According to the United Nations document (1981), community development is “the creation of opportunities to enable all members of a community to actively contribute to and influence the development process and to share equitably in the fruits of development”.
This community participation approach encompasses locally appropriate actions, principles or decisions that contribute significantly to the development of sustainable and equitable social conditions. I have already described in my first essay, the importance of the bottom-up approach to meet the local needs of farmers from the available resources while encouraging entrepreneurship and self-help. Implicit in the community development approach, Amritsar College has established an incubator for entrepreneurship development in Agriculture, first of its kind, in the
Amritsar region in collaboration with Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) of Government of India, by providing training and mentoring support to the budding Agri entrepreneurs for developing self-employment skills. Dewey (1994) emphasizes that “the shared activity makes possible the emergence of shared values and thus give rise to the possibility of a fuller community”.
While dealing with farmers for testing their soil samples, I understood that the asset-based approach, not a one-size-fits-all, is a wise approach to make people participate in the shared decisions that are affecting their lives. Scaffolding this approach is how communities’ perceptions, stereotypes, knowledge, and opinions are managed within the community and general public domain. Efforts to broaden this approach can be found across all over India to support rural communities. As quoted in Sousa (2015), Green and Haines define community development as: “a planned effort to produce assets that increase the capacity of residents to improve their quality of life. These assets may include several forms of community capital: physical, human, social, financial and environmental” (p. 54).
It is important to mention that with ongoing efforts to address the needs of farmers, I realized powerlessness in the socio-economic and cultural development in rural areas of India. One of the farmers I met, stated that “the social environment has been polluted and their children no longer are willing to work on farms”. Moreover, Mijuskovic (1992) mentions this society as a lonely society where the stress is on mobility and no one goes into his father’s business any longer and, promotions are based on their willingness to relocate. As an educator, I understand that to develop the communities, especially the rural communities for a more sustainable future, the methods must focus on individuals to identify the problems and can develop their knowledge, skills and motivation to tackle these problems.
In order to devise adequate answers and motives that lie behind that need, thispaper will explore how the community development social capital practices that build on informal, non-formal and formal learning opportunities can be the primary means to discover a strong sense of community for disadvantaged rural communities.
India is known as a global agricultural powerhouse. India has great agricultural potentialities because of the warm weather and cheap labour that allows the farmers to grow two to three crops each year, but the socio-economic set-up of rural society triggers the obstacles to realize its full potential. Nearly three-quarters of India’s families depend on rural income. With the growing population, the disintegration of land in inheritance increases. Consequently, the land owned by a family is not enough to support them with intensive farming methods. Moreover, the farmers had to obtain loans to get essential farming supplies and seeds. As a result, one can easily see that feeling on their faces as they talk about their lands and their families. Mijuskovic (1992) states that “the individual’s well-being can only transpire within the context of a supportive community” (p. 150).
Friere (1921) mentions that there are some significant issues due to people’s lack of knowledge. The educators could illuminate the issues coming from the people and it should be possible to begin by creating community development workshops (p. 122). While the people in rural communities often get overlooked by the educators, there is a great need for quality educators in the rural communities where there is a real lack of understanding of policies in keyways. To support rural schools and communities requires a very strong sense of community to make a difference. As quoted in McMillan and Chave (1986), McMillan mentions that sense of community is a feeling that members have a sense of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to being together(p. 9).
Community Development Practices in Punjab, India
There are innumerable approaches to understand community development. Community development includes the approaches undertaken by individuals, informal groups and organizations to support people and community groups to identify and articulate their needs, and to take practical, collective action to address them (Community Development Foundation (2014). The purpose of this paper is to describe the central role that community development practices had on the rural areas of Punjab, India. With a commitment to create a positive change in rural communities and addressing the issues, an initiative was taken by the college to support rural livelihoods and to enhance employability within communities with an understanding that social capital will enhance learning, economic development, social mobility, or community vitality (Wall, Ferrazzi & Schryer, 1998). In this paper, I explore how the community development social capital practices i.e. mutual relations, interactions, and networks that emerge among groups, as well as the level of trust within a group or community, were advantageous for disadvantaged communities.
The various processes followed were:
- Identification of farmers: To identify the farmers with a zeal for agribusiness and self-marketing who are ready to sell the products like honey, turmeric, pickles, murabba, chutneys, papar waria, pulses, jaggery at the local level.
- Group formation and their grooming: Attempts to groom the identified farmers with those groups who produce value-added products and in turn, serve as a constant source of motivation to other similar groups.
- Incubation center for training and capacity building: The purpose of this center (a joint initiative of Amritsar college and ATMA) was to give back-end support and mentorship to Agri-entrepreneurs.
- Organization of training programs: Different training programs on entrepreneurship development were conducted at Amritsar College Engineering and Technology, Amritsar. The choice of the modules was based on the local demand.
- KISAN HUT establishment for self-marketing: Display and selling the value-added food products from its Food Processing Unit in its final marketing form, in attractive containers, packets and labelling. The purpose of the Kisan Hut was to instill confidence among the willing entrepreneurs and to send a psychological message to them that “Yes We Can”.
- Market Linkage: Linking entrepreneurs to market and direct to consumers after ensuring quality. Exhibitions organized by the Amritsar College, ATMA, Amritsar and other national and international fairs allowed them to introduce their products to a wider audience and obtain consumer feedback. ATMA, Amritsar is helping them to take stall free of cost.
Sousa (2015) states that “for a community development perspective to be in place, one view identified assets as those that reflect a social value that is functional for a community rather than an individual or private business”. Being able to recognize as a team is a great achievement of the feeling of acceptance. The initiatives taken to promote Kisan Hut aided to decrease poverty and continually empowering the disadvantaged in the neighboring villages. The potential assets that can contribute to a community’s wellbeing are social and environmental.
Often, too little attention is paid in providing these types of training, the social capital assets are important for preparing disadvantaged as influential workers who can effectively communicate with diverse rural groups as well as support their families. Around 69% of the population of India lives in rural areas. While training, the experienced educated teachers (human capital) emphasized the importance of planning, organizing, directing and coordinating with the basic concepts of accounting and book-keeping by using physical capital from the college and financial capital from the government. The impact of social capital has a positive influence on how the profit can be increased with the help of marketing and branding, resulting in gaining learning skills and abilities that are transferable to a wide range of occupations. This change has shown that the broader support of committed educational institutions can have a great impact on disadvantaged communities in identifying and building local assets for a sustainable community.
The scholarly literature on the importance and connections of formal educational institutions speak unambitiously to its benefits and contemporary best practices. I strongly believe that education provides opportunities for everyone to build capacity and knowledge to make informed decisions about family. I have observed the influential members in the group are those who always acknowledge other’s opinions, needs and values rather than dominating others and ignoring their opinions. Members in a tightly knit community have great influence over the environment that otherwise, not available to them as individuals. It is important to mention here that there is a lot of struggle in rural areas in order to access food and healthcare. McMilan and Chave (1986) explicitly mention that “the feeling of belonging as ‘membership’ of sharing a sense of personal relatedness”. If everyone is struggling together, it helps to build a community to develop intimacy with a strong sense of safety.
The social capital became a ray of hope to the disadvantaged community with a belief to discover their true potential to succeed in life. The common concern of reinforcing each other made them know each other, express themselves, and work together to meet their needs. The disadvantaged community has been provided with a platform to advocate for change in their lives and their community. Through education and empowerment, ‘it’ helps in improving overall holistic development. I would like to conclude this article on a personal note. As a former employee of the Amritsar College, I must say, that educational institutions can have a profound influence on the community to address their social, economic and physical needs. Educating communities can lead to many positive outcomes, such as an improved ability to understand policies, procedures, rights, duties, government schemes, legislation, available benefits, and protection laws.
Education also exposes the masses to information and helps prevent the misinterpretation of information. McKnight (1988) reveals that there is a plethora of resources schools can invest in communities such as facilities that can serve as places that “incubate” community activities. This clearly reflects the reinforcing link to foster a culture based on a strong connection to creating sustainable communities. However, the vital links between experience, work, and education have been weakened as schools have become more professionalized and centralized. I believe that linking schools and communities can serve as a safe, secure and healthy partnership of ‘learning by doing’ towards economic revitalization.
The greatest point to remember within the relationship of formal educational institutions and community is that the institution should be treated as the hub that reflects a sense of collective responsibility. A hub that caters to and serves students, teachers, schools, families, parents, and community.