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Amrita’s Live-in-Lab® program is a multidisciplinary theory–into–practice initiative that facilitates the research, development, and deployment of sustainable solutions for current challenges faced by rural communities (villages) in India. Through experiential learning opportunities, participants from multiple disciplines can study, observe, and interact with villagers, while living in rural communities, to gain a better understanding of challenges in seven thematic areas that are integral on the path to self-reliance: Health & Hygiene, Education & Gender Equality, Waste Management & Infrastructure, Energy and Environment, Agriculture & Risk Management, Livelihood & Skill Development and Water & Sanitation. These seven areas can further be classified as a combination of challenges, with each challenge subsequently linked to a combination of problem statements which can then be translated into projects.
Poor health due to malnutrition impacts every aspect of life. Rural agricultural communities often go without food due to climate change, exploitation, and unsound farming practices. Local organic agriculture provides a sustainable source of nutrients and livelihood for a village. Projects in this area analyze the environmental impact of current living standards and farming methods and then determine the optimal utilization of technology. Such project will help to improve existing standards and techniques and create long-term self-reliance.
Through education, one receives knowledge. Knowledge thereby empowers oneself to be independent and resourceful. Empowerment allows oneself to be free and live with dignity and. As freedom and empowerment support self-determination, it is imperative to empower rural communities with basic education through the use of innovative technologies. This will involve language training, vocational training, life skill training, and communication systems. This will help boys and girls living in rural communities to come to the forefront of modern society, take their own decisions in a sustainable manner and integrate themselves into the mainstream of development initiatives in their communities.
Access to affordable, reliable, renewable energy is crucial to create a sustainable and self-reliant community. Electricity is essential for household use, agriculture, farming, education, skill development, production, communication, healthcare, and safety. Environmental awareness and preservation ensure the sustainability and self-reliance of rural villages. Projects provide access to renewable electrical energy, develop and utilize smart energy technology, and encourage the efficient management of energy resources, ensuring sustainable development of communities.
Sole dependence on agriculture for livelihood is no longer an option for several residents of rural communities. Therefore, having alternative sources for generating income is crucial to establish sustainable, self-reliant villages. Most villagers have low or no literacy and numeracy skills, making them unable to earn a living and vulnerable to exploitation. Immersive projects assess the local resources, needs, and issues in a specific village and design technologically innovative solutions for livelihood that fit within the existing ecosystem, ensuring long-term viability. Required skills are taught to the villagers, ensuring independence and self-reliance.
Water is a universal human right and is the very foundation of life and civilization. Scarcity, remote access, contamination, and droughts all impede access to water. Moreover, increasing populations and industrial production intensifies pressure on water resources. Water distribution systems, water-management awareness programs, and water-filtration systems are a few of the projects undertaken. Clean water and sanitation projects protect villagers’ health, improve quality of life, and underpin a self-reliant, sustainable community model.
Access to healthcare is essential to the overall development of any community. Impoverished rural villagers face formidable obstacles to living stress-free, prosperous, and healthy lives. Poverty and lack of education result in domestic violence, depression, trauma-related disorders, alcohol and drug use, self-esteem issues, and more. Past and current projects leverage technology to remotely monitor health issues and provide research-supported interventions and initiatives.
One of the major side effects of globalization and modernization in India is the inability for rural communities to properly dispose of and manage the various types of waste that have now infiltrated the daily lives of villagers. Land and water are littered with trash, especially plastics, agricultural runoff, priority chemicals, food waste and defecation. Ground cover is commonly burned in the backyard or on the side of the road. Some areas have unmanaged, open, landfills which pollute land, air, and waterways. Projects explore environmentally sustainable solutions for rural waste management.
“For me, the lemongrass project was the practical part of an elective I chose, called International Entrepreneurship & Development, as a part of my bachelor at my own university back home. It was a really nice way to put my knowledge about chemical engineering into practice, as well as get the experience of working together with a different country and culture. I also learned a lot about teamwork and project management.”