Trust. Collaboration. Action.
United against environmental destruction and poverty, we stand.
My Perspective on Project Jatropha
I am Apoorva Rangan, the co founder and the Financial Director of Project Jatropha. I was twelve years old when I joined my brother Adarsha in an effort to co-found Project Jatropha. Unlike my brother Adarsha, I was not very knowledgeable about dangers of Global warming and importance of environmental protection at that time. My goals were quite different from Adarsha's, though both of us agreed on the same path to achieve our goals. My primary goal was to help the needy kids, poor women and their families to become independent . Project Jatropha works in two ways. It not only is a powerful tool to help the current global environmental crisis but also helps the rural poor with their long term economic problems and uncertainty.
My Role as a Co-founder
Many of the small farmers grow tobacco in this area. This is not helping them improve their economic status as they spend most of their meager earnings on buying firewood to cure tobacco leaves. With the new rule of Indian government, the farmers are forced to cut back on tobacco cultivation by 50% by 2020. Project Jatropha's timing is so very perfect. It is giving an excellent alternative to the confused farmers. As a cofounder , I have taken a leadership role in convincing the small farmers to participate in this social experiment. Adarsha came up with the basic idea for the possible project in as early as Mar 2007. However, by the time we really started putting the words into action was in December 2007. However, we met many villagers in the summer of 2007 in order to understand their lives, problems and ideas.
When Adarsha took the leadership role in convincing the Labland Biotechs and Parivarthana staff to be our collaborators, I took upon the task of convincing the small farmers to participate in the project. That was by far the hardest task in our project. I have spent countless number of days with the small farmers and their families in the villages of Thippalapura and Kirijaji. I have visited their individual homes for personal meetings, I have held meetings in small groups. I have listened to the stories of rural women, the hardship they undergo for survival on a regular basis. I have earned their trust. They look at me as one among their group. They have taught me the rural language. I can confidently say that the entire population close to 2000 people from both villages know me by name. I have touched each and every one of them on some level in the past two years. Though the binding contract for farmers participation happened in the town hall meetings we held, I was the sole inspiration to bring the villagers to townhall meetings. On many occasions, Adarsha and I have laughed, played and ate together with their children. We try to teach what we know and they teach us the language. We have an illustrative journey of our project in the web site photo gallery. Honestly, I regret that they can't write their perspective about Project Jatropha, as they could give you the exact picture with their first hand experience.
My Role as a Financial Director
As the Financial Director from day 1, I have brought in tremendous success to fund raising issues. When Adarsha and I started this project, we underestimated the financial requirement. We were so enthusiastic about the farmers approval, we got swept away in success for the first phase. We used the funds that Adarsha earned as cash prize to fund the first phase which was roughly $650. However, our second phase was on a much bigger scale. With the addition of Project Teak and Global Call to Youth, we needed a total of $20,000 to successfully meet the financial obligation (Please visit our press kit at http://projectjatropha.presskit247.com/index.asp for our budget details). We divided the payments into two installments.
I am very proud to say that under my leadership, the team have successfully raised close to $21,000 as of Sept 2010 and met all the financial obligations of 2010-11 plan. Given the present economic crisis, it was a huge challenge. I have contributed all the cash prize amounting to $1835 won by me via individual awards to the project. Thanks to the generosity of many donors whom I have reached out, believed in us. Given the circumstances, no amount was less for us. We have humbly accepted donations as little as Rs. 50 equivalent to one US dollar from an 85 year old rural woman near our farm who showed faith in us. In her own words " I am giving this with a ton of blessings which will help you succeed in your venture". I felt her blessings lead me to many environmentally conscious Industrialists, scientists and members of huge corporate management teams in India who generously donated up to RS 100,000 equivalent to $2000. I have also connected with several individual environmentalists among our friends and families. I have collected close to $ 7000 from them. Totally, the team has earned more than $11,000 of the total $21,000 under my leadership. In addition, as the financial advisor, I created the budget plan from the day 1 with the help of Adarsha and Parivarthana staff. I am also responsible for making the regular annual budget updates .
My Role as an Educator
When Adarsha and I began this project, we had not thought of including the local high school students in Hunsur area. However, as the project progressed, our work was featured in local TV programs and news papers. This media coverage gave the awareness to the youth population near the project site. In addition we also held several town hall meetings and presentations for public awareness. A few of the rural high school students and teachers approached us soon after presentation and requested us to visit their school. That led to an unexpected collaborations with the nearby rural high schools which has added a new dimension to the project. We took the role of educators and reached out to rural youth. We are planning on working as an international team to simultaneously tackle the global environmental and local economic crisis.
Adarsha, Callie and I have made numerous presentations in USA as a team. We have reached out to nearby middle and high school student leaders, school officials, environmentalists like us from various walks of life, private companies, public servants etc to bring awareness of the project. We have given numerous presentations in Bay area, given interviews on local TV stations, news papers and done a press release. We have established a partnership with Sirona Cares Foundation an NPO, which sponsored our project to attain nonprofit status.
What have I learned from my experience?
Project Jatropha has taught me many valuable lessons. When I initially started working with the villagers, I had no clue about the hardship faced by the rural working women. I thought that they were very sheltered, dependent and basically innocent home makers. However, very soon I realized that I was completely wrong. In fact they are the money managers for their homes. They not only earn more than half of the total family income, they manage their limited funds very responsibly. They were very open to our project ideas compared to the rural male population. They were willing to give us a chance to prove ourselves. I developed new found respect towards their life. Project Jatropha has made me more responsible, caring and most importantly giving. If I look back, I started off as a naive twelve year old. The whole experience working with the rural women and children is not easy but now I know that if I try hard enough I am capable of achieving any goal I wish to. In addition, I learned that the global warming is a real threat to the present and future population. I am determined to work as hard as possible to spread our project in rural India and soon to other tropical countries to save the environment. I am glad that our community has already taken its step through Project Jatropha to fight global warming and save the environment.
Fund raising remains to be a challenge. We promise to use the funds obtained as cash prize in its entirety towards funding of project Jatropha. Our project is never ending. I plan on working for as long as it takes to improve the lives of the rural unfortunate kids entrenched in poverty, helpless rural women across the globe.
She served as Co-Chair of Ashoka Youth Venture's Program Development Board between 2010-11
She attends Claremont McKenna College in California.