Travelogue 5: To the villages of Bihar, we went

Travelogue 5: To the villages of Bihar, we went

By Whitney Kwok, University of Illinois senior majoring in horticulture

This series of posts was written by students in the ACES 298: Postharvest Loss Prevention study abroad program, which introduces participants to postharvest processes of grains and perishables and loss prevention in the Bihar and Punjab areas of India.

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A mix of local villagers and university students make their way around the village pond. Photo credit: ADMI/Whitney Kwok

The RAU students joined us for breakfast at our guesthouse this morning. We walked to the agricultural engineering building together. Dr. Kent Rausch started us off with his lecture – “Fundamentals of Grain Drying and Storage.” We covered some basic information regarding grain drying and storage such as why and how it is beneficial to both the farmers, consumers, and everyone else in between. We also talked about the mechanism of water movement and action within grains which led to the discussion on various methods of minimizing moisture content. Rausch brought a moisture meter to accompany his lecture which gave us a visual on how moisture content can be measured in a grain sample. A quick lecture about hermetic storage bags followed. We took a brief tour of some processing equipment and had a demonstration of how digital moisture meters and an economical grain dryer that will be commonly used throughout the villages.

After lunch, we embarked on a trip to the potential site of the “ADMI Village”. What was supposed to be a 50km trip ended up being a 2-3 hour trip which we were sure was 70km or more. Nonetheless, the ride was scenic and eventful as we drove past markets, farms, and curious faces peering into our cars. When we arrived in the village, it quickly began to resemble a parade as the villagers started to trail behind us. We got to see a variety of things at the village – grain storage and traditional grain milling and grinding methods. One of our students got a cow named after her by the villagers – “Ashley Cow.” A villager who taught us the traditional method of grinding grains showed extreme gratitude to one of our students and was almost on the verge of crying from happiness and pride to know that she has imparted knowledge to our group. Although it was a bit hectic at times, I was glad that we were able to amuse and make the villagers’ day a little more interesting – hopefully as much as they have made ours.

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Er. Vishal Kumar demonstrates the USDA EMC 4.0 moisture meter. Photo credit: ADMI/Alex Lake

We drove back to RAU with promise of a “surprise” when we got back. With the RAU students asking us what we will perform tonight, we were getting a bit nervous about this surprise. We got back to campus to find a bonfire and food prepared for us. We all gathered around the fire as dance and singing quickly ensued. The RAU students were not shy about their talents at all. After a while they requested that we perform a song for them. We were able to muster up a group performance of “Hail to the Orange”, our university’s alma mater. After much dancing and food, we finally returned to the guesthouse as we prepared for another exciting day in India tomorrow.

Whitney is a participant in the ACES 298: Postharvest Loss Prevention class organized by the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Throughout the 12-day trip, students interact with policy makers and business partners in the agriculture industry, and work with fellow students at Rajendra Agricultural University (RAU).

Read more blogs in this series:

Travelogue 1: Greetings from India
Travelogue 2: Fascinated by Indian culture, architecture
Travelogue 3: Leaving the city behind
Travelogue 4: Diving into PHL studies with RAU partners
Travelogue 6: Stress in numbers for India rice losses
Travelogue 7: These issues impact all of humanity, we need to learn to work together
Travelogue 8: Like Buddha, seeking enlightenment through partnership
Travelogue 9: Drones, sub-surface irrigation, and other ‘game-changing’ technologies at BISA
Travelogue 10: A fond farewell to India

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