Hello, Grove community!
We are PUNARCHITH (‘RE-THINK’), a collective based in Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka, which engages with issues related to rural and agrarian India. Our flagship program has been the ‘Integrated Learning Program’, which focuses on providing an alternative learning experience for rural youth. In addition, Punarchith has restored a degraded parcel of land into a soil, water, seed and agro-biodiversity conservation site as a ‘Living Lab’.
Farmers, rural and urban youth, panchayat members, civil society organisations and students are encouraged to visit and participate in a range of experiential learning modules.
Responding to concerns from Solega elders about the loss of their knowledge and practices, we started a programme called ‘Aadhi’ (an old Kannada and Solega word for path). This is an attempt to find new pathways to facilitate inter-generational sharing of traditional knowledge from elder Solegas to the younger/youth generation. Based on a collaborative approach with the community members and with their leaders from the Zilla Budakattu Girijana Abhivrudhi Sangha, PUNARCHITH has facilitated several engagements and the documentation indicates the possibility of developing a rich repository of Solega knowledge, that highlights the importance of conserving the biocultural diversity of the region.
Punarchith is also working on developing a model for decentralised climate-change action plans.
For more details, visit: http://www.punarchith.org/; or write to us at: [email protected]
Birds play important roles in Solega life, myth and culture. The songs they sing at their harvest festival ceremonies conclude with the Haduke – a dusk to dawn song cycle about all the living beings in the forest, and Solega gods and goddesses. Through these songs, we get a glimpse of their deep connections to their forest home, and to the immense ecological knowledge they possess. Like the creatures that they sing about, their language and ways of living are also endangered.
On World Biodiversity Day, 22nd May 2022, three generations of Solega women from Kanneri colony performed selected Haduke songs featuring birds, at an event organised by the Indian Music Experience Museum at Bangalore, as part of their exhibit on Birdsong.
At the event, Samira from Punarchith gave an introductory talk about the community and their deep connections to birds.Tickets were sold out, and the audience was engaged and asked a lot of questions. The event also received media coverage: Soligas learn the language of forest with birds and beasts | Deccan Herald -
More updates from the Aadhi programme at Punarchith, soon!
Posting an update about a workshop on Democracy for rural youth, developed by Punarchith. The workshop focuses on providing an in-depth understanding of issues related to democracy and on capacity building. Module I was completed in February at Nagavalli in Chamarajanagar district, and Module II is being organised in Bengaluru. Module I saw participation of 31 youngsters from 9 districts of Karnataka with diverse backgrounds, including women and young mothers. Vani Periodi, KP Suresha and Prof A Narayana conducted sessions on gender, Panchayat Raj and leadership. The next module will be held in the last week of March.
Detailed schedule attached here.
DemocracyIIMarch.docx (37.3 KB)
HOW CAN CLIMATE CHANGE RESILIENCE BE PROMOTED? A summary of action research on climate change in Chamarajanagar District
Based on observations on changes in rainfall, temperature, land-use and the extant degradation of natural resources, we had compiled secondary and primary data to understand Climate Change in Chamarajanagar district. Sharing these details via short films, slideshows and even a street play we sought (since 2018) to highlight the reasons for Climate Change, its impact on people and the need for both adaptation and mitigation. While most of the audience, ranging from farmers, school children to administrative officials, conceded that the issues were important, none are willing to come forward to take actions about it. Farmers refuse to shift to natural farming or decrease use of fertilisers and pesticides, panchayat members do not think it important to conserve local lakes, and village residents are on a fast track to culling the greenery in their habitations to make for new concrete structures and roads. Why, we have pondered, are the issues of Climate Change not a pressing issue for rural residents? Are the impact of the mainstream economy and life-styles that emphasise productivity at all costs, increased forms of consumerism, and an urgency with which the rural must be transformed into the industrial-urban the reasons for such oversight and indifference? Administrative officials from the village to the state level think addressing Climate Change is to facilitate garbage management and nothing more. The heavy and unseasonal rains since 2021 have only added to the confusion with many farmers assuming that the trends of heavy rains will continue and therefore instead of conserving water resources, they can now plant water intensive crops such as rice, sugarcane and vegetables. In such a context, we at PUNARCHITH are considering ways to approach the challenge; how can a more grounded approach be possible in which the recognition of the problems and the need to shift to alternatives that have inbuilt sustainability and climate resilience be made possible? Should a more cultural approach in which geo-physical changes can be explained be drawn on? In the context of the growing influence of social media should new forms of communication be deployed? More especially, can a future that is imminently risk-laden be presented in a manner so that the average rural person can relate to these scenarios and prepare for it? These are only some of the challenges we face as we prepare for a year of intense work on action-research and advocacy for decentralised climate change plans and programmes. Those who have been successful in such work are requested to share strategies with us so that rural India is better prepared to handle this emergency.
It is an all-too-common a refrain that while there is acknowledgement about environmental degradation and the climate crisis makes survival worse, there is no (or very little) action. This is why some of the partner orgs are engaging with their respective communities to hear from them what they feel strongly about i.e. what are their assets, and what are their needs, and might these be interconnected.
Some of this is through the needs survey - you can see @lipok’s experiences in Maharashtra here and @Vikas’ passing interaction in Jharkhand - both are helping surface the need/imperative to act.
CLIMATE CHANGE AS AN EVERYDAY ISSUE
Punarchith’s program on climate change adaptation and mitigation at a regional or district level (Chamarajanagar district, Karnataka) has consisted of multiple activities. With a focus on enabling both awareness and engagement at the district level, the activities consist of (1) A modular course on climate change for rural youth from across Karnataka (2) A presentation on climate change for various government high schools and colleges in Chamarajanagar district (3) Developing a ‘living lab’ or a restored site to host various activities related to conservation of natural resources and sustainable agriculture (4) A decentralised action plan with a panchayat to restore a lake at Nagavalli village and (5) Drawing on these experiences to develop a decentralised action plan for climate change which goes beyond the top-down and limited view of the state and central governments’ action plans for climate change. Despite these multi-pronged approaches, the recognition of the gravity of trends (fluctuating monsoons, increasing temperatures, decreasing agricultural productivity, increasing epidemics and ill-health) is not easy for most rural residents. The pressure of everyday life, of earning a living, of following mainstream models (such as industrial-chemical agriculture), of seeking quick resolutions to problems make any form of mitigation difficult. The challenge for us remains to persist at many levels and to evolve alternatives that are feasible at the local level. Hope lies in the fact that a few youth have recognised these issues and are seeking to become ‘Climate Change Catalysts’ who will then facilitate both awareness and action at their own villages or residential sites. Scaffolding these youth over more time, providing regular inputs, facilitating their own work at their sites will be some of the ways to bring about some changes. Climate change remains a phenomenon that needs to be recognised by the average rural resident as both a time for significant course correction but as also an opportunity for alternatives.
Here are some quick (and long overdue!) updates on the Aadhi programme at Punarchith. We were so engrossed in our learnings and on-ground engagement that we forgot the outside world for a bit! The motto of the programme is “ಹಳೆ ಗೇನಕ ಹೊಸ ಆದಿ” (new paths to old ways), and we are working on multiple ways to facilitate the transfer of indigenous knowledge across generations. More about some of these paths we have taken below…
In collaboration with the Zilla Budakattu Girijana Abhirvrudhi Sangha, we launched a YouTube channel that showcases videos created by the youth from the Aadhi team, that focusses on their indigenous knowledge and culture @samyukhtha29 @idronline . The videos are taken and edited by the youth, and are approved by a committee of Soliga representatives from all four talukas of the district. This is what makes the channel different from others – it is of the people, by the people and for the people. Currently, the channel has 422 subscribers, many from the community itself.
In March 2023, a chart of ‘Soliga Sounds’ was released at the general body meeting of the Zilla Sangha in Chamarajanagar. This chart represents the sounds of the Soliga language, created in consultation with community members, and with the advice of Dr Aung Si, a linguist who is also an advisor to the programme. Since the language has no script, the spelling system is based on the Kannada script, with some important differences. The words that represent each sound were chosen by the Aadhi youth team, who also contributed photographs that were used in the chart. Each image in the chart is also a key into various domains of indigenous knowledge, and the Aadhi team youth use the chart to conduct activities and games with school children on Sundays. These charts will be distributed to the ashram shaalas in the District with the help of the Sangha and the District Tribal Welfare Department.
Studies from across the world have highlighted the links between indigenous knowledge and identity, and have shown that in this era of climate crisis, local knowledge systems and ways of living are not only sustainable, but also the most resilient. And indigenous youth across different communities face similar challenges of navigating the mainstream with their own aspirations and identities in rapidly changing world. Punarchith facilitated the initiation of an adivasi youth exchange through the Aadhi programme, and the youth team travlled to Gudalur in the Nilgiris, to interact with adivasi youth from other communities. They met children and youth from the Betta Kurumba, Paniya and Kaatunayakan communities at Vidyodaya school, and from the Ashwini hospital and The Real Elephant Collective (TREC), a company that creates livelihoods for Adivasi youth. It was a wonderful two days of deep reflections, sharing, song and dance and good food. Later in the year, 16 youth from Gudalur visited Punarchith and BR Hills, and we hope this trip is the beginning of a longer engagement of adivasi youth across communities and landscapes.