Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lakshmi and the olive tree

When I read it, I was impressed, amazed, blown away.

What an example of how constructive things can happen, even with dysfunctional governments.  While making a desert bloom.

In India!

Holy cow!

What was that news, you ask?
In a field in India's western desert state of Rajasthan, row after row of trees covered in lush, green leaves stretch into the distance as the sun beams down from a pale blue sky.
A farm worker kneels down and fights off the wind to grab hold of a thin branch with a few olives on it.
"You see that they are green. Slowly, they will turn red and will be ready to be made into oil in a few months during harvest," he says.
How wonderful!
Yogesh Verma from Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Limited, a state government-funded agency spearheading the project, says that since 2008, more than 144,000 olive trees have been planted on almost 260 hectares (642 acres) of government and private land in the state, which, with its long, dry summers and short, cool winters, offers the perfect conditions for growing olives.
"In 2007, no-one even believed that olives can grow here," Mr Verma said. "But look now."
What a contrast to the story of the "pomegranate trees" that I have assigned students over the years!

As I read that BBC news item, my mind raced with the thoughts of olive trees being grown in the dry lands of Israel and Palestine.  (Hence the title of this post.)

Turns out that I was, ahem, barking at the right tree!
Over the last five years, Indian farmers have joined hands with Israeli agribusiness to produce a crop that the majority on the subcontinent have only seen in books and films: fresh, green olives.
The project started out as a joint venture between Israeli firm Indolive and the agricultural board representing the Indian state of Rajasthan, a desert state on the western border.

This is getting to be really, really, exciting.
Ghatpande says farmers in Rajasthan are still keen to get in on olive cultivation despite the crop’s limited exposure to the Indian markets.
“Farmers are now willing to jump from their current crops to olives because the yields on many crops in Rajasthan are declining,” says Ghatpande. Given that most of the olive crop is for exporting, farmers see this venture as lucrative in the long term.
How awesome.  I am now kicking myself for not having known about this all these years!

May more olive trees bloom in the Thar Desert!


Ramesh said...

Interesting. There are actually many stories like this in India of outstanding work, even in a dysfunctional government. It leads me to my theory that the government has actually been "privatised" !!

Such actions are usually at the initiative of an outstanding government officer with a passion or some private individual who is able to find a willing ally in some government officer. It is individuals who make such stories happen. These often peter out when the individual moves on, unlike if you are Kurien or Sreedharan, who stay on for very long and entrench their work.

The institution of government has virtually stopped functioning effectively. It is the initiative of individuals that makes good things happen. More power to them.

Sriram Khé said...

how terrible when you put it that way, from on the ground in india ..

i bet you are right that it was an individual or two whose mission it has become to grow olives in rajasthan ... may their tribe increase!

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