Sustainability

SARA Centre is focussed on countering the effects of industrialisation and the resulting degradation of local knowledge systems and lifestyle practices in the region. The centre is constantly on the look out for innovative solutions to endemic problems that the people of the region face on a day to day basis. Searching sustainable and innovative alternatives to existing lifestyle practices has become the need of the hour.

Water

The region is largely dependent on rain water and therefore new phenomena is now taking place – namely water harvesting. however rain water harvesting is barely enough to meet the needs of agriculture and therefore it is still rather difficult to retain water, as the main source of rainwater retention, namely forests have also greatly reduced. Even now locals rely on open wells, as the few operational bore wells are not accessible to all and often are also very deep e.g. 400 feet etc.

In recent times commercialization and market focussed farming practices such as monoculture farming have also given rise to environmentally detrimental practices such as chopping off entire branches of trees to harvest honey or tender mangoes – leading to a rapid loss of habitat for forest animals e.g. Monkeys, birds, bees, insects etc. And further this adds to loss of ecological balance and forest health and eventually depletion of water retention/ table.

Food 

Chemical farming practices, monoculture

The region has undergone severe lifestyle changes over recent decades, currently the staple food of the region is reduced to mainly rice and sambar (lentil and vegetable stew). This was not always the case, and culturally, past generations were habituated to leverage a number of forest foods in their daily diets. Industrial farming and consumerism have posed a significant detriment to regional culinary culture, lifestyle, and local knowledge systems.

Most farming practices in the region are labour intensive because of the rough terrain – vehicles, push carts are difficult to use, and therefore people tend to carry goods on their heads and on foot. Harsh work and labour intensive farming lead to mass disenchantment and therefore locals are more and more interested in emigrating to urban centres in search of alternative means of livelihood.

All these factors are eventually discouraging people from growing kitchen gardens etc. which are now seen as additional work, although they were the norm in the past – this has has posed a significant detriment to self-sufficient lifestyle practices of the past: there is a marked shift in food habits as more people are moving from fruit and vegetable based diets to largely staples. Food habits and such other lifestyle changes: agricultural crops are now also mostly tuned to industrial demand – this in turn is affecting local lifestyle and eating habits – e.g. Traditional recipes are becoming extinct and people are mostly depending on staples, instead of the variety of vegetables, fruit and forest food that were the norm a few decades ago. e.g. Rice consumption increase resulted in decrease in millet farming and consumption.

Apathy of civic authorities or departments towards farmers is rampant e.g. Agriculture office and horticulture office – are surprisingly separate entities when in fact multi crop farming is prevalent – poor governance. Most environmental departments are busy handing out licenses and clearances to industries and agents of modernization, and in fact do not seem to have direct involvement in actual environmental conservancy or preservation activities.

Energy

Firewood is the basic energy source of energy for the farming which was obtained by villagers through foraging and collection of firewood from forests until a few decades ago,  however the impact of industry and of monoculture plantation has changed the scenario as bio-diversity depletion has reduced scope for foraging. There is limited availability of bio-gas and LPG, and as yet a large part of energy production in the region and also the nearby urban centres depends on firewood. 

  • Snapshot: The rural population in India relies heavily on traditional biomass based fuels (fuelwood, crop residues and animal dung) for meeting its energy needs. Approximately 96% of rural households are estimated to be using bio fuels. Fuelwood is the primary energy source for cooking used by Rural households (78%) (TERI 1999)…. The gap between consumption and recorded production of fuelwood is increasing indicating the seriousness of fuel wood problem according to TERI data. (Rural energy data sources and estimations in India).