News & Notes 650:Introduction to Auroville Sustainable Livelihood Institute (SLI)

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650 icon.jpg   News & Notes 650
4 June 2016

Introduction to Auroville Sustainable Livelihood Institute (SLI)

The Sustainable Livelihood Institute formally began in March 2015 so this document gives an overview of our first year along with a brief background on the unit.

SLI is a joint venture between the Auroville Foundation and the Govt. of Tamil Nadu State Rural Livelihood Mission. The executives of the unit are Alain Bernard, Joss, Divya and Suhasini and the current SLI Director is Ram Subramaniam who, although not an Aurovilian, is well known among many in the community.

The main task of SLI is to provide education across a range of disciplines to officials from the State Livelihood Mission as well as a much larger number of people from communities around the state such as Self Help Groups and others engaged in rural based activities. The workshop involves many Aurovilians who come and present to the groups on their areas of expertise or speciality. There are over 30 Aurovilians who form part of the informal faculty of speakers to the groups. In the first year around 1,000 people from rural districts of Tamilnadu attended workshops over 3-5 days.

We currently have 13 different workshops including Sustainable Livelihoods, Sustainable Agriculture. Waste Management, Marketing and Branding and Ethno-Veterinary. In our second year we will be responding to community requests to create more workshops including Social Enterprise Development and Sustainable Construction among others.

In addition to the Tamil Nadu rural groups we have also hosted about 200 people attending workshops on Sustainable Practices who are from the Panipanchayat organisation in Odissa. Finally there have been occasional one-off workshops designed for NGO’s (we had another of these open to Aurovilians from the 20th May 2016) and being done in collaboration with Studio Naqshbandi and the PCG being presented by a well know person in the field of education, Jinan KB.

So in summary of all of this factual based information is that many people from rural Odissa and Tamil Nadu are coming to Auroville to experience an education far removed from what they are more accustomed to. They see an international community living in a forest and working is a very different way to what they see in their villages. Still, Auroville remains a village in India that is quite unique in so many ways.

One of the main objectives, especially with the Govt. participants is to give them alternatives and support to think more innovatively and to open their minds to the potential of sustainable rural activity. We have had feedback from participants who have returned to their communities and have actually started activities they learned about during their visit to SLI.

This leads to a couple of anecdotes. The first concerns a govt. official who, as a young man, rode a bicycle every day to and from his studies. He was encouraged, after 20 years, to get back on a bike and to ride to and from the workshops in Auroville every day. This reminded him of his younger days with the renewed commitment to return to his work and travel around the district with pedal rather than petrol power. We also do drumming sessions with Svaram and musical therapy with Arnab Choudary from Pondicherry. Both of these activities use music as a form of expression that enables the participants to take away a very different understanding of music.

We also know that women from the rural SHGs have taken some of their learning back to their community and have launched small scale projects inspired by the workshop attended.

SLI provides full-time employment mostly to the local Tamil population who may or may not be Aurovilian. For the staff that have joined it gives them an opportunity to develop their skills perhaps from simply listening to the faculty members sessions to the workshop participants. More than that is their exposure to people from all over the state and with the opportunity to visit some of these districts to follow up on programs. The fact remains though that while we from Auroville are providing sustainable practice education to the rural community they are also teaching us about their world and their life.

Finally, there will be more postings on SLI to the Auroville community with other activities planned so the people can learn more about our work.

We also invite Aurovilians to visit our Facebook page: […] or