We were a small group of development activists working on participatory training, cultural action, people’s theatre, education, documentation, organising the rural poor, campaigns, networking and support services. We had been meeting at various fora, and had, over a period of time shared a critique of modern developments in the global and local context, as well as our own work. These discussions and reflections on our work, exposed the inadequacies of the then purely class understanding of the society on which our logic and strategy of most of our work rested upon.
We felt and knew that something else also needed to be done.
Some of us got together and purchased and located ourselves on a 32-acre, dry, barren land in Anantapur district, South India. The idea, was to initiate an experiment in healing and regenerating it while creating an agro forest habitat.
We named this place TIMBAKTU.
The Collective has grown from such humble beginnings, and over the years developed its own understanding of social change, what works and what cannot work for the people who live in close connection to the land.
Over the years, we have experimented with alternative architecture – our homes in Timbaktu stand testimony to that, alternate energy – much of our energy requirements at Timbaktu are met through solar energy, organic farming – our food is grown entirely organically, and alternate education.
This, of course, is at a personal and at a small community level.
Our work in the villages began in 1991. We started with mobilising women in 10 villages to form themselves into Self-Help Groups with thrift and credit as a stratety for economic independence. From then on the journey has expanded to 150 villages and programs for enabling people to come together, form cooperatives, and collectively address the issues affecting them. This journey has taken us through working with the land, forests and water, enabling women and people with disabilities to overcome their sense of disempowerment, nurturing children to negotiate their childhood challenges and help them develop a dream of a more sustainable future, enabling small holder farmers to negotiate collectively markets, and help build and develop an understanding of business enterprise for all.
Our struggles with regenerating the land has led us to an understanding that left alone and with a little help from us, Nature will look after itself. Our work with people has led us to understand that with a little but right support, people can empower, govern, and determine a sustainable, mostly satisfying future for themselves.
Above all, we are immensely grateful to the many people who have contributed in various ways, pouring their efforts and wisdom into the work.
It is quite impossible to narrate the various twists and turns, struggles and adjustments that have gone into making the work possible. We can only give a few snapshots of what we did and why and how. It is also difficult to understand completely the impacts of our work. We can only see some of the results and outcomes. How it translates itself into people’s lives can be only understood from some of the stories we hear from them.
Above all, what we have learnt, is that Life can only be lived. Sometimes graced by the gifts she chooses to bestow on us and sometimes living through the challenges she throws upon us.
Life, we celebrate you..!