OUR JOURNEY WITH KONDHS

We have been involved in an initiative that promotes engagement with communities to cultivate critical consciousness; develop the ability to objectively analyze the root causes of the current crisis, we are including the adivasi peasants are confronted with. We do not limit our efforts to address immediate problems, but in addition to enabling ourselves to respond to the challenges and help create linkages and solidarities between different local grassroots initiatives, academia, researchers, and the government, by fostering innovative dialogues in meaningful ways, valuing local and traditional knowledges and stimulate ethical action for our collective wellbeing, and address ecological crisis.

As a collective, we hold the abilities and wisdom of local communities, particularly women in high regard. We continually partner with the knowledge and wisdom holders to understand the underlying ethos in their perspectives. By simulating locally appropriate empowering solutions through action research and adopting or modifying effective mechanisms to address problems they have identified and with the intention to strengthen their capabilities, we have been having conversation with the heritage and the wisdom holders not only to recognize and analyze the nature and causes of the problems that impact them but also enable their preparedness to respond.

Confronted by the reality of the limits to growth based on the exploitation of nature, and while critiquing the present development paradigm the Kondh community evolved alternative philosophical and praxis models and economic relations, grounded on values and mechanisms of internal solidarity inclusive of nature and humans with a thought frame where the focus is on humane living and not on making a living at any cost.

The present development narrative obscures alternative views of reality, including the possibility that a reduction of needs rather than widening the plethora of possessions can make people better off, while lack of unbridled ambition and preference for sharing over competition does increase contentment and the well being of the collective must shape our perspective of change and not merely individual gains.

The Kondhs, spread over 800 villages, are becoming acutely aware of the incessant threats to nature and the assault of ‘modernity’ sweeping their homelands. The community clearly perceives that addressing the impending challenges, both through disciplined thought and consistent practice, is key to the determination of their present and future, their being and becoming. We have been engaged in our effort to i) address the impending crisis; ii) negotiate the impending cultural challenge, iii) revive the philosophy underlying their agriculture and architecture iv) grounding ecological consciousness v) deepening their communitarian ethos, vi)reviving their health and healing traditions ,vi) reviving their traditions of caring and sharing, vii) building bonds of respectful symbiotic relationship with their ecology and economy, viii) determining how they chose to pursue relationships with external actors, including the government and multiple ‘interest groups’ who can support or undermine their efforts.

The Khonds are an indigenous community of Orissa. They are recognized for their valor, their steadfast adherence to their customs and traditions, their strong bonds of internal solidarity and their prolonged resistance to the attempt of the ‘colonial’ rulers to tame them and force them to bend to their will.
The term ‘adivasi’ refers to communities, widely recognized as the indigenous people of India.

Our being and becoming with Khond has helped to listen to and understand the deeper layers of their way of living, their world view, its relevance in the present context and their conflict with the dominant development paradigm. The dialectical learning emerging from this process has in turn contributed to shape our perspective and strategise our interventions.

The effort to develop ontological consistency entails a dual task of deconstructing and discarding dominant but irrelevant narratives and replacing them with practices and knowledge that allows the people to reclaim their shared spaces, and strengthen their internal solidarity, not only between humans but also with all of nature.

One clear example is i) women farmers resisting the chemical dependent agricultural system combined with ii) sowing ‘corporate’ seeds which in turn generate indebtedness, while moving towards iii) self-reliance for seeds, organic inputs, iv) reviving exchange of ideas and experiences, v) deepening local knowledge, vi) reviving local markets , vii) reviving vernacular architecture etc.

In many villages people have decided to ban chemical agriculture , concrete buildings ,and industrial plantations. The community has agreed to strengthen mechanisms of internal solidarity by reviving the traditional system of labour sharing and support to each other to gradually reduce their dependence on a monetized economy. In doing so they recognise that are not necessarily struggling against a particular project or company but rather against an Unjust Model promoted by through the global industrial model. The community is also clear that they are deconstructing past injustice to reclaim control over local food systems and defending cooperative modes of conviviality of humans and nature.

This process is being sensitively nurtured by Living Farms ,through debate, dialogue and reflection involving adult women and men and young girls and boys, to envisage a future that will keep alive their ethos and nurture the ‘Nature-Agriculture-Culture-Community’ continuum.