Cultivating Livelihoods—A Global Gathering in Araku ValleyAgriculture & Rural Development | October 10, 2012
As the sun rose over the lush Araku Valley, history...
Participants in the Rural Finance workshop learn from local money lenders.
Throughout the day, participants of the Livelihoods Network Camp unanimously emphasized that the Camp is NOT a conference. Unlike most conferences where participants learn only from other practitioners, where site visits are rare, and where little is expected of them beyond attending presentations, the Camp is focused on building a long-term network comprised of both practitioners and villagers, and on co-developing concrete action plans through focused discussions. “We have two objectives”, described Guillaume Bouculat, Financial Director of the Livelihoods Venture: “to think of ourselves as a community so that the network functions, and to find effective solutions to the key themes of the [six] workshops” (monitoring a carbon project, access to market, access to household energy, farmers’ capacities, rural finance, and nutrition).
With this in mind, the day was structured to accomplish said objectives. The participants were split into six groups corresponding to their key area of focus. They began the day by visiting villages, where the groups learned first-hand the reality at Araku Valley through in-depth conversations with locals and visits to households. The second part of the day consisted of kickstarting focused discussions to develop solutions and frameworks for enhanced livelihoods.
Through engaging conversations and field visits, participants soaked in a wealth of knowledge from local community members. Anne-Cécile Bras, journalist with Radio France International, described the experience as eye-opening—understanding how high-level discussions at the UN about the “carbon economy” translate into the daily lives of villagers whose livelihoods partly depend on carbon monitoring. Moreover, participants in the rural finance track learned about the wide array of lending schemes employed by speaking to local money lenders. Additionally, members of the energy workshop investigated the energy infrastructure and energy needs of village households.
Participants of the Livelihoods Network Camp visit village households.
After gaining a more nuanced understanding of livelihoods at Araku Valley, participants focused on developing solutions and action plans to carry them forward. One thing which stands out about Livelihoods and Naandi is their insistence in understanding villagers and in co-creating solutions with them. This represents a shift in the top-down approach traditionally used in development, and it signals an attempt to craft sustainable interventions in which communities are involved at every step of the way.
Moreover, these working sessions enable collaboration within existing projects, as well as cross-pollination of ideas across geographical boundaries. For instance, Fabien Bastide from the French Red Cross is presently coordinating a food security program in Laos and is learning best practices from similar programs in Araku Valley to improve his program. Yet another example is Rosa Maria Vidal Rodriguez, Deputy Director of Pronatura Sur in Mexico who was fascinated to learn how the Naandi Foundation launched its carbon program by tapping into their pre-existing coffee farmers network, and is considering importing this scale model to Mexico.
Participants of the Livelihoods Network Camp discuss their findings during the field visits and debate potential ways forward.
Today, participants will have 3 more hours of heated discussion after which they will present their proposals to the larger group. Stay tuned for our next post where we will reveal their insights and action plans moving forward!
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