A blogpost from Institute Co-Directors Prof. Lynn Froggett and Prof. Ulrike Zeshan
We are currently on a field trip to India, where we helped to launch AlterNEXT – a ‘think do learn’ tank, that has developed out of the Shikha eco-sustainability project in the state of Odisha.
AlterNEXT’s mission has been established to ‘design and implement holistic activities that unify learning, research and real-life action. All activities support sustainable and regenerative futures’.
The fortnight’s activities included a five day permaculture course, a workshop on local food cultures, and, more informally, a generous welcome into the homes of the local community of craft weavers to learn something of their ways of living and working. In the workshop on food cultures, we discussed with local participants how their ways of sourcing food has changed over the past decades, a session that took place in a mix of English, Hindi, and Sambalpuri Oriya.
In Odisha, we found ourselves in a mini-heat wave in India’s hottest state, in its hottest season, with the heat index (what it officially feels like) topping 49 degrees. However, Shikha sits on the banks of the slow, wide, clear Mahanadi River where we cooled off, swam and joined the local women and children in the bathing cum social rituals that mark the beginning and end of each day.
Following on from this we travelled, together with the unstoppable Sibaji Panda, founder of Shikha and former Senior Lecturer in Deaf Studies at Uclan, to the beautiful village of Tumoul in Darbhanga district Bihar where we are guests of Professor Rajani Ranjan Singh, Professor of Education at the Dr Shakuntatala Misra National Rehabilitation University, Lucknow. The exquisite Bihari cuisine served up by his family is a gastronomic adventure in itself. AlterNEXT’s mission is to foster a network of linked sites and initiatives in India, and Professor Singh’s family has long been engaged in organic farming practices.
We finish this trip with three days in Patna, the Bihar State capital, meeting up with colleagues from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to push forward a bid to the AHRC GCRF (Grand Challenges Research Fund) on sustainable food cultures which is being led from the UK by ICSC Co-ordinator Mags Adams.