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Art of Living to empower tribal youth to become change agents

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
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Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Highlights

The Art of Living, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, launched two Centers of Excellence (CoE), aimed at empowering tribal youth to become change agents, take charge of community development, strengthen grassroots democracy, promote natural farming among tribal farmers, introduce them to marketing opportunities and make them self-sufficient

Bengaluru: The Art of Living, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, launched two Centers of Excellence (CoE), aimed at empowering tribal youth to become change agents, take charge of community development, strengthen grassroots democracy, promote natural farming among tribal farmers, introduce them to marketing opportunities and make them self-sufficient.

"We need to learn a lot from the tribal cultures," Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living and global spiritual leader, said in his virtual address on Tuesday. "When I travelled around in these places, I saw how they kept their surroundings and the environment clean. We have to preserve their culture and way of life, and give them the support they need."

Gurudev also spoke about The Art of Living tribal school being run in Ghatsila, where children are taught about their tribal culture and tradition while also giving them modern education and vocational skills that would ensure they do not remain unemployed. More than 700 such schools are being run all over the country in rural and tribal areas. Gurudev feels that emphasizing the need for reaching out with tools of yoga and meditation to every tribal village to take care of people's mental health along with hygiene and development. He also noted that there are some tasks of development that are cut out for the government like building roads, planning among others and there are some that only NGOs can take up, like motivating and encouraging people to be part of the development process, given the innate trust people have.

Under the first CoE, the organization will train 900 youths belonging to Scheduled Tribe communities as change agents. The project will run in 30 gram panchayats, in six different blocks and five districts of Jharkhand.

"This program launched today is important for the farming community and the holistic development of Panchayati Raj," said Mr Arjun Munda, Minister of Tribal Affairs. "We are positive about starting the project in Gurudev's presence to bring harmony between constitutional rights, development and their social structure so that their natural system is retained. This will set an example of empowerment of rural and tribal areas. Development of the tribal communities, who are known for their sweetness, is important from societal development point of view. Environment sustainability is ensured by them by their dedication to preserve it."

While there are a lot of schemes and legal protections available for the tribal communities, they may not always have all the information. The trained youths will be further sensitizing their own community about the legal protections and schemes available to them. Specific gram panchayats will also be sensitized about the rights available under SC/ST Act. Along with the tribal community, SHGs will also be educated on the same. Traditional forest dwellers will be more aware about their rights and can avail the benefits of various schemes of the State and Central governments.

"I am very happy that, with the support of The Art of Living, our ministry will work towards uplift of the scheduled tribes to make them self-dependent, bring them dignity, and strengthen Panchayati Raj institutions," said Renuka Singh, Minister of State in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

"This primarily will be achieved through capacity building in the tribal community, by creating a team of trained and dynamic young leaders who would lead the change required within the community, by inculcating a sense of ownership and responsibility for their community and motivating them to achieve the change they seek," said Prasana Prabhu, Chairman of Vyakti Vikas Kendra India.

Art of Living will be implementing its widely successful community empowerment modules by training the youths for personality improvement and leadership skills and encouraging them to engage in community service; the initiatives taken thus will be self-sustaining with the help of trained youths to create a long lasting impact in these villages. According to the reports, the second CoE will focus on training 10,000 tribal farmers in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra on sustainable natural farming.

Sri Sri Institute of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SSIAST) works with 22 lakh farmers promoting natural farming across India. SSIAST has now undertaken the project "Making Atma Nirbhar Tribal Farmers" with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. Agro-chemicals have slowly started to penetrate tribal belts that have for centuries adopted sustainable organic or natural farming techniques. This is leading to serious erosion of crop biodiversity and degradation of soils. It is also leading to the loss of the traditional ecological knowledge of the tribal communities in sustainable agriculture.

In this present three-year project, SSIAST seeks to adopt 10 tribal villages and train 10,000 farmers in sustainable natural farming techniques, based on Gou-Aadharith technology. This model is based on training 10 mentors amongst the local youth, who will handhold the farmers during this period. SSIAST will ensure that the farmers will receive PGS organic certification and marketing opportunities will be made available to them. SSIAST will also establish dynamic Desi Seed Banks for preserving local biodiversity and empowering farmers to be seed keepers.

"This project will focus on creating self-reliance among tribal farmers. It seeks to preserve and revive the Traditional Ecological Knowledge of tribal communities and protect them for the negative effect of chemical agriculture", said Dr Prabhakar Rao, Trustee, SSIAST.

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