What is sustainability? As we visited over two dozen NGOs and projects in Auroville, our class was fortunate enough to witness a diverse collection of groups, individuals and their endeavours to reach a sustainable system of supporting their projects, enterprises and businesses.
When we keep in mind that the concept of sustainability is most promising when it is applied not only to environmental and business development, but also to the people involved and their well being and ability to provide for themselves, the approaches we take in attempt to reach sustainable systems become more challenging, more intricate and more demanding of slow and careful consideration.
There were many NGO’s and projects that were inspiring and tempting to work with, my first plan was to work in the Pitchandilkulan forest, with the social enterprise and business Amirtha Herbal. This was still my plan even after being exposed to so many other inspiring options, and it’s proven to be a wonderful decision. Amirtha Herbal is a woman’s social enterprise before it is a business, and it’s three highest priorities are working towards the empowerment of local woman, creating opportunities for financial independence, and working to integrate traditional indigenous healing knowledge into local healthcare practices. The prioritisation of the local woman’s welfare has been impressive in that it demonstrates an action-based, and not simply theory or label-based commitment to those whose wisdom, knowledge, time and work make Amirtha Herbals possible in the first place. I have seen a truly sustainable motion towards supporting and evolving their project.
Amirtha Herbal, in addition to being a sustainable social enterprise, business and support of indigenous woman, is also a part of the beautiful Pitchandikulam Forest restoration site which includes a bio-resource center, an ethno-medicinal collection of 300 plants, and community outreach activities and workshops that are offered to all and others particularly for the local indigenous communities. Approaching all business endeavours primarily as human-concerned, love-based social enterprises, as Amirtha has, would be a benefit to all involved and to those watching at a distance; that is an experienced and observed sense of sustainability, or at least a strive towards it. The success of Amirtha Herbal has recently been mentioned on the cover page of the Auroville Today Newspaper in the article Heeding the Call: Sustainability for South India and Beyond.
Sustainability, just as it is exemplified in nature, begins in the roots, and is woven through each element of the whole. Perhaps it is time to see that people are among the roots of everything that we, as people, create. And not only in theory but in practice, both when eyes are watching and when they are not.
The one who stayed in India – AUP