A lifeline to India’s farmers on the edge of despair

first_imgBalaraj said the ideas he’s hearing during the competition seem to be getting better each year. Gramhal stood out this year, however, not just because of the quality of the idea, but also because there’s a team in place in India that can hit the ground running.“It’s good to see students thinking big to solve large social problems in India,” Balaraj said. “What stood out about this [project] is they had a good team in Boston, but they also had a very good team in India. So, for … the first 30, 60, 90 days, they have a team that can actually run with it.”Birhma grew up on a small rural farm in India and came to Harvard to pursue a master of public policy degree at the Kennedy School. When he arrived, he began developing the idea for Gramhal and, instead of taking a summer internship here after his first year, traveled back home to develop it further.“I identified the problem, built a local team, and then I came back here,” Birhma said. “I’m graduating and excited to go back to India to work full time on this.” Across India, debt and the subsistence farmer go hand in hand. Unfortunately, so does suicide.There are an estimated 62 million distressed small farmers in India. According to a recently formed nonprofit, Gramhal, a farmer dies by suicide every half hour in India, largely because of hopelessness caused by a “vicious debt cycle.” That cycle revolves around poor farmers’ desperate need for cash during harvest season and is fostered by an informal credit system that lends desperate farmers money at unfavorable rates. The cash crunch and need to repay the debt often forces farmers to sell crops immediately rather than waiting for optimal prices.Gramhal, founded by Vikas Birhma ’19, a Harvard Kennedy School student, offers farmers a way to break that cycle. The organization, which has four employees in India, provides warehousing and pooling of transport, allowing farmers to store their crops and wait until prices improve. For those who need cash while they wait, Gramhal also provides access to credit on favorable terms through a partner bank. All of this is accessible through a cellphone app that also supplies daily price information and a connection to buyers, so farmers can sell at the most favorable time.A pilot program with 25 farmers resulted in a 40 percent increase in income.On Thursday, the organization received a major boost, winning the Seed for Change Program competition sponsored by Harvard’s Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute. The competition seeks to foster student entrepreneurship and innovation in effecting change in India and Pakistan. Winning teams can hail from any Harvard School but must include at least one Harvard student and feature partners on the ground in South Asia. Gramhal won the first prize of $40,000, which Birhma said will allow the organization to double its staff in India and reach 1,100 farmers next year.“The Seed for Change Program best exemplifies what Harvard students are capable of while they’re here at the University,” said Selmon Rafey, program coordinator at the Mittal Institute. “We asked them to identify real problems affecting real people of South Asia and then explore and propose novel solutions to those problems.”Gramhal was among four finalists who presented their ideas to a panel of judges during a lunchtime event at the Harvard Faculty Club. Two runners-up — Meet, an employment app that seeks to connect employers and job seekers, and Riskboard, a digital dashboard tool that monitors political risks such as human rights abuses for corporations, investors, and nongovernmental organizations — both received $5,000 to further their efforts.K.P. Balaraj, the contest’s sponsor and one of its four judges, said Gramhal came out on top because it has immediate applicability to the Indian market, takes a course that is likely to be acceptable to those involved, and targets a problem — the plight of India’s small farmers — widely recognized as urgent.“It’s a very large and current problem,” said Balaraj, a graduate of Harvard Business School. “We could see it scaling over time and at scale it could have groundbreaking impact. I think that’s what excited us [judges] most: If it works at scale it could really create meaningful change to a community that is under stress today.” Getting to the why of British India’s bloody Partition Related Using new technology and techniques, scholars seek answers for 1947 cataclysm that killed millions Strengthening Harvard’s ties to South Asia Lakshmi Mittal family gift expands opportunities for regional engagement last_img read more

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Ella Rose M. Stenger

first_imgElla Rose M. Stenger, age 92 of Hamburg, died Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at St. Andrew’s Health Campus. Born April 2, 1923 in Ripley County Indiana, she is the daughter of Cordula (Nee: Starke) and Anthony Kraus. She married Eugene Stenger June 24, 1944 at St. Louis Church and he preceded her in death January 20, 1981. Ella Rose was a homemaker and a member of St. Anne’s Church.Her family enjoyed Ella Rose’s quick wit and the grand kids could always count on sound advice in times of need. She liked to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, work word search puzzles as well as crocheting. Each of the grandchildren received a cherished baby’s blanket at birth. Faith was very important to Ella Rose who prayed the rosary twice daily and like any good grandparent, she dearly loved her grandchildren and great grandchildren. According to her family, she apparently had a weakness for coffee and ice cream.She is survived by her daughters and son-in-laws Nancy and Albert Phillips of Greensburg, Sandy and Mick Starost of Hamburg; sons and daughter-in-laws Rod Stenger of Greensburg, Gary and Sandy Stenger of Sunman, Steve and Carol Stenger of Hamburg; 13 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. In addition to her husband and parents, she is also preceded in death by her daughter Donna Stenger; brother Eymard Kraus and grandson Andy Stenger.Visitation is Saturday, February 13th, form 9 – 10:30 a.m. at the Weigel Funeral Home. Funeral services follow at 11 a.m. at Holy Family Church with Rev. David Kobak O.F.M. officiating. Burial will follow in St. Anne’s Cemetery. The family requests memorials to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.last_img read more

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Messi Considering U-Turn to Barcelona

first_imgTRANSFER NEWS…. TRANSFER NEWS….Lionel Messi’s father, who also act as his agent Jorge Messi has hinted that his son could still remain at Barcelona beyond this summer.Jorge and his entourage met with Barcelona board for showdown talks on Wednesday. Jorge Messi Messi stated last week he would love to leave the club in the wake of 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.His father has told Mediaset that talks with Barcelona went “well”, with there still a chance that an agreement can be reached which allows everyone to remain in their current surroundings.Quizzed on whether a six-time Ballon d’Or winner could remain with the Blaugrana until the end of his current contract in 2021, Jorge Messi replied with “yes”.Barca will be hoping that an unwelcome transfer can be avoided at this stage, giving them time to work on convincing their captain that he should prolong his association with them – rather than take on a new challenge elsewhere.Ronald Koeman has expressed a desire to keep a world-class performer on his books, having inherited an ageing squad from Quique Setien, and it may be that the Dutchman gets his wish when this stunning saga is brought to a close with the status quo in Barcelona maintained.Meanwhile, Luka Modric, the Croatian tormentor-in-chief of the Super Eagles at the Russia 2018 has described the potential exit of Lionel Messi from Barcelona as a huge loss.Surprisingly, Modric plays for the rival Real Madrid. He has admitted that the Argentine cult hero will be missed in La Liga.According to Spanish publication, Tribuna, Modric remarked that he understood Messi’s position in the transfer saga.“It would be a huge loss,” the Real Madrid midfielder told AFP. He likened the situation to the vacuum Cristiano Ronaldo created when he left Real Madrid.“Like when Cristiano left… But you can’t think about the past. It’s football and that’s it.“If it happens it will be a huge loss for the prestige of the league. But we need to go forward. Other players will become stars.“When Ronaldo left, the same thing happened, the life of Real Madrid went on without him and it will be the same for Barcelona and La Liga without Messi.”Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

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