A Wholesome Experience in Kodaikanal

January 22, 2024
GPH Interns in Kodaikanal

Pictured: GPH interns after their final presentation.


An Experience Blog by MPH Student Aakanksha Kuwar

Over the summer the Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu, India hosted eight GPH students for an internship. The goal of our two-week long project was to understand the farming practices used in the region, to evaluate the behaviors and attitudes of the farmers toward these practices, and to assess the impact of chemical farming on the farmers. We conducted field interviews with them on five different farms in Kodaikanal: Kumbaraiyur, Pallangi, Pannaikadu, Pethuparai and Poombarai.


Farmland in Kodaikanal, India
Pictured: Farmland in Kodaikanal


Even before we traveled to India, we independently conducted preliminary research on chemical and organic farming in Kodaikanal and the state of Tamil Nadu in general. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the wonderful team at the school’s Center for Environment and Humanity. They guided us throughout the entire internship, helped with our housing, food and travel, and engaged in debriefing sessions after our farm visits.

On our first visit to Poombarai I remember getting off the bus, clipboard in hand, and experiencing an overwhelming sense of purpose. Our interactions with the farmers and hearing their stories, voices and perspectives taught us far more than any information we had aimed to collect on that clipboard.


Interns working in the field with community members
Pictured: Interns working in the field with the farmers.


Although most of the farmers who we interviewed practiced chemical farming, there was one farmer who conducted organic farming. He spoke passionately about the land as a source of dignity and pride, emphasizing his commitment to the health of the soil over high crop yields. One thing he said deeply resonated with me and is something I will always remember: “The worms are important to the soil. If you kill the worm, you kill the soil.”


Crops and Farmland in Kodaikanal, India
Pictured: Crops and farmland in Kodaikanal


If there was one word to describe this experience, it would be “wholesome.” This internship marked my first solo travel, and it fostered deep friendships, introduced me to new people from different walks of life, and imparted invaluable life lessons. From the exhilarating hikes to the richness of the knowledge gained, this is an experience I will always carry with me for the rest of my life.


GPH Interns and community partners at after their closing dinner.
Pictured: GPH Interns and community partners at after their closing dinner.