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Pursuing A Worthy Cause
When Chandrika Ahuja (pictured above) chose to take up two of her modules through independent learning, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the SIM-University of London BSc in Accounting and Finance alumnus. During this time, she witnessed the devastating impact of the farmer suicide ‘epidemic’ back in her rural hometown of Fazilka, India.
This experience shaped her as a person as Chandrika felt compelled to help farmers to overcome their plight. Shortly after graduating from SIM GE, Chandrika joined her family business to pursue this cause.
"As a fourth generation in a family of Indian farmers, I grew up sensitised to problems inherent in the agriculture sector such as decline in biodiversity, reduction in soil health and nutrient deficiency.
“The tragedy of the farmer suicides in 2014 and these ever-present problems faced by the farming community led me to join my family business, an agricultural services company that manages a state-wide programme which trains farmers to use their crop residue as an alternative energy rather than burn it,” shared Chandrika. She set out on the path to harness alternate energy fuels and to bring about drastic changes in the agriculture sector in India.
In less than a year, Chandrika, together with her team trained over 1,500 farmers in 33 villages. As a result of the training programme, the farmers also collected 9,000 tons of crop residues to be used as fertiliser or biofuel. This project improved soil health and generated an alternate source of income for the debt-ridden farmers.
Gaining International Exposure
Having worked closely with the farmers, Chandrika grew more empathetic and compassionate towards farming communities and was inspired to take up an internship with the United Nations’ specialised agencies in Rome, Italy. She worked at the International Fund for Agriculture Development during this internship. Six months later, she joined the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations as a Finance Consultant. She was also involved in loan agreement negotiations with the Ministry of Finance of China.
Additionally, Chandrika has been one of the key members involved in drafting FAO's Financial Statistics for the Chief Executives Board held in Geneva. She believes the knowledge acquired through the Accounting and Finance programme at SIM-UOL has equipped her for the role at UN agencies.
Equipped For The Future
Along with the knowledge that she has gained, Chandrika strongly feels that her experiences of a vibrant student life at SIM GE have equipped her well for the goals she has set out to accomplish.
As a Resident Leader of SIM Halls of Residence and an active member of the SIM Indian Society, Chandrika had the opportunity to be involved in organising events to shed light on the culture, traditions and values of the South Asian community. These activities spread cultural awareness and provide opportunities for students to meet and share a strong collegiate experience.
Chandrika also worked as a Student Ambassador in the Student Recruitment team to organise outreach events in different schools and gained an SIM grant to participate in the Global Immersion Programme at the University of Cambridge. The programme expands perspectives on innovative entrepreneurship through company visits, cultural activities, and interactive lectures with business leaders.
“SIM gave me the opportunity to participate in several career development workshops and networking events. It proved to be a valuable resource to develop a web of contacts within my fields of interest, locations and levels of experience. As a result of my invaluable experience at SIM, I now enjoy and thrive in diverse cultures,” Chandrika added.
Looking ahead, Chandrika intends to pursue her studies in public policy and to eventually work on developing public-private partnership models to develop innovative solutions for the agriculture sector. She hopes to share her experiences at university on sustainable agriculture development having spent time in three different countries (India, Singapore, and Italy). Chandrika aspires to further develop her knowledge and skills to become a leader in emerging-market public -private partnership models for agriculture.
Posted online, 20 March 2017