Re-connecting with old friends, and an inspiring story, in India

danida alumni network
Photo credit: Vibeke Quaade

By Nina Vlemmings

Fond memories were shared, friendships rekindled and eyes opened to an astonishing success story, as Danida Fellowship Centre re-connected with the dynamic Ms Mangalam Balasubramanian of Chennai. For 14 years she was the driving force behind one of the four DANIDA programmes that brought hundreds of women from India to Denmark. Danida Fellowship Centre is on a quest to re-connect with these remarkable Danida alumni, who delivered long-lasting impact in countless communities across rural India.

Calling all alumni in India! Danida Fellowship Centre would like to re-connect you with Denmark - read more at the end of this article. 

Between the late 1980s and the early 2000s DANIDA funded agricultural programmes in the Indian states of Madya Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and Tamil Nadu under Denmark’s support to ‘Farm Women in Development’.

The purpose of these agricultural programmes was to enhance productivity, income and food security of rural women through training in simple agricultural skills and technologies. The delivery model incorporated a segment of Agricultural Officers, who travelled to Denmark to complete 6-9 month courses at the Nordic Agricultural Academy in Odense, administered by Danida Fellowship Centre. These Agricultural Officers gained new knowledge, insights and tools that they, upon their return home to India, enthusiastically and skillfully passed on to hundreds of thousands of farm women in rural villages.

“It was a golden period,” says Mangalam Balasubramanian when describing her time as Coordinator of DANIDA’s ‘Tamil Nadu Women in Agriculture’ programme (TANWA). She has every reason to be proud of her and TANWA’s achievements. Across Tamil Nadu 99,000 farm women received training through the programme, with the vast majority of these women reporting improvements in both their personal economy and decision-making powers as a result (“Evaluation: Farm women in Development, Impact Study of four Training Projects in India”, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2004).

The programme also contributed to structural and long-lasting changes in the state of Tamil Nadu. Many of the 170 female Danida alumni and former TANWA Agricultural Officers, who completed Danida Fellowships in Denmark, are now employed at the helm of agricultural departments at either state or district level, and the thousands of farm women, who were land lessees whilst supported under TANWA, are today land owners. These are significant developments when it comes to the empowerment and financial independence of rural women in Tamil Nadu.

Beyond these impressive results and impacts of the TANWA programme, our conversation with Mangalam also reveals the strong connections created amongst her large team of agricultural officers, all of whom are Danida alumni. Still to this day - 26 years since the project was completed - Mangalam remains in touch with them all and, in turn, this group is still connected with the rural farm women they trained, and whose communities they visited back in the TANWA days.

Mangalam today calls herself a Social Environmentalist and has taken on senior leadership and trustee positions for a number of organisations, including as Chairperson for the Tamil Nadu Chapter of the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs. “I grew with DANIDA and TANWA grew with our intervention,” says Mangalam. This is certainly not an understatement, and Danida Fellowship Centre feels privileged to have Mangalam’s support in re-igniting the Danida alumni community in India.

Calling all alumni in India! Danida Fellowship Centre would like to re-connect you with Denmark, help highlight your achievements and actively include you in our global alumni opportunities. Please register on the Danida Alumni Network portal and get in touch with DFC's alumni team at should you have any questions. We very much look forward to hearing from you!


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