Patil: Lessons Under the Mango Tree

Vijaya Pastala ‘89 and Dhanashree Patil ’13

By Suk-Lin Zhou ‘14

Reading last year about the suicides of farmers in drought-prone areas of India prompted Dhanashree Patil ’13 to seek an opportunity to learn more about the situation and to find a way to contribute towards the economic development of these farmers. She found that opportunity through Mount Holyoke’s McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, and for eight weeks last summer, she worked as a media intern for Under the Mango Tree in Mumbai.

Under the Mango Tree is an India-based social enterprise founded in 2007 by Mount Holyoke College alumna Vijaya Pastala ‘89. Its mission is to empower impoverished farmers across India by training them in beekeeping to provide them with a livelihood and to establish a nationally recognized fair-trade brand of gourmet honey.

“Given my interest, Under the Mango Tree seemed like a perfect organization, as it is working with farmers in rural and tribal areas of India. The organization’s effort at livelihood diversification for farmers through beekeeping training seemed to be innovative and practical,” said Patil.

As a media intern, Patil edited and updated the organization’s website and worked to increase its media presence. She also conducted field visits and wrote case studies, in addition to writing for the organization’s web pages, making its website more user friendly, and helping to compile farmer stories to be used in fundraising campaigns. 

For Patil, compiling the farmer stories was a fulfilling experience.

“I visited farmers who lived in rural and tribal areas near Mumbai who were a part of our beekeeping training program. Visiting their homes and farms and learning about their successes with the beekeeping initiative was inspiring,” she says. “I am happy to know that I could communicate their problems and their success stories to the stakeholders of the organization.”

Patil sees herself working in a similar field in the future as a result of this instructive and inspiring experience. Following her internship, she took classes related to third-world socioeconomic development at Mount Holyoke. After graduating in December, she received a yearlong fellowship to study development issues in India and undertake practical projects in the field. She plans to attend graduate school for development studies after completing her fellowship.

“Mount Holyoke classes have broadened my perspective and (developed my) analytical thinking, which helped me during the internship. The writing skills I developed at Mount Holyoke were useful in the writing assignments I undertook for this internship,” Patil said. “Overall, the Mount Holyoke community has made me more aware and sensitive towards social issues, and that was a big factor in choosing this internship.”