrived at the early our Hotel Connaught in New Delhi and had an early morning start seeing old Delhi. Our first stop was at the Mahatma Gandhi cremation  memorial.  Our tour guide Roger from UDay Tours and Travel picked us on a up and guided us through old Delhi on a tour bus. Driving through New Delhi was everyone's first experience and introduction to India.  Lots of honking, rickshaws, bikes, motor-cycles and people walking through.  It all can be summed up as organized chaos (as our tour guide roger explained).

When we made it to the Gandhi cremation memorial the loudness for the city seemed to just die out as we walked closer to the memorial. It was green with lots of grass and flowers...a contrast to the city we just drove through. Although it was sprinkling for our first day, we did have the opportunity to walk down to the actual memorial.  Most of us braved the water, took off our shoes and walked barefoot to the memorial. The feeling in this area was a feeling of serenity.

After our visit to the Gandhi memorial...and taking time for a few of the fellows playing with a cobra... we drove past the Red Fort which was built in 1648 by Mughal emperor Shahejehan. 

As our tour ended of the Red Fort, we went to the the second largest mosque the world, Jama Masjid. The representation of the mosque left a cultural mark on Old Delhi.  The architecture was beautiful and it paid homage to the Islamic culture even with a bit of influence from the Hindu culture.

Soon after the visit at the mosque, we paired up and went on a rickshaw ride in Old Delhi. Definitely a quick glance of Old Delhi that was a memorable experience due to the fact that you could smell, see up close and almost touch (and have a few close encounters with buses or other rickshaw-fellows Jason & Denise) the city.

After our day in Old Delhi we went to the British High Commission to meet with Julian Evans. He gave a great representation of the economics of India along with his experience as a commissioner. He also  gave us perspective of what else we were going to experience in India and was open for a questions interaction. We are all very thankful to the British High Commission for hosting us and appreciate their hospitality.

Next we were able to experience the India gate and our first shopping trip in Old Delhi at the Chandigarh Chowk. It was about a five story building that had jewelry, clothes, scarfs, household items to statues to place in your yard. Some of is us we're able to buy scarfs, pillow cases and have the opportunity to bargain with the locals.

Our day ended with a trip to meet with a member from parliament Bhupinder Singh Haryana. It was an reception were we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and get to know the Indian parliament as well, we ended up setting up an additional meeting on February 24 in Punjab. Karm Bain played a huge role on setting this meeting up for our class and we are thankful for his assistance and presence on our travel seminar.

Our first day was an enriching experience that ranged from paying your respects to Gandhi, to experiencing the different smells of the city-depending on where you are, to learning more about the history of the city.

Even after just the first day, in Ag Leadership fashion this trip is already an experience unlike any other we have experienced.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Day 1: Travel to India

Day 1: Travel to India!

California Agricultural Leadership Program, Class 42 is on our way to India for our international travel seminar.  This seminar will include numerous stops in Northern India and Nepal.  The entire group convened in San Francisco and departed Friday afternoon for a 10 hour flight to Amsterdam.  After a short layover we boarded our flight to Delhi, India arriving in the early hours of Sunday Morning.

Approximately 8,000 miles later, Class 42 has risen  to the occasion and is excited to experience the sights, sounds and aromas of a complex world that will be a meaningful journey for each of us.

We are fortunate to be accompanied by Mr. Bob Gray, Drs. Charles Boyer, Bob Flores, and Michael Thomas. We're especially thankful to have the experience and knowledge of AgLeadership Alumni, Karm Baines to lead us to opportunities unimaginable without him.

Be sure to follow our journey closely as we update with our experiences, thoughts and photos along the way!

Written by presiding fellows Anne Coates, Ara Azhderian, and Joe Ange