ICIMOD Mountain Prize 2020 honours the women of Majkhali

Great news! The Majkhali village homestay mothers’ group, the Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group, has won the ICIMOD Mountain Prize 2020. (www.icimod.org/mountainprize)

This is a really a great honour for everyone involved. This award really rewards the tremendous effort and achievements of the women of Majkhali and can be held up as a beacon to other villages in Uttarakhand.

Building connections, sharing a sustainable way of life.
The Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group is a women self-help group based in village of Majkhali, district Almora, Uttarakhand, India. The women organized themselves into a group in 2011 in order to collaborate with the Foundation for Contemplation of Nature, Majkhali and invite students to experience life in the village.

The idea was simple; to offer residential courses on Resilient Leadership in the Himalayas to university students from all over the world, so that students can experience first-hand how a traditional lifestyle is a holistic skillset and mindset that can inform all aspects of modern life.

Since 2011, the group and the foundation has offered more than 30 2-week long immersive courses to over 500 students from across the world. Since 2018 the course has been recognised as a semester credit course by the School of Sustainability Studies, Western Colorado University.

The course has been taken by many groups of students, mostly from the United States, including Princeton University, Pittsburgh University, Western Colorado University, Nanda Devi Outdoor Leadership School, Where There be Dragons, Realms of Inquiry, Lakeside School, and Menlo School.

A host family house in the village.

Sustainable mountain development and resilience building
The place-based learning modules of the course are built on 3 pillars of sustainability: Dignity of Physical Work, Interdependence and Interconnectedness.  These pillars emphasize ways of constructing society that are in harmony with nature, community and self-cultivating inner and outer resilience.

Together with the villagers, the students have raised awareness around the issues of waste disposal, environmental health and energy efficiency, gender, education, forestry management and the benefits of an organic and zero-waste lifestyle.

Seeing the passion and engagement from the students who visit the village has given the residents a fresh perspective on the value of their natural and cultural heritage. They feel very motivated to connect with their landscape and cultural heritage and explore opportunities within the village that will ensure that their traditions and knowledge are sustained while they enrich their life and livelihoods.

Transformative change
The program has created opportunities for women who didn’t believe that they added much economic value to their household. Through the collaboration the women understand how their tremendous contribution as primary care givers and holders of traditional knowledge crossing all aspects of village life is at the core of their survival. As well as being homemakers the women are farmers, physically engaging in over 90% of all agrarian tasks.

The group has given recognition to their skills and demonstrated how their culture and food traditions are intrinsic to maintaining balance with the environment. It has increased their self-respect, empowered them to communicate their knowleddge and engage their menfolk, and demonstrated the importance of engaging women as decision makers not only in the family but in the broader regional community and society.

The visiting students have also demonstrated a transformation in their world view and attitude to life, moving from seeing rural farming families as poverty stricken, illiterate and helpless to understanding the depth of knowledge and culture in village life and its relevance for developing sustainable thinking.

It’s through this cultural exchange that the students learn hands-on skills and understand the efficiency of a holistic and integrated perspective to natural resource management on one hand and the balance of emotional values and happiness through simplicity on the other.

9 households and 40 members have benefited from the project over the course of 10 years. The group has collectively earned over 20 lakh rupees enabling the women to contribute towards their children’s education, their family’s health and develop better housing facilities in the village.

Gender and social inclusivity
The project has also raised awareness amongst local people about the importance of gender equity for the health of society moving forward. Villages in India have a deep-rooted caste system and gender bias. Women are considered inferior to men and certain castes are looked down upon. Despite holding the knowledge and effectively running village life and being responsible for the health and sustenance of the whole community, women are traditionally excluded from decision making. And this does t stop at the home, it extends to local administrations, banking, local government, and even NGOs. As well as the gender divide, dominant castes also often avoid any interaction with people from other castes, even refusing to eat food cooked by them.

This programme has broken these deep-rooted hierarchies and created an inclusive space where the students and villagers work, eat and celebrate together, irrespective of their gender, caste, religion or age. Students from the western universities challenge the local youth when the local girls are performing all the work! The villagers are slowly incorporating equality into every aspect of their lives. Men have started to see value of their women folk and even start to participate in tasks and projects connected to farming which were earlier thought to be only for women.

Through this the home stay program, the women have become financially independent and self-reliant. They have brought an additional income which usually came from men being forced to leave the village to work in the cities. They not only managed to get people from outside to take interest in their traditions and environment, but also increased awareness with the residents of Majkhali. Majkhali is now a much more inclusive, equitable and aware space. A vibrant and welcoming space.

The proof of success is in the farewells between host mums and students- not a dry eye in sight!

You can see more photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/188675493@N06/albums/72157715040065013

President of the Jagrati Swayam Sahayta Group: Sushila Devi
Majkhali, India
+91 9568986738

adhikarishivani1234@gmail.com

Contact for more info:

Ajay Rastogi
Director, Foundation for Contemplation of Nature
Ranikhet, India
+91 9758727196

ajay.rastogi@foundnature.org

 

 

How to contemplate nature; a simple nature-centric mindfulness practice

Nature-centred mindfulness is a great way to start meditation practice for a beginner, and also a beautiful practice for more experienced mindfulness and meditation practitioners. This extract is taken from the upcoming book, Nordic by nature. New voices on deep ecology; Arne Naess in the 21st century. If you would like to receive a free copy of this book please sign up to the Foundation of Contemplation of Nature’s newsletter here and follow the foundation on Facebook and @foundnature on Instagram.

Preparing lemons!

The contemplation of nature for inner and outer resilience
Hi, my name is Ajay Rastogi and I live in the village of Majkhali, in the state of Uttarakhand in the Indian Himalayan region. It’s about 400 kilometres north of Delhi and we overlook the high Himalayas with many 6000-metre high peaks. I have been an ecologist and an environmentalist for a large part of my life. I used to work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as the organic programme coordinator for India. The basic drive to move back was to find a tool for the transformation of people from inside, so that they can connect deeply with nature.

The fact that we are unable to make big changes in society that are needed for sustainability means that we need to look again at the approach environmental movements have taken so far. For that reason, I was thinking that meditative practice, which can be done in nature, could be transformative in making us understand that we are an integral part of the natural world. Meditation is considered as a method for inner transformation.

Ajay near the foundation’s headquarters, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Experiential transformative learning
We have a residential programme based out of village homestays. These are typical rural homesteads, structures where there is no running water and the toilet is outside. Participants are supposed to stay for a two-week programme and help their host agrarian families, doing the same work that they do. They learn about everyday work: taking care of the cow, getting fodder from the forest, getting enough drinking water from the springs.

Students on the Mountain Resilience Leadership course learn how a mixture of cattle dung and water produces biogas for cooking stoves.

The programme is based on three pillars. One is called ‘the dignity of physical work’ because, unfortunately, we are losing the connection to working with our hands. The second is ‘interdependence’ because sometimes we feel that if we are economically sound then we don’t need anybody else – ‘I just spend money and get whatever I want’– but that’s not how society is structured, that’s not how sustainability comes about. The third thing participants learn about is ‘interconnectedness’, which is more about the landscape and the elements, where the water is coming from and so on. It is about knowing that this does not happen by itself, there are trees and filtration is taking place, there is some soil which can absorb water. It’s not as if it comes out of thin air. It needs to be nurtured.
We have a structured programme now. It’s a three-credit course, with the collaboration of Western Colorado University, called Mountain Resilience Leadership. We have also worked with the National Outdoor Leadership School for the past nine years.

A short nature-centred practice group session before co-creation workshops and meetings can change the whole dynamic and outcome of the work.

Students from all over the world come and participate in these programmes.
Bring nature to our consciousness
The nature-based mindfulness practice that we call the ‘contemplation of nature’
is done in natural surroundings, if possible. It is a multisensory experience. It helps because we are biological organisms and we have an inherent need to connect with nature. It’s kind of how we are genetically wired, so the contemplation of nature is not as abstract as many people find other meditative practices to be. It is good for beginners to feel the interconnectedness of all beings.
People can start with the contemplation of nature and then go on to learn about other deeper levels of meditation. But the contemplation of nature is definitely an approach that can be done on a daily basis. It quickly brings us to a level of tranquillity that gives us all the benefits of the meditation: the compassion, the kindness, the deeper connection to the natural law as well as to the social community around us.
At about the 23rd minute of meditation, a response known as the relaxation response activates a deeper trigger in our bodies. The relaxation response allows the body and internal chemistry to function in a much more regulated and balanced way. This also brings other benefits, including a gentle detachment from the continuous flow of thoughts and emotions, and deeper awareness and insight into our interconnected being.

Three steps for contemplating nature
So, all we do is sit and observe with a soft gaze. You can contemplate nature indoors with very simple objects from nature, following the three steps of nature contemplation that we have designed. The three simple steps of the contemplation of nature are: observe nature with a soft gaze, accept your thoughts, emotions and sensations with gentle detachment, and send love to the world with sympathetic attention.

By observing nature with a soft gaze, we bring nature into our consciousness, all the time accepting with gentle detachment our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. We are not interested in finding details or drawing conclusions. Of course, our minds will wander here and there, but as soon as we realise this, we gently bring our mind back to simply observing nature with a soft gaze.

One very important element of any meditation practice is to let go of your thoughts. You do not do this by fighting them but just by observing them and acknowledging them without judgement. This is what sympathetic attention means. Be gentle with yourself and just remind yourself of feelings of gratitude and oneness with nature. We sit, we observe softly with a gentle gaze, and continue sitting with gentle detachment. No matter what thoughts come to mind, don’t make any judgment about where you are, or what you are doing or thinking. It is this step that is transcendental in nature, and therefore a fundamental aspect of the practice. Being able to sit quietly allows us to somehow transcend a call of judgment and ‘the thinking mind’, at least for a little while.
.
.
.

Reetu Sogani: ON KNOWLEDGE

Reetu Sogani appears on the Nordic by Nature episode ON KNOWLEDGE, together with Ajay Rastogi and Nadia Bergmani.

Listen here.

Reetu Sogani is a women’s rights activist, working on protection, strengthening and enhancing of Cultural and Biological diversity, its integration to address Food and Nutrition Security and building Climate Resilience, with gender and social inclusion perspective, in the remote areas of Himalayas as well as other parts of India. She has dedicated over 20 years of her life, working very closely with women and marginalised groups, using participatory and rights -based perspective on community-centric protection and strengthening of cultural and biological diversity, sustainable livelihoods and transformed gender-based outcomes on ownership and management of natural resources.

In 2013, Reetu addressed the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in New York as one of the 100 women global leaders from across the world — because of her work with grass roots communities, building awareness levels and capacities for a stronger foundation of local knowledge systems and practices, across the Middle Himalayan ranges and beyond, whilst supporting local organisations, net-working and lobbying for policy changes on the issue of Food and Nutrition Security, Climate Change and Sustainable Livelihoods, integrating People’s knowledge.

She also works as an advisor expert with various International and National organisations such as IDS (Institute of Development Studies, Sussex),Overseas Development Institute (ODI), CDKN, PAC (Practical Action Consulting) ,International Development Research Centre (IDRC), DFID(Department for International Development, IIED, ACTION AID, Government of India and state governments on these issues.

She has been nominated as a Resource Person with UGC (University Grants Commission- It is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government responsible for coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education in India)- Human Resource Development Centre, and as a member of the Advisory committee of Women’s studies centre.

In a recent interview with the IIED or International Institute for Environment and Development, Reetu Sogani describes the special bond between women in India and the country’s natural resources – a connection that positions them as key preservers and managers of biodiversity. Despite this, women’s voices often go unheard in policies intended to support biodiversity conservation.

Reetu Sogani

Reetu is also the Honorary Program Director of Chintan International Trust—as well as a development practitioner, researcher and advisor on gender, traditional knowledge, food and nutrition security and climate change in the Middle Himalayan ranges of India.

She has been working in this remote region for the past 15 years, focusing on the issue of people’s rights to their own resources, knowledge systems and protection of cultural and biological diversity. Using a gender-, participatory- and rights-based approach, Sogani works to mainstream knowledge and rights into policies and programs of governance, particularly as they relate to climate change and community food and nutrition security, in close partnership with women and Indigenous communities at the grassroots level

Above: A 20 minute film (forest and seeds) has been made by organisation Fondazione Feltrinelli (2015) on the achievements of women leaders in the regions I have been  working with since 2000 on Gender, Natural resource management and food security. It is being shown on various international forums including EXPO ITALY 2015.

Above: The above film from 2015 was made by CDKN, on “Women and Climate Change” It spotlights some of the women groups with whom Reetu has worked with since 2001 on the issue of forestry and sustainable agriculture, and food security. This work has received national recognition and acknowledgement.

Reetu’s work with women’s groups continues to gain local and international press coverage:

The Hindi Business Online  wrote about women leaders helping women farmers grow local crops using sustainable agri practices.

Transcript of Podcast Interview.

REETU SOGANI

REETU INTRO.

My name is Rita Sogani, and I have been living in the in the hills in the State of Uttarakhand in India, for the last 20 years, and have been working very closely with the grassroots community, especially women and that marginalised community on the issue of traditional knowledge systems and practices.

The work primarily is about how to protect and conserve the traditional knowledge systems and practices which exist in the area of agriculture, forest, water, natural resources. How to strengthen the knowledge system, and how to promote the knowledge system as one of the important base of livelihood of people here.

Reetu Sogani with women in the Himalayan foothills.


ON TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE

When we talk of traditional knowledge, then what we mean is the knowledge that people have been accumulating, have been experiencing, have been observing, for centuries together, actually.

It’s an oral tradition, you know, which has been handed down the generation, from the one generation to another orally. It’s not documented. It’s not coded.

For example, how to grow or agriculture, in very hilly area which is around 1500 meters or 1500 meters to 1700 meters. The kind of soil that we have here how to use that soil in growing different kind of crops, how to manage the forest sustainably, but at the same time also use it in such a way that we have it for the generations later on.

That knowledge that people have, is something that they have a have heard their parents or grandparents speak about.

In other words, it’s just common sense.

REETU ON GENDER ROLES
When I started working the hills in 1998, I had absolutely no idea of what the situation is as far as the local knowledge in the hills is concerned.

I had no idea how it is connected with women and men.

It’s the women actually in the hills who have been very closely connected with the natural resources, be it forest, be it agricultural, be livestock management, be it even health related practices, governed by food items and herbs.

The roles and responsibilities of women are such that they stay in the house, and they carry out all the activities close to the house, you know, which are connected with natural resources. So, agriculture in the hills is not just connected with land, or is not just connected, you know, with growing crops. It’s very closely connected with forest, very closely connected with of course water, very closely connected with livestock.

So, she is the one who is very closely connected with all these sectors, and she is the one who is interacting with them on day to day basis.

She knows what grows where, what leaf should be used if the goat actually has indigestion. Or how the compost is prepared, and how those leaves can be used for the preparation of compost.

So, she is the one who has been interacting with all these ideas, and so she has the knowledge, and she has the skill; first-hand knowledge and first-hand knowledge systems and practices in these sectors.

ROLE OF MEN

Men definitely they are also contributing in agriculture but only in couple of activities. But of course this is a general picture but men mostly prefer to work outside in the villages, or outside, they migrate to the towns or sometimes they migrate to the main towns like Delhi, Bombay and other places, to bring in money.

In fact, the hill economy is also called the money order economy, where the money actually comes in through this money order or through the check, and many people in the hills have also joined the army.

So, it’s the women who has been associated with agriculture and related areas.

One of the research institutions came out with this figure of 98.5 percent, 98.5 percent of the work relating to agriculture is being carried out by women.

Land and forestry management is in the hands of women. Shown here, the women of Majkhali take compost to the fields.

 

REETU ON WOMENS VIEW OF HEALTH

I ask this question from one of the women as to ‘how do you describe health? The word health’

She gave me such a beautiful and different answer.

She said: The animal that you see is still important for health. The kind of crop that we are growing and the methods we are using. That is also connected to the water that we are using. That is also connected with health, what I’m eating and how I’m eating is also connected with my emotional health.

She said, it’s so difficult to describe because all the things around me, are contributing to health, and the air that I’m breathing in, you know, that is also part of health. The forest is responsible. The trees are responsible.

So, she described health in such an integrated and holistic way. That was my first lesson actually.

I mean, if you asked this question from any doctor or any person in the urban area, he or she would say health is the absence of illness. ‘I don’t have any illness.’ How compartmentalised our approach has become, you know in comparison to how people think.

REETU ON CHANGE

And when it comes to women we have to work at various levels. It’s not just at the grassroots level but we have to work at various policymaking levels. Even the grassroots level is very important there, women are not able to make their voices heard even in the local self-governance bodies.

Because of the kind of roles and responsibilities they have they don’t have time, they’re not supposed to be seen in those decision-making forums and processes, because they believe that they’re not supposed to be here. They’re supposed to be doing their household chores.

So that kind of mindset actually has to change, and gender sensitisation has to come about at all levels. Also, at the household level. It’s not something that is very easy, but it’s happening now.

Last year we had a meeting at the state level, in which we had invited the government officials, of not just our state but of the nearby states also, and there were several organisations, Forest department was also there, Agriculture Department was also there- I was so happy to see Parvati who is a wonderful farmer, extremely knowledgeable, spokesperson of our forest Committee, standing there in front of everybody and telling people ‘we want traditional crops we will grow really traditional crops, we will not use any of the chemical fertilisers that you  people from promoting because of these, these and these reasons.

REETU ON WOMEN FARMERS  LAND RIGHTS

One of the other issues which I have not mentioned actually right now, but which is very closely connected to the women farmers; they are doing the majority of the work related to farming, they are actually not known as farmers. They’re not recognised legally, administratively and even socially as farmers, simply because they don’t have land in their name.

It’s really sad. It’s very deeply sad and very ironical I would say.

If you take into consideration Nepal, India, and Thailand, not even 17 percent of the total landholdings actually belong to women. And these are the areas where women contribute maximum to the agricultural economy.

There is still such a tough battle going, on because the land does not get inherited by women. But it has very serious implications on her work, on her capabilities, or no capacity building, on his skills.

Because she is not recognised as farmers, it’s only men who are being invited to the workshops by the government, by any other organisation. Women don’t have access to credit. They don’t have access to the government.

The first thing they ask for is to have the land title in your name, and with increasing migration, and reduced access to resources, the condition of the women has actually worsened over the years, I would say.

We have a big network. This is called Mahela dichotomous that is ‘women farmers rights’. And we are doing everything possible to influence the government, to change the land inheritance rules to include women, which will take many, many years because land is a very important source of power.

But at the same time at least I recognise them as cultivators. At least recognise them as cultivators — at least give them the right to be able to access the bank, and access the credit, whenever they want to.… to access the government, the schemes, the government schemes should not be asking only for the land titles but they should be asking the name of the cultivator. I think it’s very much possible.

This is making the life of the woman very difficult and it has made the situation worse actually over the years because with the decision making vested in absent men, it becomes so difficult to make good important decisions at the right time.

Work relating to agriculture continues to be done by women, but without any decision making it becomes difficult for her, you know, to carry it on for her. Pretty frustrating, very frustrating.

EXAMPLE OF ADMINISTRATION FAILURE

One of the women from our area she had gone to the bank and she was just filling up one form. I think she was opening an account and there was this column that said what is your profession?

She wrote farmer, and the bank officials refused to accept it. He said “You are not a farmer, you are a housewife.”

She had the understanding, she had the business, and also some confidence when she was with other women also there. She said: “I’m a farmer, you have to put down my name because I’m the farmer, I’m the one who is tilling the land, I’m the one who is cutting, I’m the one who is weeding, I’m the one who is harvesting, how can you not call me a farmer. I will not delete the word farmer.

I will continue to use the word farmer. He had to accept it. He did accept it! She was only opening a bank account.

The gender sensitisation hasn’t taken place at that level. So that’s why I’m saying administratively she is not recognised as farmers.

She is still considered to be somebody who is carrying out only the household chores. Her unpaid work; be productive, or be reproductive, or be it caring responsibility, is not being recognised, it is not visible is not being acknowledged.

Here, widows get the right to land title, once their husbands pass away, you know. Parvati also mentioned this in that meeting, in the keynote speaker speech. She said “As long as a husband alive, you know, we have no right over land. Only when he dies, when he passes away, only then we are allowed to have the right over land.”

It hit them really hard. Even the rule which is in favour of them in an actual reality they’re not recognised not just legally but also administratively. It’s the structural change you need to bring about. It’s just that it is the system which responsible for this state of affairs. It is connected to globalisation.

REETU ON FILM BY CDKN

The biggest NGO working globally. On climate change. [00:11:23] Climate Development Knowledge Network, made a film on these women who are part of our group, and the title of the film I think is ‘Missing Women in Decision Making’ and these very women video recorded themselves, as to what they’re doing, how they’re doing, how it is connected with climate change, how it is actually helping them mitigate, how it is helping them adapt themselves.

Women with me have gone to Malaysia and in Malaysia they have spoken about these very things, they have shared their experiences their opinion their needs, their priorities, everything.

We have settled myopic way of looking at things, interconnectedness with nature.

This is what interconnectedness is.

I mean it’s not about just interdependence it’s also about cooperation. People are interdependent. But more than interdependence there is this cooperation, amongst these then villages of the micro watershed around these sectors.

View of Mountains from Majkhali Village, The Vrikshalaya Centre.

Traditional knowledge is not just about technique. It’s not just about practices. It’s about a very integrated interconnected interdependent system you know, which runs through people’s cooperation, which again actually is on the decline.

The social cohesion, the value for the simplicity, you know, the value of the equilibrium all these values, they were very, very integral part of our traditional system, or way of life. And all of these values they make people more resilient. Social cohesion was such an important aspect of people’s lives fiscally those were more modern life like for example.

Diversifying Crops

We have a practice in the hills called Palta, P A L T A (spells it out) — which means that people contribute in each’s labour.

People from not just my household, would contribute, but people from the other households in my village, would contribute, as well as from other villages also.

And the same would happen, I would go and contribute, my whole day, the entire day you know. In carrying out that activity. And this would help mostly those people single women. Women whose husbands or who’s the men folks have migrated, but they’re not… they’re not…there. And the elderly couple households.

So social resilience and social cohesion and all these values actually increase people’s resilience. But unfortunately, that kind of agriculture that we are following now makes people very individualistic.

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

I think one of the important things that we have to do is do to have our resources to have belief in our resources, and to strengthen the existing biological diversity, and the cultural diversity, whatever little remains of it.

It’s not that it’s impossible because I worked in certain areas in the hills for the last ten years twelve years and people have changed. I mean they have brought about changes in their food diet, they have brought about changes in their agricultural system. And we are not going to those areas anymore.

The experience that they have already you know, and the awareness that they have is enough actually to last for a very long time. And also, it could get transferred to their children. They’re also growing cash crop, but at the same time they’re also getting finger millet.

They are buying things from the market but at the same time they have their agriculture to fall back on.

ON BIODIVERSE FARMING

Biodiversity based ecological farming, mixed cropping system, done organically– They can also produce much more, not just equivalent to chemical intensive farming. This is one great disbelief that people have, the government have, is that chemical intensive farming can feed the mouths of the increasing population, and organic farming can’t.

This is all wrong actually, and so many studies are there to prove it otherwise. I would not call it organic farming, but biodiversity based, ecological farming. In balance with the nature.

Because organic farming can also promote mono cropping which is happening actually.

Organic farming is just one component of biodiversity based ecological farming. When it comes to chemical intensive farming of course, the adverse impacts are quite well known, and even the government of Uttarakhand and other state governments are not promoting chemical intensive farming anymore, but they are promoting organic farming.

We are talking about biodiversity, also, you know in the farming and the ecological farming

keeping in balance you know with the ecology the surrounding ecology, which is most important.

ON ORGANIC FARMING

Organic farming can also promote mono cropping. Organic farming only talks about cropping system which is minus chemicals, minus synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

That is one important component of the farming system that we are talking about, but we are also talking about mixed cropping system, which would take care of the health of not just the soil but also of course take care of the health of the livestock and also take care of the health of the human beings, because it will ensure availability and access to food and nutrition at all things of the year.

ON 9 CROPS

We have a practice of growing nine different kinds of crops in one single season during the rainy season. And these different crops are about Grains, Spices, Oil seeds, different pulses, all these nine different kinds of crops would grow in one single field, in one single season and it will get harvested of course at different times of the year but it will ensure availability of some food you know in the household at any time of the year.

Now the studies have also proved that both of us based ecological farming on mixed cropping system done organically will take care of not just the production but also of the health aspect.

We have the studies and we have the data that can prove, you know, that their production can be higher than the production of mono cropping. Done just next to that field.

ON NUTRITION

The amount of nutrition which is coming out of that one acre of land and it’ll be much more in comparison to the mono cropping which is growing this next that the one acre of land in one year it is able to absorb two thousand pounds of carbon in a year. Where are doing mixed cropping organically. In comparison to chemical intensive farming which actually releases 300 pounds of carbon per acre, per year.

Considering the global warming which is taking place, it is very, very important to also come up with ways for mitigation; mitigating strategies are much more important and unfortunately nobody talks about it because it is connected with again you know big corporations.

It is connected again with fertiliser companies and nobody is invested in mitigation right now.

Nobody is talking about agriculture which is a very big contributor of carbon emission but can be a very important strategy to sequestrate the carbon, prevent it from emitting, and also absorb the carbon which is in the atmosphere.

Agriculture done this the mixed cropping done organically is considered to be the only way through which we can do carbon sequestration at a very fast rate.

This is in total contrast to the policies of the government which is talking about monoculture, growing only pine trees in the forest area, and also promoting mono cropping.

I think we have to have a very multi-pronged approach you know, the statistics are also important in certain areas, and case studies are equally important.

Transplanting rice in Majkhali

CONVINCING MEN

The village women I had been working with constantly since 2001. They already had been a witness. They had some difficulty to convince the menfolk actually at the household level.

But gradually they interacted with a mentor also and they also started coming to our meetings. We made them interact with few people who have never switched over to chemical intensive farming and make them use their experiences.

We did workshops for them. He showed them video films we showed them many educational documentaries. We took them out on educational trips to some people renowned people who have been working on saving seeds for many, many years. Made them interact with other groups also working on these issues.

We took a walk actually for five days through different parts of Uttarakhand, and they interacted the different communities they exchanged you know their experiences, they heard about their experiences, and gradually they finally got the confidence to do what all of us had been talking about.

They shifted from chemical intensive farming, to gradually organic farming and the mono cropping to mixed cropping. Surrounding villages have also actually turned, after having seen them you know after having heard their experiences, they have also gradually turned organic, and they have also gone back you know to those mixed cropping systems, through their interaction so they have become kind of leaders actually in all the.

The government of Uttarakhand declared itself organic many, many, many, many years ago but it has not created any market where farmers can actually sell it organic produce. That’s a big challenge too. It’s not that they have no idea. It’s not that they have no awareness. They know that that middle person actually the takeaway a major chunk of profit, you know, and the farmers are not able to reach the market.

That struggle is still going on, but at the same time in parallel, there are women’s federations and they are selling them now in the market to different outlets. And do value addition packaging, labelling, everything and then sell in different outlets.

This could be the government outlet as well as some other private outlets.

That is happening and that is adding to their income.

They’re also catering to the urban taste you know by having single malt cake or finger millet biscuits. Over the last two three years their children have started offering this local produce.

The things that they were used to eating from outside.

I think in India we have the civil society is quite strong, and the women’s groups are also very strong.

SELF AUTONOMY

To self-reliance self-confidence and self-esteem; these are all connected.

So we can’t say that everything in the name of knowledge, which we have inherited, which has come down the generations. is good and very effective. Many of the things that are effective but some of the things are not very effective. Maybe because the situation has changed now, so a good amalgamation, a very balanced amalgamation of local knowledge with the new knowledge also needs to be done from time to time, now, to address people’s emerging needs and requirements.

The most important thing in the amalgamation is: Who is controlling the knowledge? The point of control. It has been a gradual dependence of people on the market. Self-reliance Self Sustenance. Has. Been replaced with total dependence. And that actually has an impact on the self-confidence and self-esteem of people. When we talk of local knowledge. And the replacement of local knowledge. People lose out on this self-confidence the self-esteem and self-reliance.

You should be looking like us it could be an institution it could be a country it could be a civilization, could be a region it could be a section of community it could be market, and a particular section in the market, and it could be an advertising agency who wants you to look like people they are advertising.

We lose identity we lose address we lose the language we lose our food we lose our systems we lose our knowledge we lose their practices and we lose ourselves completely. Lose autonomy, lose autonomy, lose our freedom.

END

——————————————

Reetu Sogani would like to thank the women of Chak Dalar and Chama Chopra in the Bheerapani area, in Nainital district. The women in Talla Gehna in Nainital district. And the women in Tola area in Almora district.

 

 

 

Episode 8: ON KNOWLEDGE Transcript

Podcast episode 8: ON KNOWLEDGE

For sharing:

Embeddable Player:<iframe src=’https://share.transistor.fm/e/d4dd7033′ width=’100%’ height=’180′ frameborder=’0′ scrolling=’no’ seamless=’true’ style=’width:100%; height:180px;’></iframe>

Simple Landing page: : https://share.transistor.fm/s/d4dd7033

Direct download of mp3: https://media.transistor.fm/51b3346c.mp3

Introduction:

TANYA:

Welcome to Nordic By Nature, a podcast on ecology today inspired by the Norwegian Philosopher Arne Naess, who coined the term Deep Ecology.

This episode, ON KNOWLEDGE, features two guests who have dedicated their life’s work to enabling marginalised communities protect their own resilience, whilst net-working and lobbying for policy changes around the issue of Food and Nutrition Security, Climate Change, Sustainable Livelihoods, and integrating People’s knowledge into bioregional development.

But first you will hear a few words from my colleague Ajay Rastogi, at the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. Ajay works closely with the women of Majkhali village in foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttrakahand, India. He set up the Vrikshalaya Centre there to be a meeting place and knowledge hub for the villagers and other communities in the Himalayan lowlands, as well as foreign visitors and homestay guests interested in more meaningful forms of sustainability.

We then hear from Nadia Bergamini who works at Bioversity International. Nadia also lives on and runs an organic, biodynamic farm together with her husband, in the countryside, outside of Rome.

At Bioversity International, Nadia collaborates with the Satoyama Initiative, helping communities all over the world develop strategies to strengthen their social and ecological resilience, and maintain the diversity of the landscapes’ agro-ecosystems, species and varieties.

You will then hear from Reetu Sogani, women’s rights activist who is working on strengthening and evolving Cultural and biological diversity, and its integration to address Food and Nutrition Security and build Climate Resilience, in the remote areas of Himalayas and other parts of India. Reetu has addressed the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit in New York as one of the 100 women global leaders from across the world.

I hope you have time to sit back, relax and listen.

AJAY RASTOGI

I’m Ajay and calling in from Uttrakhand State. I have been a colleague of Reetu for last 7 years.

We have worked with the local small farmers here and we are aware of the beautiful work of Nadia at the Biodiversity International.

There is so much in the natural world that we are forgetting on a daily basis. The interconnectedness of the species and the knowledge systems within the landscape is something that’s getting diminished every minute, if we can say.

Close to 80 percent of all crop or food diversity is on the brink of extinction. Having said that, it’s a hope that is provided by the work of Nadia and of people like Rita who look at the policy level as well as at the grassroots level. The food cultures, the fibres for our making, our house for making our everyday life.

Things are also getting lost.

Ajay Rastogi at the Vrikshalaya Centre

The big question is, are we only thinking of biodiversity as food or are we thinking of it as a celebration of life? Each seed is life.

Somehow the work that we used to do with our own hands is considered a bit undignified at the moment. And that’s why the connection of the consumers with where the things are produced is getting longer and longer. And there is a certain level of disconnect.

That disconnect is not just about the value of the food. The nutrition of the food. But it’s also a disconnect about how those small farmers survive. What do they need? What is the kind of systems that we need to put in place in those landscapes so that the diversity could continue to flourish?

With the climate change, there is a lot under challenge.

Although the world is waking up at large to address the issue of climate change. But it is the resilience of the knowledge systems that we have for thousands of years. Developed in particular landscapes, those species, those varieties of crops which have survived these thousands of years of evolution in the particular landscapes, they are the ones which will really be the resilient species. And Reetu’s work, and also Nadia’s work speaks of that volumes about it in their experimentation, as well as in how the knowledge is being generated.

The beauty in their work is about experience learning. It’s something which has evolved and is done on the soil by hands together with the farming community.

Ajay Rastogi welcomes to the Vrikshalaya Himalayan centre, the home of the trees!

Often the argument is made that the lands are so fragmented and so small that the farming which can be supported in those lands will not be either viable for the livelihoods of the small farmers. And at the same time will not meet the scale that the growing human population needs to meet its food demands.

However, it seems very unlikely because what we have seen that when we grow diversity in smallholders’ farmers’ fields, there is much more energy production that takes place and much more diversity of food sources that we get out of it even now.

Although we may be claiming that the food culture has converted to industrial supplies and larger value chains of concentration where the food is processed and provided to the urban consumers through supermarkets, even there, if we see where is the production coming from, we find that more than 70 percent of the production is still dominated by small producers, which is being put together and processed.

And then we feel that the scale has been achieved. One of the farmers once mentioned to me and I have never forgotten that sentence. He said whosoever the person, maybe even the president of India, let us see. But he still has to eat three meals a day and that three meals I provide. So that is the level of respect that the small farmer deserves from all of us.

NADIA BERGAMINI

NADIA INTRO

Hello, my name is Nadia Bergamini. And I work as a research specialist for Bioversity International in Rome.

Bioversity International is a Global Research for Development Organisation, ugh, and that is part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. And this group is a partnership of 15 different research centres that work for a food secure future, and these 15 centres collaborate with hundreds of partners across the whole globe.

Biodiversity International’s vision is to have agriculture biodiversity that nourishes people and sustains the planet. So, when we talk about agriculture biodiversity here, we intend the diversity of crops including the wild relatives, including trees, animals, but also microbes, and all the species that contribute to the production in agriculture.

Sound: meditation bell

Nadia Bergamini

NADIA BIODIVERSITY INTRO

So, there’s a lot of diversity within an ecosystem. And we look at diversity from a species, but also from a genetic point of view. So, our mission instead is to deliver the scientific evidence, but also management practices, policy options in order to use and safeguard agriculture and tree biodiversity to attain sustainable global food and also nutrition security.

So basically, we work with the partners in many different countries around the world, mostly low-income countries where agriculture and tree biodiversity can actually contribute to improved nutrition, but also livelihoods, resilience and also productivity, and help in adaptation to climate change.

Usually these low-income countries are also the countries where we find most of the agricultural and tree biodiversity.

NADIA BIODIVERSITY COLLABORATION

Since 2018 December 2018 we have been collaborating with another of these centres which is a Centre for Tropical Agriculture which is based in Cali in Colombia. And we have actually signed a memorandum of understanding to create an alliance. So, the two organisations will actually be working together much more strongly because we have very similar agenda and very similar mandates. So, we actually are going to complement the work of one Institute with the other.

So, this is sort of a future for us as well.

NADIA GLOBAL CHALLENGES– STAPLE FOOD

So why is the work that we do important because we know that the global population is growing, and we have predictions that say that by 2000 10 in 2050 we will be 9 million people in the world or even more. And this means that we need to feed all these people, and the food availability needs to actually expand in this especially in developing countries.

We actually facing a lot of global challenges like the challenge to reduce global malnutrition to adapt to climate change but also to increase as we said productivity and reduce risk, and also to address shrinking food diversity which is happening all over the world, and reduce the negative impacts of agricultural production on natural ecosystems.

And we think that production needs to focus on a diverse range of nutritious foods, which come from production systems that are highly biodiverse. We think that it’s better to increase their production in these type of systems rather than increase the volume of the few staple grains that presently cover 50 percent of the world’s energy intake.

And these grains are rice wheat and maize.

We are actually convinced that using on safeguarding agricultural and also tree biodiversity can help meet all these challenges.

And also, we know that farm households unruly corn wheat communities which are the people we work with have long since used agriculture and tree biodiversity to diversify their diets, to manage pests and disease, and also weather-related stress. The problem is that in the past policymakers and researchers have never considered these types of approaches as economically viable. Research has never gone into this direction or very marginally. But recent scientific evidence that has demonstrated that actually agriculture and tree biodiversity used in combination with novel technology, and also approaches, can offer a lot in addressing all these challenges.

It also brings increasing recognition as a tool to achieve a global sustainable development goals. which we’re all working towards.

NADIA SMALL SCALE PRODUCTION & DIVERSE

We work with agricultural biodiversity, so as I said, we promote small scale production that is highly diverse. So not only diverse in number of species that are that are cultivated, but it could be also diverse in the number of varieties of the same species.

For example, we work a lot with the farmers in Africa who cultivate beans. And what we have seen is that cultivating on the same field, different varieties of beans can actually reduce the impact of pests and diseases on the production systems.

So, we actually promoting genetically diverse systems because they actually much more adapted to climate change because they have a lot of more variety and there’s much more than great opportunity for some of the right varieties to perform well in different environmental conditions.

NADIA ON MILLET

We work a lot also with university and research institutes in these countries. We also work in preparing university curricula on agro-biodiversity. For example, we have a big program on the so called the neglected and under-utilised species which Millet is one of these species.

What we have done in the projects working with the with these species is actually to show what are the advantages for the farmers to cultivate these species, because they are actually proven to be more adapted to marginal environments. So, for example in India we have been working with minor millets and some areas of India are really facing a lot of heat and drought problems. And we have seen that some of these minor millets are really adapted to these environments.

They can thrive under low input and stress stressful growing conditions, that usually limit the productivity of staple crops. And they’re also highly nutritious. So they can actually contribute to healthier diets. And they also have a lot of potential for development as novel consumer products because we also engage with local private sectors and try to find ways to make these produce more attractive to young to young people but also to adults creating new recipes and way of presenting millets, for example in cookies or other plates.

And also, it is important to conserve these neglected and under-utilised species because they are also linked with the local culture and traditions. We know that by strengthening the use of these conservation and the use of these species we are also strengthening local identities. And we also contributing to empower marginalised communities.

NADIA ON LOCAL CULTURE  & WOMEN

Yes, we have a program on, on specifically on gender and trying to see the different roles that men and women play within the agricultural sector in especially in these low-income countries. And we have actually seen that although women often are not included in decision making. They actually play a very important role in managing farms. Women are usually engaged in cultivating the so-called home gardens and there where they usually select different varieties of medicinal plants but also condiments and which actually compliment a lot for the health and also for the diets of the whole household.

And women are also very much involved in selecting seeds. So usually when they have to choose the seeds that they would like to plant for the next season women are involved in this activity because they are also the ones who usually have to prepare food and so they they know which type of characteristics the different crops need to have the they know which beans Cook in less time which have a better taste which are better for some dishes or others or even the importance of some of the varieties for specific traditions or rituals or festivals.

So, the role of women is really is very important in maintaining this diversity within the household and also in ensuring more diversity in the nutrition of the or the household itself.

NADIA ON SYRIA
We have been working also on this because the situation in Syria is so dramatic and it’s so terrible and it’s really an extreme example of what can happen to people in a war situation but actually traditional knowledge and local knowledge is being lost all over the world because of globalisation because of a lot of times because of modern technology and so on and so we work towards trying to conserve this.

NADIA ON PROGRAMS/ REGISTRIES / RECIPES

This local knowledge and making sure that is it is transmitted to the younger generation. So, we have programs working with schoolchildren. But we also encourage communities to conserve. For example, biodiversity registries. So they have at the community level and they will keep a registry where they will note down all the diversity that is in their community all the different traits that different crops have and what they use for how they are managed on farm and this information is very important to keep at the community level and to make sure that is it is then transmitted to the younger generations because we also seen a big pro black problem that is that sort of migration to cities so younger generations also eating the agricultural systems to go on and look for jobs in the cities.

But not only agro-biodiversity registries is important to sort of keep track of this knowledge. We also work with the seasonal calendars where communities themselves will list all the different products that they are available during the different season in a year. And together with the name of the crop and the characteristics there is also different information on how it’s used for example.

And we also try to have community members especially women write their own recipe books. So, we have worked a lot in Central Asia with producing booklets that report all the different recipes. We have done this also in Cuba where we have all traditional recipes which are not known at all in the cities. And so this is also a way to keep this this knowledge alive.

NADIA ON GLOBAL NETWORKS

There are different networks that can be that can be used to share information. I was thinking of one that is the platform for agro-biodiversity research, which is actually hosted year in Bioversity International, and it is a network where anyone who is interested in agro-biodiversity can sort of link to and also put any type of information that they would like to share with other people.

And it’s actually a global network. So, this could be a way to share information. Obviously, language can be a barrier. We tend to stick to English, French and Spanish, but not even always we manage to do translations into French and Spanish. So, language can be a barrier. But I think networks of this type can be a good a good solution. Also, if communities have access to internet because it’s not always it’s not always the case.

NADIA ON URBAN ENVIRONMENTS, e.g. CUBA

We did have a small program looking at um from rural to urban looking at also gardens and the creation of a vegetable gardens in urban environments. A lot of times we are trying to link the rural sector with the urban ones so that there is a sort of mechanism that products can flow directly from the agricultural sector to the cities.

We have seen for example that in Cuba there is a problem with the food supply and that is basically linked to the fact that transport is very bad there, and farmers are connected to the to the government. So the government cooperatives are other ones who go round the different farms to collect the produce that they want but not all the products are requested. So, a lot of the fruit that is produced, for example, in the farms, is then wasted because there is no market with the government cooperatives.

So that for example we have worked together with the Urban and Suburban Program which in Cuba is very strong, to try to create local markets that actually can be supplied directly by the farmers, and it’s working quite well because people in the cities are actually very interested in getting fresh produce, and also varieties that they are not used to have in the cities.

NADIA ON HER FARM

In actual fact I have a farm myself. So my husband is is a farmer and we have an organic farm not very far from where where I work. We have seen changes in climate of a very short period of time. I mean we have been we have been cultivating for maybe 15 years and it’s really very difficult to predict what’s going to happen, and to know when you have to plant you your crops because you might have a cold spell, you might have a lot of rain, or it may be very hot and dry so the only way to overcome these problems is actually to have a bigger array of diversity where you can choose from. And so, if you cultivate different types of tomatoes that have that are resistant to two different biotic and abiotic stresses then you might have a better chance of picking some of the tomatoes at the end of the season.

So I mean this is the only way that we can actually go, and I would say that Italy we’re very fond of our food and so we still have quite a lot of connection with the land, and a lot of young people are sort of going back to farming maybe because it’s difficult to find other jobs, a job that that can with which you can actually survive both because you work you can eat your own food, but also because it’s actually there’s quite a lot of requests for fresh organic foods here in Italy. Yes.

Farms in Europe I would say have to differentiate their income so It’s not only farming but usually it’s also a transformation of some of the products, or even restaurants or having school activities. So taking sort of educational plans with schools so schools come to the farm they actually do some experience. They do some work and they and the kids actually see where their food comes from. Yes, this is quite common.

The market has just a certain amount of space and I don’t think everyone can sort of go towards agro-tourism because the market at least here is quite saturated at the moment. Yes.

DIVERSIFICTION = RESILIENCE

This idea of diversification is what we also call resilience. And we have been working quite a lot on this with also with other partners around the world. And one of them was the Satoyama Initiative which is an international partnership made up of a lot of different institutes from all over the world, who have come together basically to work on the so-called social ecological production landscapes or seascapes, because the idea of conserving nature without human beings is actually an idea that doesn’t work anymore.

We have seen that all this all the ecosystems of the world have been altered in somehow by human beings. And a lot of these systems have core evolved with human beings. So, they have been shaped by their activities. But they also have to withstand the test of time. So, a lot of these systems are actually still producing and still sustaining the livelihoods of the people working on these systems. What we have tried to do is actually to understand what has made these systems resilient over such a long period of time.

And we have seen that resilience is actually depends a lot both from a social and ecological point of view on the diversification. So, the same definition of social ecological production landscape is in fact of a mosque a mosaic of different land uses and habitats. So, for example village’s farmlands, grasslands, forests, pastoral lands, and coasts that have been for old and maintained through the interaction between people and nature in a sustainable way.

Satoyama Initiative Framework

And we call them Satoyama, we call them social ecological production landscapes. There are other programs that work with these types of systems on a landscape level. Resilience is actually linked to the capacity of these systems to adapt and to change to the changing conditions. But maintaining their sort of main functions and their main structure.

and so as I was saying we have been working with a lot of these type of landscapes and the communities that live in these in these landscapes and we have seen that to increase resilience they need to have a lot of agriculture to maintain a lot of agricultural biodiversity that

Local culture and knowledge is extremely important that also diversification of farming income is increasingly important so that they don’t depend only on one sector and this can be done through ecotourism it can be done through artisanal work or differentiating the sources of income through different types of activities that are ways that still are sustainable for the environment.

And this is why then in the end we developed a series of indicators, social resilience indicators that were actually developed to do this to measure resilience within these systems. But these indicators are a sort of a participatory approach so they are they are mostly I would say qualitative more than quantitative indicators. And it’s the communities themselves that assess the resilience of their own of their own systems, because resilience to them it might be different from what we see as resilient.

They all have their own world views. They have their own aspirations and might see things in a different way. For example, one of the indicators that comes to my mind is that we look at infrastructure within the landscape and often as a Westerner we might think that they lack a lot of primary facilities that for us would be essential like, for example. electric power. But some of these communities are actually interested in different things on electric power for them was not their primary concern.

So it’s interesting to use this this approach because you actually have the communities himself assess what they think and what they see they see as resilient in their system, and then they are able also to work on their landscape and try to improve the resilience through different type of activities.

So, resilience is the capacity to learn and adapt to the changes. So, a system is resilient not when it stays in its own stages for a long period of time it’s not conserving a museum for example but it’s a dynamic there. We’re talking about dynamic systems that change over time. But the capacity to learn and adapt for changes and the base has to be a rich system in biodiversity wild and natural biodiversity. Governance is important within the systems culture needs to be something that we tried to conserve. And those are the sort of the local ways style of life and so on and on and at the same time introducing also technology, I mean we’re not trying to if technology is useful in these situations it’s a good thing.

Equity, participation are absolutely fundamental. Yes.

——————————

REETU SOGANI

REETU INTRO.

My name is Rita Sogani, and I have been living in the in the hills in the State of Uttarakhand in India, for the last 20 years, and have been working very closely with the grassroots community, especially women and that marginalised community on the issue of traditional knowledge systems and practices.

The work primarily is about how to protect and conserve the traditional knowledge systems and practices which exist in the area of agriculture, forest, water, natural resources. How to strengthen the knowledge system, and how to promote the knowledge system as one of the important base of livelihood of people here.

Reetu Sogani with women in the Himalayan foothills.


ON TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE

When we talk of traditional knowledge, then what we mean is the knowledge that people have been accumulating, have been experiencing, have been observing, for centuries together, actually.

It’s an oral tradition, you know, which has been handed down the generation, from the one generation to another orally. It’s not documented. It’s not coded.

For example, how to grow or agriculture, in very hilly area which is around 1500 meters or 1500 meters to 1700 meters. The kind of soil that we have here how to use that soil in growing different kind of crops, how to manage the forest sustainably, but at the same time also use it in such a way that we have it for the generations later on.

That knowledge that people have, is something that they have a have heard their parents or grandparents speak about.

In other words, it’s just common sense.

REETU ON GENDER ROLES
When I started working the hills in 1998, I had absolutely no idea of what the situation is as far as the local knowledge in the hills is concerned.

I had no idea how it is connected with women and men.

It’s the women actually in the hills who have been very closely connected with the natural resources, be it forest, be it agricultural, be livestock management, be it even health related practices, governed by food items and herbs.

The roles and responsibilities of women are such that they stay in the house, and they carry out all the activities close to the house, you know, which are connected with natural resources. So, agriculture in the hills is not just connected with land, or is not just connected, you know, with growing crops. It’s very closely connected with forest, very closely connected with of course water, very closely connected with livestock.

So, she is the one who is very closely connected with all these sectors, and she is the one who is interacting with them on day to day basis.

She knows what grows where, what leaf should be used if the goat actually has indigestion. Or how the compost is prepared, and how those leaves can be used for the preparation of compost.

So, she is the one who has been interacting with all these ideas, and so she has the knowledge, and she has the skill; first-hand knowledge and first-hand knowledge systems and practices in these sectors.

ROLE OF MEN

Men definitely they are also contributing in agriculture but only in couple of activities. But of course this is a general picture but men mostly prefer to work outside in the villages, or outside, they migrate to the towns or sometimes they migrate to the main towns like Delhi, Bombay and other places, to bring in money.

In fact, the hill economy is also called the money order economy, where the money actually comes in through this money order or through the check, and many people in the hills have also joined the army.

So, it’s the women who has been associated with agriculture and related areas.

One of the research institutions came out with this figure of 98.5 percent, 98.5 percent of the work relating to agriculture is being carried out by women.

Land and forestry management is in the hands of women. Shown here, the women of Majkhali take compost to the fields.

 

REETU ON WOMENS VIEW OF HEALTH

I ask this question from one of the women as to ‘how do you describe health? The word health’

She gave me such a beautiful and different answer.

She said: The animal that you see is still important for health. The kind of crop that we are growing and the methods we are using. That is also connected to the water that we are using. That is also connected with health, what I’m eating and how I’m eating is also connected with my emotional health.

She said, it’s so difficult to describe because all the things around me, are contributing to health, and the air that I’m breathing in, you know, that is also part of health. The forest is responsible. The trees are responsible.

So, she described health in such an integrated and holistic way. That was my first lesson actually.

I mean, if you asked this question from any doctor or any person in the urban area, he or she would say health is the absence of illness. ‘I don’t have any illness.’ How compartmentalised our approach has become, you know in comparison to how people think.

REETU ON CHANGE

And when it comes to women we have to work at various levels. It’s not just at the grassroots level but we have to work at various policymaking levels. Even the grassroots level is very important there, women are not able to make their voices heard even in the local self-governance bodies.

Because of the kind of roles and responsibilities they have they don’t have time, they’re not supposed to be seen in those decision-making forums and processes, because they believe that they’re not supposed to be here. They’re supposed to be doing their household chores.

So that kind of mindset actually has to change, and gender sensitisation has to come about at all levels. Also, at the household level. It’s not something that is very easy, but it’s happening now.

Last year we had a meeting at the state level, in which we had invited the government officials, of not just our state but of the nearby states also, and there were several organisations, Forest department was also there, Agriculture Department was also there- I was so happy to see Parvati who is a wonderful farmer, extremely knowledgeable, spokesperson of our forest Committee, standing there in front of everybody and telling people ‘we want traditional crops we will grow really traditional crops, we will not use any of the chemical fertilisers that you  people from promoting because of these, these and these reasons.

REETU ON WOMEN FARMERS  LAND RIGHTS

One of the other issues which I have not mentioned actually right now, but which is very closely connected to the women farmers; they are doing the majority of the work related to farming, they are actually not known as farmers. They’re not recognised legally, administratively and even socially as farmers, simply because they don’t have land in their name.

It’s really sad. It’s very deeply sad and very ironical I would say.

If you take into consideration Nepal, India, and Thailand, not even 17 percent of the total landholdings actually belong to women. And these are the areas where women contribute maximum to the agricultural economy.

There is still such a tough battle going, on because the land does not get inherited by women. But it has very serious implications on her work, on her capabilities, or no capacity building, on his skills.

Because she is not recognised as farmers, it’s only men who are being invited to the workshops by the government, by any other organisation. Women don’t have access to credit. They don’t have access to the government.

The first thing they ask for is to have the land title in your name, and with increasing migration, and reduced access to resources, the condition of the women has actually worsened over the years, I would say.

We have a big network. This is called Mahela dichotomous that is ‘women farmers rights’. And we are doing everything possible to influence the government, to change the land inheritance rules to include women, which will take many, many years because land is a very important source of power.

But at the same time at least I recognise them as cultivators. At least recognise them as cultivators — at least give them the right to be able to access the bank, and access the credit, whenever they want to.… to access the government, the schemes, the government schemes should not be asking only for the land titles but they should be asking the name of the cultivator. I think it’s very much possible.

This is making the life of the woman very difficult and it has made the situation worse actually over the years because with the decision making vested in absent men, it becomes so difficult to make good important decisions at the right time.

Work relating to agriculture continues to be done by women, but without any decision making it becomes difficult for her, you know, to carry it on for her. Pretty frustrating, very frustrating.

EXAMPLE OF ADMINISTRATION FAILURE

One of the women from our area she had gone to the bank and she was just filling up one form. I think she was opening an account and there was this column that said what is your profession?

She wrote farmer, and the bank officials refused to accept it. He said “You are not a farmer, you are a housewife.”

She had the understanding, she had the business, and also some confidence when she was with other women also there. She said: “I’m a farmer, you have to put down my name because I’m the farmer, I’m the one who is tilling the land, I’m the one who is cutting, I’m the one who is weeding, I’m the one who is harvesting, how can you not call me a farmer. I will not delete the word farmer.

I will continue to use the word farmer. He had to accept it. He did accept it! She was only opening a bank account.

The gender sensitisation hasn’t taken place at that level. So that’s why I’m saying administratively she is not recognised as farmers.

She is still considered to be somebody who is carrying out only the household chores. Her unpaid work; be productive, or be reproductive, or be it caring responsibility, is not being recognised, it is not visible is not being acknowledged.

Here, widows get the right to land title, once their husbands pass away, you know. Parvati also mentioned this in that meeting, in the keynote speaker speech. She said “As long as a husband alive, you know, we have no right over land. Only when he dies, when he passes away, only then we are allowed to have the right over land.”

It hit them really hard. Even the rule which is in favour of them in an actual reality they’re not recognised not just legally but also administratively. It’s the structural change you need to bring about. It’s just that it is the system which responsible for this state of affairs. It is connected to globalisation.

REETU ON FILM BY CDKN

The biggest NGO working globally. On climate change. [00:11:23] Climate Development Knowledge Network, made a film on these women who are part of our group, and the title of the film I think is ‘Missing Women in Decision Making’ and these very women video recorded themselves, as to what they’re doing, how they’re doing, how it is connected with climate change, how it is actually helping them mitigate, how it is helping them adapt themselves.

Women with me have gone to Malaysia and in Malaysia they have spoken about these very things, they have shared their experiences their opinion their needs, their priorities, everything.

We have settled myopic way of looking at things, interconnectedness with nature.

This is what interconnectedness is.

I mean it’s not about just interdependence it’s also about cooperation. People are interdependent. But more than interdependence there is this cooperation, amongst these then villages of the micro watershed around these sectors.

View of Mountains from Majkhali Village, The Vrikshalaya Centre.

Traditional knowledge is not just about technique. It’s not just about practices. It’s about a very integrated interconnected interdependent system you know, which runs through people’s cooperation, which again actually is on the decline.

The social cohesion, the value for the simplicity, you know, the value of the equilibrium all these values, they were very, very integral part of our traditional system, or way of life. And all of these values they make people more resilient. Social cohesion was such an important aspect of people’s lives fiscally those were more modern life like for example.

Diversifying Crops

We have a practice in the hills called Palta, P A L T A (spells it out) — which means that people contribute in each’s labour.

People from not just my household, would contribute, but people from the other households in my village, would contribute, as well as from other villages also.

And the same would happen, I would go and contribute, my whole day, the entire day you know. In carrying out that activity. And this would help mostly those people single women. Women whose husbands or who’s the men folks have migrated, but they’re not… they’re not…there. And the elderly couple households.

So social resilience and social cohesion and all these values actually increase people’s resilience. But unfortunately, that kind of agriculture that we are following now makes people very individualistic.

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

I think one of the important things that we have to do is do to have our resources to have belief in our resources, and to strengthen the existing biological diversity, and the cultural diversity, whatever little remains of it.

It’s not that it’s impossible because I worked in certain areas in the hills for the last ten years twelve years and people have changed. I mean they have brought about changes in their food diet, they have brought about changes in their agricultural system. And we are not going to those areas anymore.

The experience that they have already you know, and the awareness that they have is enough actually to last for a very long time. And also, it could get transferred to their children. They’re also growing cash crop, but at the same time they’re also getting finger millet.

They are buying things from the market but at the same time they have their agriculture to fall back on.

ON BIODIVERSE FARMING

Biodiversity based ecological farming, mixed cropping system, done organically– They can also produce much more, not just equivalent to chemical intensive farming. This is one great disbelief that people have, the government have, is that chemical intensive farming can feed the mouths of the increasing population, and organic farming can’t.

This is all wrong actually, and so many studies are there to prove it otherwise. I would not call it organic farming, but biodiversity based, ecological farming. In balance with the nature.

Because organic farming can also promote mono cropping which is happening actually.

Organic farming is just one component of biodiversity based ecological farming. When it comes to chemical intensive farming of course, the adverse impacts are quite well known, and even the government of Uttarakhand and other state governments are not promoting chemical intensive farming anymore, but they are promoting organic farming.

We are talking about biodiversity, also, you know in the farming and the ecological farming

keeping in balance you know with the ecology the surrounding ecology, which is most important.

ON ORGANIC FARMING

Organic farming can also promote mono cropping. Organic farming only talks about cropping system which is minus chemicals, minus synthetic fertilisers and pesticides.

That is one important component of the farming system that we are talking about, but we are also talking about mixed cropping system, which would take care of the health of not just the soil but also of course take care of the health of the livestock and also take care of the health of the human beings, because it will ensure availability and access to food and nutrition at all things of the year.

ON 9 CROPS

We have a practice of growing nine different kinds of crops in one single season during the rainy season. And these different crops are about Grains, Spices, Oil seeds, different pulses, all these nine different kinds of crops would grow in one single field, in one single season and it will get harvested of course at different times of the year but it will ensure availability of some food you know in the household at any time of the year.

Now the studies have also proved that both of us based ecological farming on mixed cropping system done organically will take care of not just the production but also of the health aspect.

We have the studies and we have the data that can prove, you know, that their production can be higher than the production of mono cropping. Done just next to that field.

ON NUTRITION

The amount of nutrition which is coming out of that one acre of land and it’ll be much more in comparison to the mono cropping which is growing this next that the one acre of land in one year it is able to absorb two thousand pounds of carbon in a year. Where are doing mixed cropping organically. In comparison to chemical intensive farming which actually releases 300 pounds of carbon per acre, per year.

Considering the global warming which is taking place, it is very, very important to also come up with ways for mitigation; mitigating strategies are much more important and unfortunately nobody talks about it because it is connected with again you know big corporations.

It is connected again with fertiliser companies and nobody is invested in mitigation right now.

Nobody is talking about agriculture which is a very big contributor of carbon emission but can be a very important strategy to sequestrate the carbon, prevent it from emitting, and also absorb the carbon which is in the atmosphere.

Agriculture done this the mixed cropping done organically is considered to be the only way through which we can do carbon sequestration at a very fast rate.

This is in total contrast to the policies of the government which is talking about monoculture, growing only pine trees in the forest area, and also promoting mono cropping.

I think we have to have a very multi-pronged approach you know, the statistics are also important in certain areas, and case studies are equally important.

Transplanting rice in Majkhali

CONVINCING MEN

The village women I had been working with constantly since 2001. They already had been a witness. They had some difficulty to convince the menfolk actually at the household level.

But gradually they interacted with a mentor also and they also started coming to our meetings. We made them interact with few people who have never switched over to chemical intensive farming and make them use their experiences.

We did workshops for them. He showed them video films we showed them many educational documentaries. We took them out on educational trips to some people renowned people who have been working on saving seeds for many, many years. Made them interact with other groups also working on these issues.

We took a walk actually for five days through different parts of Uttarakhand, and they interacted the different communities they exchanged you know their experiences, they heard about their experiences, and gradually they finally got the confidence to do what all of us had been talking about.

They shifted from chemical intensive farming, to gradually organic farming and the mono cropping to mixed cropping. Surrounding villages have also actually turned, after having seen them you know after having heard their experiences, they have also gradually turned organic, and they have also gone back you know to those mixed cropping systems, through their interaction so they have become kind of leaders actually in all the.

The government of Uttarakhand declared itself organic many, many, many, many years ago but it has not created any market where farmers can actually sell it organic produce. That’s a big challenge too. It’s not that they have no idea. It’s not that they have no awareness. They know that that middle person actually the takeaway a major chunk of profit, you know, and the farmers are not able to reach the market.

That struggle is still going on, but at the same time in parallel, there are women’s federations and they are selling them now in the market to different outlets. And do value addition packaging, labelling, everything and then sell in different outlets.

This could be the government outlet as well as some other private outlets.

That is happening and that is adding to their income.

They’re also catering to the urban taste you know by having single malt cake or finger millet biscuits. Over the last two three years their children have started offering this local produce.

The things that they were used to eating from outside.

I think in India we have the civil society is quite strong, and the women’s groups are also very strong.

SELF AUTONOMY

To self-reliance self-confidence and self-esteem; these are all connected.

So we can’t say that everything in the name of knowledge, which we have inherited, which has come down the generations. is good and very effective. Many of the things that are effective but some of the things are not very effective. Maybe because the situation has changed now, so a good amalgamation, a very balanced amalgamation of local knowledge with the new knowledge also needs to be done from time to time, now, to address people’s emerging needs and requirements.

The most important thing in the amalgamation is: Who is controlling the knowledge? The point of control. It has been a gradual dependence of people on the market. Self-reliance Self Sustenance. Has. Been replaced with total dependence. And that actually has an impact on the self-confidence and self-esteem of people. When we talk of local knowledge. And the replacement of local knowledge. People lose out on this self-confidence the self-esteem and self-reliance.

You should be looking like us it could be an institution it could be a country it could be a civilization, could be a region it could be a section of community it could be market, and a particular section in the market, and it could be an advertising agency who wants you to look like people they are advertising.

We lose identity we lose address we lose the language we lose our food we lose our systems we lose our knowledge we lose their practices and we lose ourselves completely. Lose autonomy, lose autonomy, lose our freedom.

END

——————————————

CREDITS

TANYA’S VOICE:

Thank you for listening to this episode of Nordic By Nature, ON KNOWLEDGE. You can find more info on our guests and a transcript of this podcast on imaginarylife.net/podcast

You can contact Nadia Bergamini via BioversityInternational.org.

Reetu Sogani would like to thank the women of Chak dalar and Chama chopra in the Bheerapani area, in Nainital district. The women in Talla Gehna in Nainital district. And the women in Tola area in Almora district.

She would also like to say thanks to the Chintan international trust-India.

Nordic by Nature is an ImaginaryLife production. For more inform The music and sound has been arranged by Diego Losa. You can find him on diegolosa.blogspot.com

Please help us by sharing a link to this episode with the hashtag #tracesofnorth and follow us on Instagram @nordicbynaturepodcast. We are also fundraising on panteon.com/nordicbynature.

If you are interested in nature-centred mindfulness please see foundnature.org to read about Ajay Rastogi and the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature. You can follow the Foundation on Facebook, and on Contemplation of Nature on Instagram.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on our podcast.

Please email me, Tanya, on nordicbynature@gmail.com

END

 

Become a Patron!

Guión Del Episodio 3: Sobre La Resiliencia Interior

Título en inglés: “On Inner Resilience”
Nordic by Nature
Sonido: Música De Diego Losa
Introducción: Voz De Tanya.

Bienvenidos a Nordic by Nature, un podcast producido por “Ecology Today”, inspirado por el filósofo noruego Arne Naess, quien acuñó el término “Ecología profunda”.

Naess utilizó el término “auto realización” para indicar una imagen de perfección, un proceso y un propósito, tanto para una persona como para una comunidad. El podcast “Sobre la Resiliencia Interior”, combina las ideas de Naess sobre “auto realización” y una visión del equilibrio humano. Este contenido sólo debería ser puesto en práctica con un sentido de alegría interior y de benevolencia hacia el mundo.

La “Resiliencia Interior” puede ser definida a partir de ciertas características:

La “Resiliencia Interior” es plena de sentido y deseable, pero en ocasiones puede ser dolorosa. No es un sinónimo de comodidad. Más bien, es un proceso de maduración espiritual, por el cual una persona actúa de una manera más consistente consigo misma como un todo;

La “Resiliencia Interior” es un proceso continuo; puede ser alcanzada a través del conocimiento y el estudio, pero exige una práctica constante que incluye cultivar, comunicar y compartir valores como la compasión;

La “Resiliencia Interior” desarrolla nuevos tipos de habilidades que son necesarias para una transformación personal, incluyendo la empatía, el respeto, la humildad, la construcción de consensos y la co-creación;

Estamos constantemente cambiando y no podemos separarnos de los procesos planetarios de los que somos parte. Nuestra propia salud y bienestar no pueden existir a expensas de otros, ni de la diversidad biológica y cultural que son la naturaleza de la vida.

Ajay Rastogi comenzará introduciéndonos en una práctica de Mindfulness secular y centrada en la naturaleza, que él mismo desarrolló, y enseña actualmente, en la Fundación para la Contemplación de la Naturaleza, en Majkhali, un pueblo de los Himalayas en el Estado de Uttarakhand, en India.

Después escucharemos las palabras de Noor A Noor, un conservacionista egipcio de la Universidad de Cambridge en el Reino Unido, quien describe su propio camino personal hacia la “Conservación” y el Mindfulness, a través de su historia familiar, su experiencia con la música, y los dramáticos acontecimientos de la revolución egipcia de 2011.

Luego escucharemos a Judith Schleicher. Judith nos explicará cómo la meditación diaria le ha ayudado en su trabajo en “Conservación”, después de participar, por primera vez, en un retiro de Vipassana de diez días en Perú, hace siete años.

Finalmente, escucharemos a Christoph Eberhard, antropólogo legal y practicante de las artes tradicionales Chinas e Indias como el Tai Chi Chuan, el Qi Gong y el Yoga. Christoph cree que el diálogo está en el corazón de una transformación plena de sentido: el diálogo con un mismo, el diálogo con otros, el diálogo con la naturaleza y el diálogo con lo trascendente (“the beyond”).

Este podcast está diseñado para que pueda ser escuchado con audífonos. Ojalá puedas hacerte un tiempo y disfrutar escuchándolo.

AJAY RASTOGI

Hola, mi nombre es Ajay Rastogi …. y … nosotros vivimos en el pueblo de Majkhali, en el Estado de Uttarakhand, en la región india de los Himalayas …. y … está a alrededor de 400 kilómetros al norte de Dehli. Desde aquí miramos muchos de los altos picos del Himalaya de más de 6.000 metros.

He sido ecologista y medioambientalista durante gran parte de mi vida.

Ajay Rastogi, Founder of the Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.

Ajay On The Contemplation Of Nature.

El hecho de que no hayamos sido capaces de hacer grandes cambios en la sociedad, que son necesarios para lograr la sustentabilidad, requiere que revisemos el enfoque que hemos adoptado hasta ahora en los movimientos ambientales. Por esta razón, empecé a pensar que nada sería más transformador que una práctica meditativa que pudiera ser hecha en la naturaleza….

La meditación ha sido considerada como una metodología para la transformación interior.

La Contemplación De La Naturaleza

La contemplación de la naturaleza, una práctica meditativa[1], se realiza en un entorno natural. Es una experiencia multisensorial.

Esto ayuda, porque somos un organismo biológico, y por lo tanto tenemos un impulso inherente para conectarnos con la naturaleza. Es algo para lo que estamos genéticamente configurados, por lo que no es una meditación tan abstracta como muchas otras que la gente encuentra, por lo que es una buena manera de empezar.

Las personas pueden comenzar con esta meditación, y después llegar a niveles más profundos siguiendo cualquier otra práctica que deseen. La meditación en la naturaleza, la contemplación de la naturaleza, definitivamente es un práctica que puede llevarse a cabo cotidianamente, que nos lleva a un nivel de tranquilidad y nos aporta beneficios como la compasión y la bondad, así como una más profunda conexión con la naturaleza y con la comunidad a nuestro alrededor.

Aproximadamente después de 23 minutos de meditación, la tranquilidad que se alcanza gatilla procesos más profundos de relajación fisiológica, lo que lleva al cuerpo y su química interna a un estado mucho más regulado y balanceado. Esta es la llamada “respuesta de relajación”, que es lo que estamos intentando lograr en un nivel fisiológico y psíquico, además de los otros beneficios que entrega la meditación.

Entonces, mientras nos sentamos y observamos con una mirada suave….

A veces podemos no tener acceso a un paisaje natural, pero esta meditación puede ser realizada también en algún interior, utilizando objetos muy sencillos. Luego, sigues los tres pasos de la contemplación que hemos diseñado….

Acerca De La Meditación

Entonces, los tres pasos …. tres simples pasos, son: a) observar la naturaleza con una mirada suave; b) aceptar con desapego gentil; y c) enviar amor con atención simpatética.

Observamos la naturaleza con una mirada suave, permaneciendo en la aceptación con un gentil desapego. No nos interesamos en encontrar ningún detalle. Por supuesto, la mente va a deambular de un lado a otro, pero tan pronto como nos demos cuenta de que nos hemos alejado a la deriva, podemos volver a la contemplación de la naturaleza con una mirada suave.

Un elemento adicional, muy importante en la práctica de contemplar la naturaleza, es “dejar ir”, y esto sucede sólo cuando nos sentamos y empezamos a contemplar, generando un sentimiento de amor con atención simpatética, y recordándonos a nosotros mismos la gratitud, un sentimiento de gratitud. Y continuamos sentados, observando suavemente con la mirada y con un desapego gentil.

“Dejar ir” es no hacer ningún juicio acerca de “dónde estamos” y “qué estamos haciendo”. Éste es un paso trascendental en la naturaleza, y por lo tanto es un aspecto fundamental de la práctica, a través de la cual somos capaces, de alguna manera, de trascender el impulso de juzgar y pensar, al menos por un breve momento.

Voz 2: Noor A Noor

NOOR A NOOR

Mi nombre es Noor A Noor. Soy un egipcio de 28 años, realizando un master de “Liderazgo en Conservación”. Antes de venir a Cambridge, dediqué los últimos 7 años a dirigir la ONG Nature Conservation Egypt, una institución que trabaja en la conservación de los hábitats de especies y de comunidades locales.

 

Noor Sobre Egipto En 2011

Cuando era pequeño, yo era un niño de ciudad. Mis padres eran muy activistas por la justicia social, y por los derechos políticos y económicos. Sin embargo, no recuerdo que me hayan llevado a la naturaleza …. no fue parte de mi educación.

En 2011, Egipto vivió uno de los más increíbles aunque dramáticos levantamientos, en los que cientos de miles de egipcios salieron a la calle exigiendo más pan, libertad y justicia social. Y obviamente todo lo que se deriva de estos tres componentes. Como resultado, se produjeron cambios significativos. Algunos de ellos fueron para mejor, pero muchos otros fueron para peor.

Nos enfrentamos a una inmensa violencia por parte de las personas encargadas en ese tiempo, específicamente las fuerzas armadas.

Había un constante conflicto con los manifestantes que exigían una completa transición hacia un gobierno más democrático y respetuoso de los derechos humanos. Como resultado, hubo una tremenda persecución, y hasta el día de hoy muchos egipcios continúan siendo perseguidos por el Estado.

Durante ese año 2011, yo, al igual que cientos de miles de egipcios que tomaban parte en estas demostraciones, tuvimos literalmente que correr por nuestras vidas…. las suficientes veces como para darnos cuenta que la vida no es lo que parece, cuando tienes que correr para ponerte a salvo. Pasé entonces de estar siempre preparado para sacrificarme por la causa, a darme cuenta de que en realidad sería más útil para la sociedad si trataba de sobrevivir, y parte de ese darme cuenta vino del hecho de pasar tiempo en la naturaleza por primera vez.

Noor: Descubriendo La Naturaleza

Por primera vez estaba pasando una significativa cantidad de tiempo en la naturaleza, aprendiendo de la naturaleza y enseñando sobre la naturaleza, así como conservando la naturaleza, todo como parte del nuevo trabajo que asumí desde el 2012.

Mientras más entendía la naturaleza, más terminé entendiéndome a mí mismo.

Poco a poco, terminé por encontrarme con el Mindfulness, que al principio odiaba como término porque encontraba que era muy contraintuitivo. Pero mientras más leía sobre Mindfulness, más empezó a resonarme y a hacerme sentido, tanto en un nivel teórico como político y personal. Pasar más tiempo en la naturaleza, ir comprendiendo cómo funciona y dejándome inspirar y sanar por ella … todo eso fue en sí mismo un proceso de Mindfulness.

Esencialmente, tuve que pasar por muchos traumas físicos y emocionales ese año, ya sea infligidos en mi persona, o peor aún, que afectaron a quienes yo cuidaba, e incluso a quienes no conocía, pero con quienes compartía un terreno político común.

El trauma acumulado en esos años, por mí y por miles de otros, se arrastra hasta estos días.

No hay nada romántico en una revolución. No hay nada romántico en un conflicto ni en los levantamientos sociales, porque hay mucho que se sacrifica….

Pero estoy completamente agradecido…. por la manera en que finalmente terminé por responder a estos traumas, en un nivel físico y emocional, por cómo logré alcanzar un mayor nivel de Mindfulness para reducir mis niveles de ansiedad…

…. incluso políticamente. Creo que esto contribuyó a ver de mejor manera cómo podemos…. ser mejor holísticamente como planeta; cómo sobrellevar las inevitables crisis que estamos enfrentando y que continuaremos enfrentando a una tasa exponencial en el futuro.

Después de los levantamientos de 2011, estaba decidido a trabajar en terreno, y terminé dirigiendo una ONG dedicada a la conservación de la naturaleza y trabajando en una empresa de turismo educativo ambiental, llamada Dima.

Me hizo darme cuenta de ciertas dimensiones que estaban relacionadas con nuestra supervivencia, con la sustentabilidad, y con las batallas que estábamos dando por la justicia.

Me di cuenta de la importancia de la naturaleza y de los recursos naturales de los cuales dependemos.

Lo que mucha gente está comprendiendo ahora es que todas las dinámicas políticas, económicas e incluso sociales, relacionadas con nosotros como especie, están directa o indirectamente relacionadas con la manera en que interactuamos con la naturaleza que nos rodea.

El hecho de que continuemos viéndonos separados de aquello que nos mantiene vivos, empezando por la comida, y muchas otras cosas más, incluso el aire del que extraemos el oxígeno que necesitamos, que proviene de otros seres vivos y otros hábitats de este planeta, está en el centro de algunos de los actuales conflictos sobre los recursos naturales, así como de la trayectoria que seguimos hacia el colapso del sistema que nos sostiene.

El concepto de “Ecología Política” es un excelente término para dar cuenta de esta situación. Lo que nos dice este concepto es que siempre que pensemos en recursos naturales, necesitamos pensar en las estructuras políticas, sociales y económicas que imponemos a la naturaleza, si es que vamos a hablar de conservación. Y al mismo tiempo, si lo que buscamos es el desarrollo social, necesitamos pensar en los procesos ecológicos que soportan estos procesos sociales.

Para ser honestos, estamos todos implicados. El teléfono que estoy usando ahora, para hablar con ustedes acerca de la sustentabilidad, los componentes que han sido usados para construir este teléfono, no son sustentables. El café que estoy saboreando en este momento, supuestamente proviene de un proceso que es éticamente correcto, pero finalmente es probable que provenga de algún lugar muy lejano a eso. Esto en sí mismo, que es parte de nuestra cultura de consumo, hace muy difícil que estemos conscientes de todas aquellas cosas que comemos y bebemos, porque hemos llegado a ser muy dependientes de ellas.

Cuando tenía 15 años, mi padre fue encarcelado por el gobierno de Mubarak, el régimen que estuvo en el poder por más de 30 años. Mi padre fue sentenciado a 4 o 5 años de prisión, como castigo por participar en las movilizaciones políticas que se oponían al presidente…. en ese tiempo recuerdo muy específicamente haberme dicho a mí mismo cosas como: ok, tienes un minuto para sentir lo que tengas que sentir … tan pronto como ese minuto pase, cambia el switch. Cambia el switch …. continúa con lo que tienes que hacer en tu día a día, no te rebeles en tu interior, sólo continúa funcionando. Recuerdo perfectamente tener 15 años y estarme diciendo estas cosas. Y aunque obviamente esto puede no ser siempre la mejor solución, recuerdo haberme forzado a mí mismo a hacer esto para desconectarme de la ansiedad y el miedo que estaba en mi cabeza. Sólo para ser capaz de seguir funcionando.

Diez años más tarde, cuando me encontré a mí mismo … reconociendo mi ansiedad por primera vez, ¡me di cuenta de que había estado respirando incorrectamente toda mi vida! (risa), y fue una realización fascinante porque … técnicamente …. no nos enseñan cómo respirar correctamente cuando somos niños… nadie te dice que respires a través de tu estómago cuando eres un niño.

En mi último año de universidad estaba estudiando ciencia política y derecho, y ese último año me involucré en un proyecto para hacer música a partir de la basura.

Así que … nos dedicábamos a… reciclar y reutilizar deshechos para hacer música, y para despertar una conciencia ambiental y social utilizando la música como un medio. Ese proyecto musical, a través de los conciertos que organicé, me ayudó a conocer a la gente con la que terminé trabajando en los años que siguieron.

Voz 3: JUDITH SCHLEICHER (c. 8 Mins) 

JUDITH SCHLEICHER

Soy Judith Schleicher. Soy postdoc[2] aquí en el Departamento de Geografía de la Universidad de Cambridge, y también trabajo actualmente como Consultora en el Centro de Monitoreo de la Conservación Mundial del Medio Ambiente de Naciones Unidas.

Siempre he estado interesada en los bosques tropicales, su diversidad, la gente que vive ahí, la diversidad cultural, la biodiversidad, todo eso … tratando de protegerlo, y también de entender mejor a la gente y nuestra relación con ella.

Judith Schleicher at David Attenborough House, Cambridge.

Cuando estaba haciendo mi Phd[3] empecé a meditar … mucho … y luego, cuando tuve la oportunidad de trabajar en la relación entre la naturaleza y las personas, después de mi doctorado, me pareció que todas estas cosas finalmente se reunían.

Desde este lugar, lo que podemos ver es un estacionamiento y mucho concreto. Y tú sabes, si ese es el ambiente en el que crecemos, y que con la edad nos volvemos menos conectados aún, pienso que eso no sólo tiene un impacto muy negativo en nuestro desarrollo personal, en nuestro crecimiento personal y como sociedad, sino que también significa que en el futuro podríamos preocuparnos aún menos por lo que nos queda.

Pienso que lo que es realmente importante es que también miremos hacia nuestro interior. Necesitamos pensar en nosotros mismos, en nuestro propio bienestar, y trabajar en hacer los cambios desde adentro, y luego podremos hacer cambios más allá de nosotros.  Y creo que esas son las cosas que realmente necesitan ser parte de nuestro sistema educativo: cómo crecemos, cuáles son las cosas que realmente importan en nuestras vidas.

Los niños pasan tanto tiempo en el colegio, y se les enseñan tantas cosas que involucran sólo nuestro intelecto – sólo pensar en ellas – pero realmente no se piensa en cómo desarrollamos nuestra resiliencia emocional, cómo tenemos que pensar en nuestro bienestar, cómo desarrollamos nuestra propia actitud mental.

Preocuparnos realmente de eso es tan importante. Y si pudiéramos hacer de eso una parte fundamental de la vida de una persona cuando está creciendo, creo que ése sería un cambio positivo inmenso.

Me gustaría mucho ver, por ejemplo, que se impartieran clases de Mindfulness y meditación como parte del curriculum normal de educación, y que entonces la gente pudiera empezar a pensar “qué es lo importante en mi vida” y “cuáles son las cosas que son importantes”.

Si realmente internalizamos todo eso, luego podremos tener una discusión auna escala más amplia … a una escala comunitaria, a una escala social e incluso a una escala nacional, sobre cuál es la dirección en que queremos ir … Pero realmente tenemos que empezar en un nivel personal… Mucha gente no está familiarizada con la meditación, y no sabe realmente lo que significa. Podrían pensar, por ejemplo, que por ser budista entonces tiene connotaciones religiosas, cuando no es necesario que sea así. Puede ser secular y no tener nada que ver con religión.

La espiritualidad no quiere decir que tienes que creer en una religión específica.

Puede ser realmente muy desafiante trabajar en “Conservación” porque siempre tienes que estar peleando una batalla cuesta arriba.

Básicamente siempre te estás confrontando con malas noticias. E incluso la manera en que nosotros mismos hablamos de eso, muchas veces es de una manera muy negativa.

Estaba avanzando en mi campo profesional y muchas cosas iban mal, y entonces una amiga, quien había estado meditando por un tiempo muy largo, desde que era una adolescente, me dijo: “ohh hay un curso de meditación de diez días en silencio, que se hará en Lima, donde tú estás”, y me dijo “por qué no lo haces”? Yo dije “¡seguro!”, pero nunca había pensado en la meditación ni en ninguna de esas cosas. Y luego una noche me dije: “¿por qué haría algo como eso?”

Hice el curso de diez días sin saber nada acerca de él. No sabía lo que era la meditación, no tenía ninguna idea en qué me estaba metiendo. Fue una experiencia fascinante, de esas que te cambian la vida. Quiero decir, en un curso de diez días pasas por tantas cosas y altibajos, pero cada minuto que pones en eso vale la pena. Tuve tantas experiencias positivas, pero la más fuerte fue definitivamente una sensación de paz interior, que nunca antes había sentido de esta manera.

No sólo sabiendo de eso, sino que realmente sintiendo que esa felicidad y contentamiento no tiene nada que ver con algo externo.

Y por supuesto, hay cosas que puedes saber intelectualmente, pero realmente sentirlas es una cosa muy diferente, y experimentarlas…. Ya sabes, por supuesto que siempre hay un desafío de internalizarlo en el día a día, y sin embargo sabes que es un gran regalo que sí puedes experimentar.

He hecho algunos más de estos cursos, y cada vez, al final, es maravilloso cuando no has estado hablando por un tiempo, durante diez días; tu mente está tan focalizada y tan clara, y te das cuenta cómo nos impacta toda esta continua charla, y por toda la información con la que está siendo alimentado tu cerebro todo el tiempo. Realmente te das cuenta de cuál es el impacto…. en cuanto empiezas a hablar, tu mente simplemente ….  puff!…. se vuelve loca….

Un primer paso verdaderamente importante es darse cuenta, tú sabes eso que dicen, que sientes que te vuelves más sensitivo, pero quizás es sólo que te das cuenta de algo que siempre ha estado ahí, desde antes de que te dieras cuenta. Esto significa que no podías cuidar de tu cuerpo …. en la manera en que éste necesitaba, con la atención que necesitaba, por el contrario. Tú sabes, los mismos procesos podrían haber continuado, sin que tuvieras forma de darte cuenta del impacto que tenía en ti. Quiero decir, puedo conectar completamente con lo que tú dices[4] acerca de que la naturaleza provee ese espacio en el que puedes desarrollar todas estas cosas.

Supongo que muchas de las cosas que experimento a través de la meditación, antes, estando en medio de la naturaleza, simplemente surgieron de manera natural. Si me siento en un bosque, que es un ambiente que me gusta mucho, nunca me siento sola. Puedo sentirme sola estando rodeada de mucha gente, en un ambiente no natural, pero sé que no me sentiré sola si estoy en medio de un bosque, simplemente estando ahí. Mientras que en nuestra sociedad siempre nos están diciendo que seamos productivos. Tenemos que estar haciendo … tenemos que estar haciendo cosas. Es mucho más sano estar alejado de eso, al menos con cierta frecuencia, y simplemente “estar”, “estar” con la naturaleza, “estar” con otras personas. Y eso es lo que, finalmente, produce contentamiento y felicidad interior. Y la naturaleza provee el natural espacio para hacer eso.

Tu mente está justo en ese momento.

En el curso de meditación en el que he estado ayudando por todos estos años, estaba en la cocina, preparando comida para un grupo de ciento treinta o ciento cuarenta personas, lo que puede ser muy demandante, porque … tú sabes, cocinar para tanta gente y en espacios de tiempo muy restringidos, es lo que mucha gente podría llamar un ambiente estresante, con personas con las que nunca había trabajado antes, pero eran todos meditadores y todos eran conscientes o al menos más conscientes acerca de estas cosas. Y era, no sólo un muy buen trabajo sino que también era muy entretenido y éramos un gran equipo de trabajo … Así que, si pudiera traducir esto a mi mundo cotidiano … sería maravilloso.

Empecé a meditar hace 7 años. Medito diariamente al menos por una hora, algunas veces más. Y eso hace una inmensa diferencia en cómo vivo el día a día. Y también ha hecho una gran diferencia probablemente en la forma en que pienso acerca de la “Conservación”.

Antes de empezar a meditar, toda aquella retórica pesimista y negativa algunas veces puede ser realmente desalentadora, y hacerte sentir que es realmente muy difícil pensar en hacer un cambio positivo, si no tienes esta práctica.

Eso es muy difícil de entender a veces.

Con la meditación también tengo un sentido, más profundo creo, de tranquilidad, tú sabes, de que estaremos bien eventualmente, y que la naturaleza será capaz de hacer frente … Si los humanos podremos hacerlo, bueno esa es otra pregunta. Supongo que … sí, que me ayuda a estar más en paz internamente, de que puedo hacer lo que está en mis posibilidades hacer para luchar por un mundo más justo y más sustentable ambientalmente. Y que puedo estar bien pase lo que pase.

Voz 4: Christoph Eberhardt (C.12.03)
(31:35)

Christoph Eberhard

Soy Christoph Eberhard, soy austríaco, y ahora estoy radicado en el sur de Francia, en Archachon.

Para ponerlo en pocas palabras, toda mi vida ha sido dedicada a … umh … diría que a la búsqueda de la paz, o de la armonía … una armonía viva.

Esto se manifiesta, por una parte, digamos en las ciencias sociales. Tengo una carrera como Antropólogo Legal, entre el derecho y las ciencias sociales, tratando de ver cómo podemos vivir en comunidad de una manera más dialógica, entendiéndonos unos a otros y armonizando unos con otros un poco mejor.

Qi gong class at the Vrikshalaya centre, held by teacher Christoph Eberhard.

Y luego un segundo aspecto ha sido como un diálogo interior y con la naturaleza, y eso se expresa especialmente en mi interés en el arte tradicional, especialmente el arte chino y el arte indio, como el Yoga.

Para mí, la resiliencia interior está en esta dimensión del diálogo …

El diálogo es escuchar, pero no es sólo escuchar con tus oídos, es escuchar con tu corazón, y más aún, es escuchar con tu alma.

Podemos experimentar eso en nuestra experiencia del día a día. Es sólo cosa de tomar un poco de tiempo antes de empezar a hablar inmediatamente, tomando 5 o 10 minutos para armonizar antes de empezar a hacer cualquier cosa.

Sólo dejando que la mente se aquiete, “enraizándose” de cierta manera.

A veces las personas no quieren hacerlo, dicen que no tienen tiempo para hacerlo, pero justamente sentarse así, en silencio, en calma, de cierta manera cambia completamente la atmósfera.

Y si lo haces, encontrarás que las personas están mucho, mucho, mucho más abiertas a un diálogo real, a escucharse unos a otros, a realmente compartir sus experiencias, de lo que encontrarías sin ese tiempo de silencio al inicio.

Entonces, empiezas a dialogar con otro ser humano. Realmente a dialogar, en el sentido de que realmente quieres escuchar a la otra persona, y te permites ser desafiado por la visión de mundo que el otro te presenta, o la sensibilidad que está expresando.

Mientras que por una parte puede ser enriquecedor, algunas veces puede ser muy impactante. Tú sabes … puede ser que no realmente no queramos escuchar ciertas cosas, o que realmente no las escuchemos aún cuando las hayamos oído más de cien veces, y repentinamente tu sientes “Oh wow”…. había algo más profundo que lo que pensaba.

Entonces cuando esto ocurre es … es como un desafío, también, algo que nos lleva a un segundo tipo de diálogo, que es un diálogo que yo llamo “con uno mismo”; empiezas a estar consciente de cuál es, llamémoslo, el horizonte invisible de las acciones y del vivir.

Y para eso, realmente necesitamos el diálogo con otros, porque de otra manera nunca llegaremos a estar conscientes de nuestra propia ventana personal.

Y luego, cuando empiezas a profundizar en este diálogo con otros y contigo mismo, escuchándote más a ti mismo, también empiezas a darte cuenta de que realmente estás conectado con toda la naturaleza alrededor tuyo. Que, en un cierto sentido, una vez que la sensibilidad a escuchar ha sido abierta, bueno, empezarás a escuchar a los árboles, al sol, a las flores, las nubes …. En cierta manera ellas empezarán a hablarte.

Si quieres escuchar, primero tienes que vaciarte a ti mismo, y entonces todo viene y habla contigo. Este es el aspecto dialógico de la naturaleza que empieza a desarrollarse. Entonces, es un diálogo con uno mismo, con los demás, con la naturaleza. Y luego está esta otra dimensión del diálogo que yo llamo “más allá”, o como tú quieras llamarlo, tú sabes, estas cosas que están más allá de las palabras y que no puedes realmente expresarlas, pero que también están ahí.

Algunas veces, cuando hablamos de lo “interior”, nosotros o separamos o distinguimos de “lo exterior”. Por mí, yo diría más bien que la experiencia de entrar en tu interior, o de entrar en diálogo con otros o entrar en diálogo con la naturaleza o con lo que está más allá, es más un proceso de crear vínculos. Cuando hay menos vínculos, puede que tengas una idea o un sentimiento de separación, tú sabes, te sientes separado de los demás, y te sientes separado de la naturaleza, la naturaleza más bien es un conjunto de “objetos” que están afuera, como si fuera un segundo mundo de “objetos”, no una realidad “viviente”.

Incluso algunas personas … se ven a sí mismas como objetos, como robots que se comportan de una cierta manera, pero no como personas con las que interactuamos.

Y la misma cosa con nosotros mismos, incluso nosotros mismos no podemos realmente …. Hacemos nuestro trabajo, hacemos nuestras cosas, con nuestras rutinas. Pero realmente nos estamos considerando como “sujetos” vivientes? como tales?

Hay cuatro dimensiones, y tú puedes empezar por cualquiera de estas dimensiones.

Si eres alguien que ha crecido en un entorno muy natural, quizás tu primer diálogo empiece con la naturaleza. Algunas personas son pastores y están mucho tiempo solos en las montañas. Entonces probablemente para ellos el primer tipo de diálogo que empezarían sería más bien con la naturaleza.

Para personas como yo, que soy más una persona de ciudad, es un desafío mayor al principio, tú sabes. Pero el punto importante para mí es que todas estas dimensiones están siempre ahí. En el momento en que empezamos a abrir una de estas dimensiones, a dialogar con una de estas dimensiones, poco a poco empezamos a darnos cuenta cómo las cosas están mucho, mucho, mucho más unidas de lo que nunca esperamos.

La vida no es un vacío a ser llenado, es una plenitud a ser descubierta. El “otro” no es el vacío a ser llenado. Es una plenitud a ser descubierta.

No es que …. Siempre es fácil decirle a alguien que vea algo que no tiene, que no tiene esto o no tiene esto otro, y construir una imagen que es una versión inferior de ti mismo. Pero ellos pueden hacer la misma cosa, porque desde su punto de vista, tú no tienes esto o no tienes esto otro ni lo de más allá, y así sucesivamente.

No sería más interesante, en lugar de empezar a llenar al otro con tus propias proyecciones, sólo escuchar, abrirte y luego quizás descubrir la plenitud que es el otro?

Simplemente empecé a darme cuenta de que nuestras vidas, hablando en términos generales, muy frecuentemente las vivimos como un vacío a ser llenado.

Tú sabes, todos sentimos que tenemos que tener un cierto estatus social, y sentimos eso en un nivel psicológico, queremos lograr ciertas cosas y alcanzar un nivel económico, lo que está muy bien, mientras no sea algo que necesitemos para llenar nuestras vidas, y en el momento en que nos atrevamos quizás a dar un pequeño paso hacia atrás, puede que encontremos que la vida es realmente muy abundante y que bien pueden todas estas cosas empezar a pasar sin que necesitemos empujar con tanta fuerza.

La plenitud significa empezar a darnos cuenta de todas las relaciones por las que estamos unidos, a través de nuestro ser.

Así como tienes un cuerpo físico, tal como lo considera la ciencia occidental moderna, somo realmente hijos de las estrellas. Quiero decir que …. todos los elementos de los que estamos hechos han sido hechos en las estrellas, así que tenemos de hecho una relación con ellas.

Así que tenemos esta dimensión fisiológica, pero también tenemos nuestras emociones, nuestros sentimientos, tenemos nuestros pensamientos; y en todas esas diferentes dimensiones estamos todos interconectados.

Por medio de la contemplación de la naturaleza exterior, que percibimos como estando afuera,    establecemos de hecho una relación, una en la que en un nivel externo puede conducirnos a este sentimiento de que no deberíamos preocuparnos por el medioambiente porque sea nuestra  obligación, sino por su belleza. Y así, establecemos esa relación con la naturaleza exterior.

Pero al mismo tiempo, al contemplar la naturaleza exterior de hecho nos conectamos con nuestra naturaleza interior. Puedes usar el término “ecológico”, pero yo simplemente diría que es nuestra naturaleza interior. Aquello de que se trata la vida.

Tú eres parte de la naturaleza.

Cuando digo “naturaleza” … tú sabes que existe la naturaleza, y que la naturaleza es la naturaleza visible que observamos. Y luego está la naturaleza en el sentido de, llamémoslo así, el planeta como un todo. Y el sistema solar y las galaxias, y los multiversos de los que se habla ahora … todo eso es parte de este otro concepto más amplio.

Realmente se va uniendo, al crear vínculos donde no los veíamos, vínculos donde había separación, poco a poco hasta ver que las cosas están mucho más conectadas, lo cual es muy importante en el pensamiento ecologista, empiezas a entrar en estos enfoques más holísticos porque te das cuenta que no puedes simplemente cortar las cosas en pedazos, porque siempre están relacionadas y cada vez que cambias o afectas algo, siempre tendrá un efecto en la totalidad.

Si empiezas a practicar Qi Gong, si empiezas a practicar cualquier movimiento, hazlo con tu cuerpo relajado, tomándole el gusto a lo que estás haciendo, quizás haciéndolo despacio, y haciéndolo conscientemente. Poco a poco lo que vas a empezar a sentir es lo que los chinos frecuentemente denominan Qi[5], que es “energía”.

Nuevamente lo que es experiencial, una sensación que puedes tener al inicio, es un poco de hormigueo en los dedos, o bien puedes sentir algo de calor que empieza a aparecer, y luego si continúas, en algún punto puedes sentirlo más en tu interior, como una sensación magnética. Algunas veces puedes tener una sensación como de electricidad, simplemente permaneciendo sentado y observando tu respiración … De hecho, incluso si sólo haces esto pero lo haces todos los días, y lo haces por un par de horas cada día, y así una y otra vez, al comienzo vas a estar más en un nivel psicológico. Estarás sólo pensando sobre esto y sobre lo otro. Pero más adelante, en algún momento, cuando estas cosas empiecen a decantarse un poco más, tú, como un vaso de vidrio con agua que se mezcla y después empieza a decantarse, empezarás a sentirte más claro y más transparente. Cuando esta etapa empieza a ocurrir, las cosas empiezan a circular por tu cuerpo, eso es básicamente todo lo que es el Qi.

Estas cosas son muy reales.

Y esto me lleva a la reacción a esta experiencia. La cultura en la que vivimos, lo digo bien, la cultura de ciudad, tú sabes, somos una sociedad tecnologizada, embota muchas de nuestras experiencias.

Si tú vives en la naturaleza, y “tienes que” vivir para sobrevivir en la naturaleza, tus sentidos están mucho más refinados que los sentidos que podemos tener quienes vivimos en las ciudades. Así que, en cierta manera, de nuevo hemos colonizado nuestra mente, e incluso ahora me sigo dando cuenta de cuan colonizada está mi mente.

Es un muy, muy gran proceso de aprendizaje también … porque empiezas a darte cuenta de que … tengo una inteligencia innata, mi cuerpo entiende ciertas cosas. Ok. Tienes que estar atento. No es que no tengas que hacer nada. Tienes que estar atento, tienes que tratar de escuchar,  tienes que practicar. No es que simplemente llegas y no haces nada. Y una vez que aprendes poco a poco a saber, a diferenciar entre lo que son tus ilusiones y tú, y qué cosas son reales, en aquello que sientes…

No somos dioses, no somos los dueños de la naturaleza, o los reyes de la naturaleza … no, sólo somos una parte de ella, una muy pequeña y humilde parte de ella.

Humildad … la importancia de la humildad.

Te reconoces a ti mismo como una maravilla del universo. Es fascinante. Y mientras más humilde te sientes, en cierta manera, más hermoso es todo.

Créditos

Voz De Tanya:

Gracias por escuchar!

Nordic by Nature podcast es creado gracias al apoyo del Ministerio Nórdico. Por favor ayúdanos compartiendo el link de este episodio con el hashtag #tracesofnorth y síguenos en Instagram en la cuenta @nordicbynaturepodcast. Nos gustaría escuchar tus pensamientos en nuestro podcast. Por favor escríbeme un email, a Tanya, a la dirección nordicbynaturepodcast@gmail.com

También estamos en Patreon, si quieres apoyarnos con una donación para mantener la continuidad de estos podcasts y realizar una segunda serie. Búscanos en www.patreon.com/nordicbynature

Si estás interesado en conocer más acerca de “Mindfulness” y “Pensamiento Resiliente”, por favor lee acerca de los retiros en el Centro de Ajay Rastogi www.foundnature.org, y sigue a la “Fundación para la Contemplación de la Naturaleza” en Facebook y a “Contemplación de la Naturaleza” en Instagram.

Noor a Noor trabaja en Nature Conservation Egypt. Por favor búscalo en www.natureegypt.org. Puedes seguir a Noor en Twitter en @Nxoor.

Puedes seguir a Judith Schleicher en Twitter en @j_schleicher.

Puedes encontrar a Christoph Eberhard en su canal de Youtube “Dialogues For Change”, o en Twitter en @PeaceDialogues.

Sonidos diseñados por Diego Losa. Búscalo en diegolosa.blogspot.com.

[1] Agregado por el traductor.

[2] Postdoc: abreviación de Post Doctorada.

[3] Phd: Doctorado.

[4] Parece referirse a alguien que está presente en la conversación, durante la grabación.

[5] En español se pronuncia “chi”.

 

Become a Patron!

The Professor, The Chef and an Epic Dream.

A lot has been happening since I met culinary experts Professor Pushpesh Pant and Chef Nishant Choubey at the Tasting India Symposium in Delhi last December 2017. At that time, Chef Nishant was curating food experiences at the elegant aero-city Roseate House.

Soon after, Chef teamed up with the Professor to go full-speed on a mission redefine what Indian cuisine means to the world! A mission inspired by Tasting India’s Indian Food Manifesto. Globally, Indian cuisine suffers from pretty much the same fate as Chinese cuisine. The extraordinary subtlety and diversity of Indian cuisine is often lost in globally standardized dishes. Chicken Tikka Masala might make good business and comforting takeaway food for a Brit like me, but too often this kind of fare just ends up confining the image of Indian cuisine to an inexpensive, greasy afterthought.

The term curry was adopted by the British East India Company, from the Tamil word Kari, meaning sauce. The menus at most Indian restaurants in the UK are usually an extremely simplified version of Mughlai/ Moghul cuisine, which is just one type of north Indian food. That cuisine is again reduced to two or three rich sauces and types of stews. These flavours do not begin to represent Moghul cuisine, let alone the rich heritage of the Indian continent. Dr. Pant calls this phenomenon ‘The curse of curry!” This is not to dismiss all the food of the Indian diaspora, but the world has so much more to experience when it comes to ‘Indian cuisine.’

Chef Nishant and Professor Pushpesh Pant shopping for fresh produce in Delhi.

Chef Nishant and Professor Pushpesh Pant shopping for fresh produce in Delhi.

The Holy Grail: nurturing a nations food heritage.
“There is an urgent need to document the dishes of the Indian continent before they disappear forever,” says the Professor.

Already so much has been forgotten. Even the diversity of ingredients is slowly disappearing as people move away from an agricultural way of life and food is increasingly mass-produced for supermarkets. India’s socio-economic landscape is also taking its toll. In the past, cooks were often servants, and recipes were handed down orally, with subtle variations from household to household, let alone region to region.

Food is the strongest expression of our humanity. In Europe, food is recognised as the guardian of a nation brand’s identity and a main driver of the economy. A huge emphasis has been being placed on protecting, sharing and communicating food heritage in France, Spain, and Italy, for example, so that the plethora of industries connected to food can thrive, both for export and also as attraction.

Food museums are also starting to appear, to try and help to preserve global and local food heritage in archives. Restaurants and chefs, inspired by the likes of El Bulli and Noma, are researching locality to explore the meaning of food for future generations. Food heritage has become synonymous with quality as well as quality of life. The European Union has schemes to protect and distinguish traditional regional specialties, such as the protected designation of origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG) certifications.

To consider what is happening to centuries of knowledge and rich culture of war-torn countries such as Iraq and Syria is heart-breaking. The loss is hard to fathom. Food heritage runs so much deeper than the recipes you find in restaurants. It’s in people’s homes and hearts. Food provides the earliest knowledge of locality, interconnectivity and sustainability, that enabled our ancestors to thrive and trade internationally. It includes site-specific knowledge about wildlife, plants and animals and the methods of food production and resources that enabled farming villages to appear. These farming communities were by nature ‘integrated ecovillages’: communities that grew diverse crops and grains, tended to cattle and orchards, made their own crafts and textiles, and supplied local networks of breweries, artisans, markets, hotels and inns.

Food heritage is a dynamic spectrum that gently evolves and changes form over changing geographies and landscapes. But it is a story that is continuous and connects us all and refuses to be contained within national boundaries.

Ladies from the village of Machkali, Uttrakhand, cooking at Vrikshalaya centre. www.foundnature.org

Ladies from the village of Machkali, Uttrakhand, cooking at Vrikshalaya centre. www.foundnature.org

Currently, the Chef and the Professor are curating food experiences for an upcoming festival in Delhi hosted by the Asian Heritage Foundation in association with World Bank. One of the meals curates a selection of dishes that were loved by the great Mahatma Gandhi, to commemorate his 150th Birthday.

The meals that the great Mahatma Gandhi loved.

The meals that the great Mahatma Gandhi loved.

Pop-up stories.
“It really is time the world learns that there is so much more to Indian food than Mugalia cuisine!” says the Professor! “India is a vast continent with ingredients and dishes and techniques as diverse as the people, cultures and languages from which they originate!”

One of the first pop-up events the Professor and Chef did this year was at the famous Indus restaurant in Bangkok. Indus has been in service since 2006 and making waves with fashionable international crowd since winning its place in the Michelin guide. Indus is one of the few restaurants to introduce quality Indian cusine to the west via fine dining. Inviting the Professor and Chef to curate a menu outside the known Moghul dishes was a statement in itself. A provocation, perhaps, and a gateway invitation to Michelin to go and experience India?

At Indus: Kadala Byas Minu, representing Mangalore. The fish is marinated with kokum, a plant in the mangosteen family.

At Indus: Kadala Byas Minu, or Kombdicha motla, representing Mangalore. The fish is marinated with kokum, a plant in the mangosteen family.

Chef Nishant explains: “The concept of our popup menus and events is to make the world aware of the diversity of India’s culinary heritage, whilst encouraging chefs to learn about all these forgotten stories and adapt and innovate with them.”

Chef and Professor curated a meal for Indus which they called: Past, Present and Future; 10 courses inspired by 10 regions. Each course told a special story about the history of the region it represented, and a special ingredient that is at risk of being forgotten. In contrast to the impeccable meal at Mrs. Radha Bhatia’s Roseate Farm last December this meal was not pure vegetarian – but contained seafood, meat and poultry.

Nomads on a mission.
The Chef and Professor continue to travel India researching traditional recipes and ‘lost gems’. They travel to a region, follow locally known food trails looking for local superfoods, they forage in forests and meet food producers and talk to local people about food celebrated in folklore. Most recently, they have focussed on the hill state of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, as well as Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

Professor Pushpesh Pant talking to young chefs at Indus, Bangkok.

Professor Pushpesh Pant talking to young chefs at Indus, Bangkok.

“We work together like conjoined Siamese Twins!” says the Professor. They have two more members in their core team; Zuber Baigh helps them with archival documentation and media, and Govind Singh Kirola is in charge of the ethno-botanical and cultural anthropological research. The Professor and Chef travel together following the leads of the researchers who support their fieldwork with ongoing research.

“Our dream project is to set up a culinary institute specializing in Indian vegetarian cuisines,” says Chef Nishant.

The Professor concludes. “And for India we wish three things; That there should plenty for everyone to eat, with freedom of choice to eat what one wishes to eat. This is a matter of  distribution. We have plenty.

Secondly, food should be healthy and free from all artificial flavors, colorings, preservatives, and synthetic additives of any kind.

And lastly, the food on our plates should be produced with dignity for everyone involved, relating organically to the people and places who produce it.”

Links:
Tasting India Symposium: http://www.tastingindiasymposium.com
Video on Pop Up event at Indus, Bangkok, in Thai: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SvNggnlWDM
Thai blog post about the popup event at Indus: https://www.gudfoodblog.com/indus-nishant-pushpesh-pant/
Indus: www.indusbangkok.com
Incredible India: http://www.incredibleindia-tourism.org
Roseate Hotels: www.roseatehotels.com/‎
El Bulli: http://www.elbulli.info/
Noma: http://noma.dk/
The Vrikshalaya Center, Uttrakand, www.foundnature.org.

Email:
Dr. Pushpesh Pant – pushpeshpant@gmail.com
Chef Nishant- nishoo28@gmail.com

Text by Tanya Kim Grassley

How I first met Chef at the Roseate Hotel, Aerocity: I have never had such a delicious Tarka Daal, and to this day I do not understand what Chef did to elevate such a simple and well-known vegetarian dish! We soon got talking, about food of course.

How I first met Chef at the Roseate Hotel, Aerocity: I have never had such a delicious Tarka Daal, and to this day I do not understand what Chef did to elevate such a simple and well-known vegetarian dish! We soon got talking, about food of course.

 

 

Tasting India: Ayurveda & food, for pleasure and health.

The inauguration lunch of the Tasting India Symposium in Delhi, last December 2017, was at Roseate Farm; a venture into small-scale organic farming and the ‘heart project’ of Mrs. Radha Bhatia, Chairperson of the Bird Group that owns the family of Roseate hotels. The farm supplies the Roseate hotels in Delhi with organic produce. Tasting India is a platform and symposium founded by the Cultural Curator, Sanjoo Malhotra and Food Writer, Sourish Bhattacharyya.

Sanjoo and Sourish are on a roll, to say the least. Tasting India has the highest ambitions to create a sustainable food culture in India. It is actively connecting all types of stakeholders working within organic food production; from small-scale farming that builds local community resilience, to food distribution such as independent food brands, farmers markets, coops for local crafts and traditions, to experience promoting regional and cultural diversity, such as education, chefs working with seasonality, eco-tourism and environmental sustainability, and last but not least- NGOs working with human ecology, from gender and identity to food sharing.

A happy day for Roseate Hotel's Chef Nishant Choubey.

A happy day for Roseate Hotel’s Chef Nishant Choubey.

The symposium’s launch meal was a tasting menu and journey into Ayurvedic thought, designed by Chef Nishant Choubey, as representative of the produce from the idyllic farm settings.

Renowned food expert Professor Pushpesh Pant explained: “The concept of the meal is from ‘farm to plate’ – in times gone by everyone in India ate like that. Whatever was grown in the kitchen garden came directly to the dinner table. But right now, it’s only the super-rich who seem to be able to eat completely organically grown, pesticide-free, fresh food, grown from a nearby farm, with all the nutrients that rich, clean soil gives.”

Everyone can still eat like this if they keep two things in mind, the professor says.

“Eat seasonally, and eat regionally. Eat what you get locally in that season, buy your produce and then explore your creativity to see what you can do with what is in season.”

The word Ayurveda is Sanskrit, meaning ‘life-knowledge’. It’s a complete system of how to maintain health and balance in life, the philosophy of health at the heart of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism, and permeates every aspect of life, not least of all, food.

Simple yet delicious Gobhi Keema Adraki, Cauliflower and minced ginger.

Simple yet delicious Gobhi Keema Adraki, Cauliflower and minced ginger.

Food is at the centre of life. It is pleasure and it is nutrition. It is culture and identity. In the Ayurveda tradition, food functions to build a healthy metabolism, by moderating foods that can be harmful to the mind or body. When you consider the Ayurveda way of food, you will see an overlap with cultures from all over the world. Food is life, food is medicine. A nutritious and balanced diet can limit diseases stemming from internal inflammation.

The Professor concludes: “You do not have to choose between a healthy life and a pleasurable life; it is part of a healthy, balanced life to enjoy food! Life is meant to be enjoyed, and taking pleasure in life is part of finding balance.”

PROFESSOR 2017-12-13 15.24.48

Ayurveda; 1000-year-old Systems Thinking
The Ayurveda approach to food is known as a ‘Sattvic’ diet or ‘yogic’ diet. It is supposed to be a conscious, holistic approach, from producing to consuming, that today we call ‘from farm to table.’ But from farm to table is nothing new- this is the way everyone used to eat and the way some rural communities still support themselves.

The diet itself has an innate awareness of the connectedness to nature and interconnectivity with community upon which we all rely. It places emphasis on nurturing the essential: using seasonal and local foods from your own kitchen garden or village farm. It’s about ethics and knowledge of where the food comes from and where the waste goes.

A Sattvic diet is, therefore, vegetarian, as there is no need to slaughter animals to maintain our health. Cows are an intrinsic part of the organic farm though; the bullocks are used for ploughing, the cows give milk, and both produce natural fertilizer from vegetable scraps. It’s the small-scale organic farming system that fed the whole of India until the 1960’s. It’s a system that could work today, if we value and support the work of our farmers, and create efficient systems and infrastructures that get their produce to market.

The pickles were amazing! To call them mere pickles feels like an injustice.

The Six Tastes of Ayurveda
Most of us who have heard about Ayurveda have heard about the three doshas, or three elements called Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When the doshas are in balance, a person can reach optimal health, while imbalance of the doshas provokes disease. Or as the saying goes: ‘You are what you eat.’ What was new to me were the 6 Rasas, or 6 tastes of Ayurveda, that balance the three elements in our bodies. These are Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, and Astringent.

A dish with humble origins; Khichra, a beautifully delicate and 'more-ish' porridge of lentils, rice and quinoa.

A dish with humble origins; Khichra, a beautifully delicate and ‘more-ish’ porridge of lentils, rice and quinoa.

A chef working with Indian cuisine not only needs to know about the flavours of food, that make food pleasurable, but also the medicinal values of those foods and their effect on the body in combination. It’s a fundamental difference between traditional and modern eating habits all over the world. In the past, the person who prepares food is the guardian of our health. Mothers, daughters, sisters, wives.

Chef Nishant Choubey adds: “Today, as we eat out in a variety of places, the responsibility for our health and nutrition has shifted to the individual. More and more, food is designed to be enticing but not nutritional. Food has to be both, or it is empty of meaning.”

Christmas Pudding and Jelabis for dessert!

Links:
Roseate Hotels. http://www.roseatehotels.com/
The Bird Group. http://www.thebirdgroup.com/
Tasting India. http://www.tastingindiasymposium.com/
Incredible India: http://www.incredibleindia-tourism.org/

Mrs. Radha Bhatia, owner and founder of the Roseate Farm and Chairperson of The Bird Group.

The Vedatya Institute. A new source of culinary knowledge for organic India.

On the South of Delhi in Gurgaon is a technical college that has high ambitions to provide a new type of education within service and hospitality. Unlike others, this college has a strong focus on applied knowledge and circular economy within food, from ‘farm to forks and fingers.’

Food cooked and plated by first year students.

Food cooked and plated by first year students.

The Institute, called Vedatya, is still young but has already achieved so much. I arrived there on a sunny December day with Sanjoo Malhotra, co-founder of the platform and network Tasting India. It was towards the end of Tasting India’s 2017 symposium on food, where Sanjoo and his co-founder Sourish Bhattacharya, had collected some of India’s leading influencers and change-makers. The missing piece at the symposium, until that day, had been education; how to create a new integrated learning model for organic food businesses that would teach theory in a practical and experiential way.

Sanjoo Malhotra, co-founder of Tasting India on the grounds of Vedatya, December 2017.

Sanjoo Malhotra, co-founder of Tasting India on the grounds of Vedatya, December 2017.

From star chefs to culinary entrepreneurs.
I didn’t expect to find an organic farm on campus. Sanjay Sharma, Head Chef at Vedatya explains: “For a chef to be able to work effectively and maximize their creativity, they really need to know how food grows; what local ingredients are available, what is the seasonality, how are they grown, and which parts can be used.”

High tech buildings of the Vedatya Institute.

High tech buildings of the Vedatya Institute.

Vedatya currently has 4 acres of farmland, a herb garden, lots of fruit trees; mango, lychee, lemons, oranges, chiku, and papaya. And to complete the full ecosystem of sustainable practices, the institute is going to keep cows on-campus, for both compost and dairy and develop an 100 percent organic fish farm that can also create natural fertilizer. This integrated approach to applied learning allows current students in training, as well as industry professionals, to really value local, organic produce, and explore more sustainable culinary practices.

Vedatya chefs in the farm.

Vedatya chefs in the farm.

Amit Kapur, Managing Promoter of Vedatya explains: “India’s population is over 1,2 billion, almost 18 percent of the world, and yet we are a nation of mostly male engineers. 90 percent of those engineers are unemployed. We need to change our education system quickly and develop new types of skills. India’s education system is still in silos, and very gendered, and class divided.”

Amit Kapur, Managing Promoter of Vedatya.

Amit Kapur, Managing Promoter of Vedatya.

Kapur continues: “We really wanted to create something that will last beyond our lifetimes.” Ved means knowledge in Sanskrit, and Aditya means Sun. Vedatya, therefore, is a coined name that sounds like ‘Source of Knowledge.’ Its goal is to become a model for higher education and a hub of interdisciplinary knowledge with industry – where scientists and philosophers can work alongside farmers, gardeners, artists, chefs – and even engineers.

Chef Megha Kohli, Head Chef at the restaurant Lavaash Delhi, holding a class on how cuisines are reborn.

Chef Megha Kohli, Head Chef at the restaurant Lavaash Delhi, holding a class on how cuisines are reborn.

At Vedatya, a chef isn’t just a chef anymore. A culinary student could work anywhere in India’s food business – from being a hotelier or restaurateur, to re-branding and distributing local products to support small scale farmers and communities. Students need to know about locality, seasonality, and heritage – as well as all the soft skills of service design. One of the Vedatya’s alumni, Preet Singh, went back home and became an organic honey producer, selling his brand across India and overseas in Singapore.

Alumni's organic honey brand is sold across India and overseas.

Alumni’s organic honey brand is sold across India and overseas.

Business know-how.
Another way that Vedatya is promoting applied education is by partnering with different industry players through an industry-academic partnership model that is quite unique in India. Industry partners are potential employers of Vedatya’s graduates, and so they can be an integral part of student’s curriculum that is reviewed every two years. This initiative has led to partnerships with InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), one of the world’s largest hotel companies, and with Columbia Asia Hospitals, one of Asia’s leading hospital chains, in the healthcare industry, to name but two.

14. Wood fire cooking

Most of India cooks over traditional wood fire ovens.

Class inequity – a major challenge.
“The Institute is in a rural setting, so every year we give 2-3 scholarship to young people from the neighboring local village,” adds Kapur. “Slowly we are getting young people interested in coming here to get an education but it isn’t easy.”

Vedatya has great plans for maximizing its land with organic farming.

Vedatya has great plans for maximizing its land with organic farming.

India has huge inequalities and a very complex caste system. The villagers come from backgrounds where they have absolutely no exposure at all to rapidly changing urban life. It’s a huge sacrifice for a youngster get an education when they are expected to help their families survive.
“One of our scholarship students wanted to quit after only a few months,” Kapur explained. Eventually he told the director that the reason he wanted to quit was because he is being bullied by his friends about the formal way he is required to be dressed at Vedatya. Even his family teased him for looking like a ‘plucked chicken’ because he was following Vedatya’s dress code to be well-groomed and wear a uniform.
“It sounds funny to us, but he was deeply ashamed. There is a conflict and context that even we don’t understand. We are talking a difference of 20 kilometers. We need to support rural communities and give them a longer perspective. We also need to help these communities survive,” concludes Kapur.

4fresh produce

Fresh organic produce grown on site.

Organic India
When Vedatya and the Tasting India platform talk about food, they mean everything from the production of food, to food on the plate. Vedatya believes that organic food is second nature for India and it has the potential to be the new economic driver for a sustainable future, to getting people into the workplace and tapping into new industries such health tourism. Organic farming has the ability to feed India through new distribution channels, and offer solutions to major challenges, such as how to deal with food surplus, nurture cultural diversity within the vast continent, and create major export crops and produce that can take more than India’s current 1 percent of the growing global organic market.

Holi celebration, March 2018

Holi celebration, March 2018

Text by Tanya Kim Grassley.

 

Finding Zero

You don’t have to go to the Himalayas to find yourself – but it might help!

Immersing yourself in natural surroundings brings a huge amount of physical and psychological benefits. But naturalness is much more than a superficial sense of wellbeing. It can bring us to another level of autonomy, where we are freed from all the usual external influences that shape our beliefs and behaviour. It’s about gaining insight into The Human Condition.

View from Majkhali Village. Photo by by Dhirendra Bisht.

View from Majkhali Village. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

That kind personal transformation is much easier to attain with hands-on experience, says Ajay Rastogi, Philosopher and Applied Ethics practitioner, and founder of The Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature.

I had the good fortune to meet Ajay at the recent Tasting India Symposium in New Delhi, an event that brought together some of India’s brightest minds within food and sustainability. Like many of his contemporaries there, Ajay had left a successful career to go back to his home region and drive change from within. For Ajay that meant working together with the rural villagers of his homeland at the foothills of the Himalayas, in Uttarakhand.

Ajay welcomes everyone, regardless of race, caste, age, religion, gender, orientation, or education.

Ajay welcomes everyone, regardless of race, caste, age, religion, gender, orientation, or education.

 

The foundation aims to research and develop new models for Resilience through cultural exchange, by connecting villagers with people from the cities and other countries in residential homestays and programs such as yoga and meditation retreats. The Contemplation of Nature is threefold; immersion in nature, mindful meditation, and a hands-on experience of the rural ‘resilient’ life.

Resilience moves far beyond current definitions of sustainability. On a 2-week homestay, you get to take part in everything that rural village life offers. Don’t worry – there is no enforced programme here. You are free to just rest and explore if that’s what you need, but guests usually end up getting quite involved with village life; learning about everything from organic seed banking, to preparing grain harvests, to tending to the village cows, cooking the local Kumaoni cuisine, or celebrating one of the many festivals that happen throughout India.

The Yoga Hall was listed as one of the top ten yoga venues of the world by The Guardian newspaper.

The Yoga Hall was listed as one of the top ten yoga venues of the world by The Guardian newspaper.

The Vrikshalaya centre is the headquarters and heart of the Foundation. It also offers longer-term residencies for artists and designers who are interested in exploring the principles of resilience as part of their work. Vrikshalaya means ‘Home of the Trees’ in Sanskrit – so outdoor activities such as rock-climbing, water rafting, camping and hiking are all part of nature immersion. The area is stunning, and the centre has been listed as one of ten top yoga venues in the world by the Guardian newspaper.

The aim of the foundation is to get people to experience three basic principles of Resilience that sustain all life; Dignity of Physical Work, Interdependence and Interconnectivity.

Women transplanting of rice accompanied by a Hudikia Ball musician. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

Women transplanting of rice accompanied by a Hudikia Ball musician. Photo by Dhirendra Bisht.

The Dignity of Physical Work
There is a long tradition in India of travelling to the Himalayas and rural areas to practice yoga and meditation as a spiritual practice, but not physical work.

Ajay explains: “In India, we have such an inequitable society. The caste system is still deeply ingrained in society and especially in rural life.”

Specific tasks, such as tailoring, traditional music, cleaning and different crafts, are often associated with specific castes. It’s considered servant’s work. And work is very gendered. Traditionally, women prepare the food, work in the fields and take care of the house. A recent survey revealed that women spend more time in the fields farming than men and bullocks combined!

Homestay Mums preparing food.

Homestay Mums preparing food.

“We never even imagined the value of cultural exchange with western visitors. Younger westerners, in particular, would challenge outdated ways of thinking about caste and gender,” explained Ajay. “They wanted to know why the village girls were fetching water and taking care of the cows after school, instead of playing cricket with boys.”

Also, the homestay families are from different castes. This was purposefully provocative on Ajay’s part. The foundation hosts communal events for the visitors and their host families, challenging these deeply ingrained practices. Traditionally, lower castes do not eat together with higher castes. They do not attend the same meetings. Lower castes are even given separate plates and cutlery if they go to the house of a higher caste.

For the visitors, the learning curve is clear. Artisanal types of work and growing our own food re-connects our minds and hands.  Doing something mindful with our hands together with others is natural and enjoyable.

This especially affected some of the younger visitors from the States, Ajay explained. “Their tears welled up as they realised they hardly ever spent time with their family. Here in the villages, shared activities, whether its farming or preparing millet, or making textiles, is a way to spend quality time with our friends, family and neighbours. It’s fun to create something of value together.”

Traditional farming is organic.

Traditional farming is organic.

The repetitive actions of simple tasks also have a positive effect on the mind and body. When your mind can reach a level of sustained calmness, your body starts to do miraculous things. It’s called the ‘deep relaxation response’ in psychology. The stress hormone cortisol isn’t frantically released as our bodies aren’t in a fight or flee mode, aggravated by extremes in emotion.  Combine this innate calmness with physical movement and you have a recipe for better mental and physical health.

Interdependence
Interdependence is about people, reciprocity and solidarity. We are all used to financial transactions; I buy something and I pay for it, I own it. But it’s far smarter and more beneficial for the individual to systemically build a society around shared spaces and shared resources. In the village, not everyone has to take care of their cows every-day. They can share the duties, and reduce the daily work from once a day to once every 30 days.

Celebrating Diwali. Photo by Pete Zhivkov.

Celebrating Diwali. Photo by Pete Zhivkov.

Traditionally, when someone dies in India they are cremated on an open funeral pyre. So when someone dies everyone visits the house in mourning to pay their respects and donate some wood. The job of collecting wood for the funeral pyre is taken care of by the community. Community takes care of necessities. It used to be the same with cooking for a wedding. Surplus food and goods are also distributed throughout the community to those in need. Interdependence exists as a fact, so working with it is just common sense.

A host family house in the village.

A host family house in the village.

Interconnectivity
The third and final principle of the foundation is Interconnectivity. This is about striving for a harmonious coexistence with nature, as we rely on our environment for all the resources that keep us alive. Ajay’s hope is that people will take the realisation of interconnectivity back with them and apply it to their own lives.

Celebrating Spring. Photo by Jogendra Bisht.

Celebrating Spring. Photo by Jogendra Bisht.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a modern, connected culture, we need to cultivate an attitude of care and understand where the things that sustain us come from and go to. Our resources are not limitless. Food, water and energy doesn’t just appear, just as clothes and products do not just appear.

Our culture of waste has inherent challenges. All our actions have an impact and an intrinsic cost that someone somewhere must pay. If we keep that connection in mind the impact on our everyday choices can be profound.

The proof of concept is in the eyes of all the people involved; the host families and the visitors. When the guests leave, says Ajay: “Every farewell is always tearful, always connected.”

11. Ajay gardening
Words by Tanya Kim Grassley. Published in The Forumist, March 2018.

Links:
The Foundation for the Contemplation of Nature 
Tasting India
India Tourist Board
The Guardian top ten yoga holidays