Published on June 13th, 2014 | by admin1
My Experience At ProtoVillage: Gutta Rohith
Disclaimer: The views expressed in “Regular Columns” section are completely of the writer’s. The articles or writers do no’t represent NRI Samay
Earlier Suresh Ediga from NRI Samay interviewed Kalyan Akkipeddi of ProtoVillage, you can listen to it here
Proto-Village, as the name indicates is an attempt to show and establish the true essence of ‘Gram Swaraj’ which was envisioned few decades back but failed miserably. The reasons may be many. Proto-Village is attempt which is taking lessons from the past, going hand in hand (In fact out of hand) with the present situations to build a great future.
To explain in a simple language Proto-Village is a concept designed on the structure of ‘Self-Sustaining Village Communities’ where the whole economy will be within the village. The approach behind this is philosophical, but the actual work is of materialistic approach.
The present crisis, which is inevitable in Capitalistic approach, is being dealt in many ways be it opposing the neo-liberal and imperial policies, working for a revolutionary change in the present systems through armed struggle and be it building & developing alternate systems which can dismantle these capitalistic and individualistic systems. Proto-Village has a materialist approach to address this crisis by having a philosophical understanding of various aspects, just as economic benefits in preserving ecology will result in better understanding about ecological preservation.
I first heard about Proto-Village from our Professor Shambu Prasad (Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar) in the ‘Ecosystem and Sustainability Management’ course. Later I happened to meet Kalyan (Kalyan Akkipeddi, the person who initiated this) during the ‘National Conference on Social Entrepreneurship’ held at XLRI, Jamshedpur. I had a long discussion with him over the entire concept of Proto-Village. Even after such a long discussion I am unable to understand what actually he is doing and trying to develop and what he wanted to do. But few things which he explained in simple language meant something.
My understanding about ‘Self-Sustaining Village Communities’ had broadened from just opposing the corporate overtake of Agriculture and other systems to building alternate systems which can demonstrate the possibility of establishment of an egalitarian society. By that time I happened to see many such initiatives. Center For Sustainable Agriculture (Ramanjaneyulu GV) works on alternate agrarian practices, building alternate supply chains, Agriculture Co-operative systems, policy issues such as Irrigation, Seed &Bio-Technological policies, against Corporatization of Agriculture, Bio-Diversity etc. Timbaktu Collective (Bablu Ganguly) works mainly on Agriculture in drought prone and dry areas (Ananthapuram District), Co-operative systems (Credit Co-operatives, Agricultural Co-operatives), Afforestation practices &Bio-Diversity. Chetna Organic (Arun Ambatipudi) works on mainly alternate agrarian practices, alternate supply chains and Agricultural Co-Operatives and Producer Company. There are also individuals’ initiatives such as Zero Budget Natural Farming (Subash Palekar).
I was one of the persons who used to believe that if everyone does sustainable agriculture majority of the problems can be solved. After visiting and understanding the work of organizations such as Accord (Stan Thekaekera) it is quite clear to me that everyone cannot work only on agriculture. Accord works with Aadivaasis of Nilgirs in Tamil Nadu. It started its work initially with Land Reforms and Land Re-Distribution from various sources through various means. Opposing the massacre of Aadivaasis and forceful acquisition of their resources, damaging their culture is one dimension in protecting them.
The other dimension is setting up Protos which can be demonstrated to both the state and to the vast majority who consider them as hindrance for ‘Development’. In fact ‘Kranthikari Janathana Sarkar’ in the deep pockets of Dandakaranya forest is working on both these dimensions. As everyone may not agree with their modus operandi it is necessary to work in a way which can be demonstrated to the majority.
Now coming back to Proto-Village. The two principles which they believe in
- Place>People>Penny (Here place is Nature &Systems) in opposite to the present model of Penny>People>Place
- Scaling In which is quite opposite to the traditional model of Scaling Up.
People are temporary but the systems which these people establish are permanent (permanent in the sense till they take a new form). The role of Penny is limited only between people in the systems. Systems/Nature once damaged (which is the being carried out a rapid rate since 1991) is very difficult to restore. It is nature/systems that sustain us and not the vice-versa. In fact for sustenance of Human Being Place is compulsory where Penny is just necessary. The present day working model is all about earning Penny at the cost of Place. But this concept which is of a bit philosophical cannot be explained in such a way, as today for everyone penny matters than anything else and many people almost forget that penny is derived from place and conservation of place is compulsory to earn penny. So this entre basic philosophy has to be explained through penny. This is how Proto-Village is working on its principle.
The saying of Buddha explains clearly what this scaling in is all about … “Don’t trust even my words (Buddha) till you cross-check them”. Scaling up is all about expanding ourselves and our philosophies, whereas Scaling In is all about contracting and then let it expand itself.
The work of Proto-Village is based on above principles. With these two principles the work was started in 2011. Initially Sunderbans was the place of work. As it is well known that Culture & Language plays a pre-dominant role in these works it was shifted to Chetalodu Village (A Village near Hindupuram in Ananthapuram District and the village is around 100 KM from Bengaluru). After three years of scaling in process with the help of one family (Ramachandrappa, Sugunakka &Anand Reddy). The family which was almost on the verge of Economic collapse has now almost become self-sufficient in three major areas viz Food, Shelter, Power and Economic Stability.
The thrust areas which Proto-Village works on to attain self-sustainability are.
- Food Sovereignty
- Health Services
- Social Equity
Let’s look into a couple of the above…
Food &Water: Just as in any other dry place, in Ananthapuram also water usage is of utmost importance. The major crops are Ground Nut, Onion, Tobacco, Rice and Millets. So in Proto-Village water conservation &usage of as much less water as possible is of major importance. It uses mainly drip technology for cultivation (Gravity drip, developed by a student of Stanford University) and deviates from the ’Conventional’ practices in the cropping pattern.
Various alternate practices such as Natural Farming, Permaculture, Wicking Bed Cultivation and promotion of crops like lettuce which consumes just 2% of actual water usage and just 8% of land (Taking 1 Acre as base) to generate decent amount of money and also multi-cropping pattern. This caters to all the house hold usage, which makes the village/community almost independent from market for their food.
In the later stage promotion of healthy crops such as olive replacing ground nut &making sure that whatever they consume will be produced within the village itself and the surplus will be processed and will be marketed by them. As a first step towards this a departmental store was opened in the village which will be owned by the village community and few people will be selected by the community itself to manage the store. The profit will be distributed as per the consumers purchase value. The next step in this is to make the village self-sufficient in production of these goods and items also. Whatever that is being sold in the store will be produced in the village by the villagers themselves (We have to remember J.C.Kumarappa and M.K.Gandhi here).
Shelter: The conventional housing pattern anywhere right now (with few exceptions) is usage of cement, costly marbles, granite and other stones depending upon the financial capacity. Even the government housing scheme ‘Indiramma Illu’ makes usage of cement compulsory. Going by the environmental standards cement is one which is very dangerous to the environment as well as health of people. In fact this cement is manufactured by big corporates and Cement is one item whose price is very volatile (In last one week the cement rates in Andhra Pradesh shot up by Rs. 100/Sack for the reason no one knows).
Self-Sufficiency should be accompanied with usage and consumption of local resources which they are the prime owners. Housing aspect in Proto-Village is based on this broader version of Self-Sufficiency. The items which are used in housing are Tank Mud, Stones, Fencing Wire and Dried Straw. Only these four are the items which are used for the housing purpose in the village and of course no need to say that you don’t require any highly ‘qualified’ civil engineer to construct a house/any building with these locally available resources. The cost is almost negligible compared to the conventional housing process.
We just construct glass houses to make it look splendid and gain we install Air Conditioners to insulate from the heat (Not to forget glass is a good conductor of heat and this entire concept of usage of glass was borrowed from foreign countries which are basically cold countries!). It absolutely makes no sense to construct a house which emits lot of heat and then again install coolers to get protection from that heat and release Green House gases into atmosphere through those conditioners. My experience in this house in Ananthapuram, I had to use a blanket, it was that cool
Here is the Proto team, and what I learnt about some of them …
- Kalyan Akkipeddi
- Somaskehar Reddy
- Gajendra Reddy
- Sugunakka and little soldiers
Intiyaaz did his M.B.A in Hindupuram. As we say in corporate language P.R.O, Intiyaaz is much better than those people who consider themselves as the best P.R.O’s/C.S.O’s just for the reason that they were educated in ‘elite’ institutions. He is very good at getting things done from government officials (not in our ’Conventional’ way). When Charu Sinha (D.I.G, Telangana) visited this place she was mesmerized at the way Intiyaaz explained the entire concept of Proto-Village and she even gave a compliment that ‘She had never seen any villager talking with such level of confidence and commitment’. His communication skills are his greatest strength. He is a very good example to show that possessing good communication skills is not any sole property of students of ‘Elite’ institutions.
Somasekhar Reddy- ‘Jack of all trades’. I don’t think there is any work which Somu doesn’t know. For 7 years he travelled across many places in Andhra Pradesh working on various jobs and during the same time there is no work left without learning. Highly enthusiastic about each and everything he does.
Gajendra Reddy – A young enthusiastic farmer. He heads the agriculture theme of Proto-Village. He is a very good and successful agriculturist and it is quite impossible to believe his achievements in agriculture at his tender age. In the last agricultural year he made Rs. 4,50,000 on 2.5 acres of land through onion cultivation and this year he harvested 6.22 Quinta of tobacco on 0.9 acre which is one of the highest in that area. He is the first person (along with Somu and Intiyaaz) who came forward to adopt these alternate agrarian practices.
Harish and Hari who were interested in joining army left that thought and came to be a part of this Proto-Village and Mahesh who works as a MGNREGS Team Leader also came forward to be a part of this Village.
The other interesting aspect of this Proto-Village is Network Building. They don’t invent or develop anything new. They just re-invent. They don’t believe in pursuing just traditional knowledge. To understand this let us look into few examples. Aquaponics-Developed by Murray Hallum of Australia. This is the technology in which the same water which is used for psiciculture can be used for cultivation and at the same time with the same amount of water two occupations can be carried out. They did contact Murray, learnt from him and now they are constructing that in their village. They are also learning from other aspects such as Wicking Bed Cultivation, Wind Energy, alternate agrarian and construction practices and techniques.
This is briefly about Proto-Village based on my understanding during my stay there for 9 days. All these explained above are form materialist point of view. In fact I have many doubts regarding various issues. But asking questions is easiest task than actually doing the work. Hope their work will answer all my questions.
About The Writer: Gutta Rohith, has recently completed Post Graduation Diploma in Rural Management Xavier Institute of Management and interested in working on alternatives in Politics and Social Movements. You can reach him at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pic Credits: yourstory.com