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MICA’S RURAL IMMERSION PROGRAM: FROM LOCKDOWN STORIES OF RURAL KIDS TO REVERSE MIGRATION

MICA’S RURAL IMMERSION PROGRAM: FROM LOCKDOWN STORIES OF RURAL KIDS TO REVERSE MIGRATION

As part of the Rural Immersion Program, second-year students of MICA, Ahmedabad, worked on various social impact projects that included mapping lockdown stories of rural kids to studying the reverse migration caused by COVID-19. 

Every year, MICA-The School of Ideas conducts the Rural Immersion Program to familiarize its students with rural realities and enhance their awareness and sensitivity concerning the rural population’s issues. As part of the program, the students visit various villages and interact with different stakeholders to understand their problems. 

Sharing details, Prof. Kallol Das, Chair, Rural Immersion Program at MICA, said, “This program aims at understanding and refining marketing strategies to improve the efficacy of interventions in rural markets. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we went ahead with the program by entirely revamping it to suit the online mode. Online interviews and secondary data collection replaced field visits. We partnered with 14 NGOs and Government organizations, out of which nine organizations joined the program for the first time.” 

The projects included documenting lockdown stories of rural kids (CRY), cases on rural entrepreneurs (SRISTI), reverse migration caused by COVID (Vrutti Foundation), COVID-Implications on rural livelihood (Vrutti Foundation), studying the impact of COVID-19 relief work on rural households through case studies, rural tourism (Jaipur Rugs), an awareness campaign for menstrual hygiene (Vatsalya Foundation), etc. 

As part of the program, 215 students, divided into 36 groups, collected data for various projects. Each group was mentored by a MICA faculty and a nominated official of the partner organization. The online immersion lasted a week, which started with a briefing session by the partner organization, followed by multiple meetings with their officials to understand the rural population better. “The organizations that partnered for the program first time included Ambuja Foundation, Action for Social Advancement (ASA), Aga Khan Rural, CRY, Deepak Foundation, GIAN, SRISTI, Samvedana, Vrutti Foundation. The repeat participants this time were: Gramin Vikas Trust (GVT), Gujarat Forestry, Jaipur Rugs, UNICEF, and Vatsalya Foundation”, Prof. Das added. 

STUDENT SPEAK:

Sharing his experience, Shubham Jain, who worked on collecting stories of relief operations during the lockdown, said, “Our team worked on understanding the hardships faced by various vulnerable and marginalized communities during the lockdown, which included farmers and fishermen across eight states in the country. The experience was enriching and unique, as we had to conduct all the interviews remotely. The entire process made us realize how strong these groups are at the ground level and how farmers and fishermen are supported throughout the year.” 

Harshit Agarwal, who was part of the group that worked with Gujarat Forestry, shared, “In the beginning, we were extremely skeptical about our learning experience with the rural immersion happening ‘online’ this year. But we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of interaction that happened with our point of contact at the Gujarat Forest Department and the quality of feedback they gave us, all virtually. We were amazed to see the efforts made by the Gujarat Forest Department to set up dedicated production units for handmade soaps and dragon fruit consumables and their efforts for marketing and selling these products to empower the livelihood of the local farmers and SHGs of tribal women.” 

Names of organizations and the problem statements that students worked on:

Aga Khan Rural Study the impact of COVID-19 Relief Work on Rural Households through Case studies
To study the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on the functioning of Self Help Groups (SHGs)
CRY Lockdown stories of rural children
Vrutti Reverse migration - study, interviews, and analysis
GIAN Study of rural roots and knowledge richness of economically weak migrants
Ambuja Cement Marketing strategy for products prepared by special children at Ambuja Manovikas Kendra (AMK) district Rupnagar (Punjab). 
Digital Communication strategies for Agriculture Extension for Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Gir Somnath
Gujarat Forestry

Vishwavan & Zarwani Eco-tourism Site
Aarogya Van & Wellness Center
Dragon fruit & Soap Making
Ekta Handicrafts & Ekta Cafe

Samvedana

Intervention with adolescent rural girls with focus on Gender sensitivity
Farmer's connect and sustainability

UNICEF Study of Child Nutrition Issues
Study of Child Education
Gujarat Youth Forum
Jaipur Rugs Rural Tourism (Digital)
Viral marketing through engaging social media content
Gramin Vikas Trust Holistic Rural Development through Tube Well at Dadur and Abhalod villages of Garbada taluka of Dahod District
Vatsalya Creating Marketing modules for the sanitary napkins Creating awareness modules for menstrual hygiene in rural region
Deepak Foundation Livelihood initiative: Instant Khichdi, Naswadi, Mobile Health Units, Mobile Library
SRISTI Study of rural innovators - Region 1
ASA Bhopal Financial inclusion project

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