Nepal: Challenging the Food Deficit with Local Seeds

This article discusses Nepal’s fight to find where local varieties of food exist, where it can be promoted and shared with other farmers, and how it can become a viable solution to Nepal’s food shortages and challenge the global agricultural pressure to plant “potent newer strains”.  Until the government realizes the need for local varieties to be used perhaps in conjunction with modern seeds (if not instead of), seed banks are helping to protect Nepal’s biodiversity.

Read Seeding the Future


Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative: It takes work to be a democracy!

Samdrum JongkharSome of you may be interested in following what is happening in Bhutan after it has decided to become a democratic nation. The concept of “Gross National Happiness” as against GNP that they have adopted has been much talked about. However, Bhutan is facing its own set of problems with globalization related aspirations influencing the youth in a big way, as in any other country. Given below is a link about a programme started by one of the Buddhist Monks from Bhutan but not as a religious initiative but as a social initiative to ensure that the traditional and cultural values of Bhutan come to her support in these changing times. Very interesting initiative.

“Bhutan is a democracy now. So far things have gone well. But we citizens now have to shoulder responsibility without someone else having to tell us. It is a matter of fulfilling our responsibilities without the prodding of a cowherd.”

  –Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

To learn more see websites below:

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Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund: bringing real democracy and protection to communities and their environments

ImageIn a nut-shell, CELDF describes themselves as: a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, the local economy, and quality of life.  Our mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

Striving to put the Rights of Nature and communities ahead of the “Rights” of Corporations, CELDF originated in Pennsylvania, but they are now helping communities all across the U.S. Nation and extending help abroad: to see examples of their work abroad click continue reading!

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Zumbara: Giving Time Not Money

Zumbara is an internet community time-banking system.  In this system no money is exchanged, only talents and experiences are shared in return for time.

This is only one such time banking system currently happening all over the world with local time banks being the most common. Ranging from 10 to over 100 members, Time Banks are started to help strengthen communities and neighborhoods.

Zumbara though, is combining the time bank idea and social networking technologies to strengthen larger communities like an entire country! The hope though, is that it can eventually help the global community.

See the links below to learn more about Zumbara and Time Banking:

A year in the clouds – documenting a sustainable community in Taiwan

High in the mountains of Taiwan, is the remote village of Smangus. Inhabited by a unique group of indigenous people called the Tayal, Smangus is the only place in Taiwan that now practices common ownership of land and property.

Global worries about sustainability in our economies and societies are at a peak, fear of climate change and the destruction wrought by the financial crash have focused attention on a search for balance, for a sustainable way of living in an uncertain world. The relationship between man and nature is key to the vision of the Tayal. In Smangus Village, building and natural sustainability coexist in harmony under a joint management system. Smangus Village is unique not just in Taiwan but an example to the world – and an area, which is receiving more and more international support and development in recent years. The story of Smangus is one from which we can learn, share and be inspired by.

Life within the Smangus Tayal is focused on sustainability and community. The breath-taking view of the millennia-year old trees and beauty of the ecology deserved to be documented in high-definition. In modern societies plagued by frequent disasters and excessive consumption, this film gives a different option to viewers – to show how we can return to the essentials of life.

Learn more in the movie « A Year In The Clouds »

Decentralised renewable energy projects in India

Taking Charge is a selection of case studies of small-scale, decentralised renewable energy systems in India in 2010. The strength of these stories lies in their diversity. One is a diversity of the context in which they are based, including the geography of the place, and its social fabric. From semi-nomadic pastoral tribes in the Himalaya, to caste- based politics in the deserts of Rajasthan, to church-lead community action in the hills of Kerala, renewable energy is seen being applied to the problem of energy access in a variety of contexts. Another is the diversity of solutions applied. Each of these renewable energy projects has worked because they are tailored to fit the local needs and conditions. In Bihar, a company is providing electricity to over 100,000 people using the only waste product in the villages: rice husk. In New Town Kolkata, a housing project with grid-interactive photovoltaic technology has been built, ready for the next wave of urban development. Bankers are traveling to the most remote areas of Karnataka to issue loans to farmers to purchase tiny hydro systems for their homes.

Perhaps most interesting is the diversity of energy governance that these stories demonstrate, and the economic models that they have developed. In Delhi, a hospital is saving up to sixty per cent on its water heating bills from an enterprising company that has set up shop on its roof. Across Karnataka, a company is turning profit by providing solar services to people who were previously considered unbankable. In Tamil Nadu, a Panchayat is investing in wind energy to provide better public services for its citizens. And near the Andhra Pradesh border in Karnataka, an NGO, in partnership with a community organisation of 40,000 member families, has built 5,500 biogas units across 339 villages and is monitoring their usage daily. Read more

The Malkha Initiative: Addressing the handloom crisis in Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh is home to a diversity of exquisite handloom weaves renowned for their craftsmanship and aesthetic appeal. However, this beauty is hardly reflected in the lives of weavers, where motifs of distress and deprivation are dominant. Though they toil from dawn to dusk enmeshing warp with weft, the lives of these skilled artisans are in perpetual crisis. To address this grim scenario, the Malkha initiative is making a modest attempt to relocate the chain of cotton handloom production back within the rural economy. By placing all components of textile production in the hands of weavers and artisans, the intervention seeks to make them autonomous owners of their means of livelihood.

Malkha, a neologism that conjoins the words Malmal and Khadi, is the brand name of natural-dyed handloom cloth produced by the Decentralised Cotton Yarn Trust in Andhra Pradesh. The distinctive feature of Malkha fabric is that, unlike other handloom interventions which use yarn manufactured by large-scale spinning mills, Malkha’s yarn is manufactured in the villages themselves using special machines designed for small-scale handloom production. Thus, the Malkha process seeks to obviate the capital and resource intensive components in the conventional chain of the industrial manufacture of cotton cloth, thereby shrinking the overall ecological footprint. Fundamentally, it attempts to rescue cotton yarn and textile production from the monoculture of industrial textile manufacture, and reestablish it within the rural economy, to empower weavers and artisans through stable livelihoods. Read more

The story of a principled chief conservator of forests in Chhattisgarh

In Bastar, Chhattisgarh, whatever development projects and schemes are prepared and implemented by the government there is no substitute for the availability of proximate forests. The majority of people require firewood to cook; seasonal foods such as mushrooms and fish are collected without cost; wood for construction is a regular requirement. When people do not have their own forest they have no option but to stray into their neighboursʼ forests. Much of the tension between adivasi villages in Bastar and elsewhere can be reduced to the fact of “strangers” exploiting a patch of forest conserved by the people of one or two villages. The increasing pressure on resources alters the dynamics and the relations between people. Usually, good forest patches are the result of an intact traditional system of forest use, often combined with a person or a community that is conscious of the circumstances and makes an effort.

A man, Damodar, had the idea of bringing together the people of all the villages that came into his villageʼs forests. Over months he prepared the ground for such a meeting. He started by first taking the youth of the village to visit – in twos and threes – each village to explain to the people what the planned meeting was about. Each village was asked to discuss and think about its specific problems and select representatives to come and voice them in the larger meeting. These initial interactions, started by Damodar through local youth, went on for about two months.

The first big meeting was held in Badla Kot in March 2013, and was attended by about 200 people and hosted by Damodar. Each village representative got a chance to speak, there were some informal group discussions, and one could feel that it was an issue that evoked emotions. Some decisions have been made: all the sacred groves in the villages will be restored; there will be large scale planting of native trees; each village will raise and protect its plants. Saplings of useful and native species are to be made available locally as well as from a nursery run by the Legal Environmental Action Forum (LEAF) that has a centre in Jagdalpur. Read more

Decentralising food procurement in Odisha

Following the Rs. 700 crore pulses scam in Odisha in January 2011, the State government decided to decentralise the procurement of all the items in the supplementary nutrition programme (SNP) under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) and the Mid Day Meal programme in schools, with the exception of rice which is supplied by the Food Corporation of India.

Two years since, the decision has brought colours in the villages. In the Kakringia anganwadi centre (in Kasinipur gram panchayat under Phiringia block) in the tribal-dominated Kandhamal district, about 10 children in the age group of 3-6 years arrive in the morning and stay till noon. In the morning, they receive snacks and have a hot cooked meal for lunch — both following the standard menu developed by the WCD Department.

Asked if they get a stomach full of food at the anganwadi, the senior children nodded in affirmative. They get vegetables and eggs regularly as per norms. The anganwadis are also tasked with providing ‘Take Home Ration’ (THR) for children in six months to three years group, for pregnant and lactating mothers and for severely undernourished children. Damayanti Kahanra, a pregnant woman from Babdingia village under Phiringia block, says she has been getting two packets of ground cereals every month… Read more

The network organization of sustainable agriculture initiatives in Andhra Pradesh

This paper examines and analyses the organization and functioning of subaltern peasant sanghams (grassroot associations of the poor) and their place-based as well as network-based strategies in building autonomous local communities that challenge the consequences of neoliberal globalization in general and the commodification of agriculture and food in particular. The major objective of the counter- hegemonic organizational strategies is to build self-protective and subsistence communities, to mend the metabolic rift between nature and society, and to re-reconstruct social fabric within communities. The question remains is whether place-based autonomous communities can sustain in an increasingly globalizing world. To better understand these political dynamics, I use Karl Polanyi’s concept of ‘double movement’ and examine the making of a double movement in Indian agriculture and its socio-political and ecological implications for the Indian peasantry. I use the organizational strategies and activities of the Deccan Development Society, a prominent non-governmental organization that has been working in Medak district for more than two decades, as an illustrative case study. Read more