Kottaimeedu – Between Two Worlds Part 2

ACCORD has believed in the power of, nay the right of, people to decide their future for themselves and even more so, we have faith in the capability of communities to not just make their own choices but also implement them.

For centuries, Adivasi communities have lived independently inside the forest the call home. Their housing, food and once upon a time, even their clothing needs were taken care of a benevolent Mother Nature. The forests also provided them with precious produce that could be used for barter in their interactions with each other and occasionally with the outside world.

However, as time passed, their relationship was rudely interrupted by the British Imperialists in India who declared that the Forests belong to the state, a “ common resource” which could  no longer be accessed by the common people. Thus began a life of exploitation and deprival for the Adivasis of India.

A case in point is housing. Adivasi housing is traditionally made of mud foundation,  wattle and daub walls with bamboo and thatch roof.  With time and increasing commercialisation and regulation of forests, their access to bamboo got cut off and thatch disappeared along with the natural forests reducing this proud race to live under shoddy plastic/tarpaulin roofs with badly plastered walls in the fringes of the jungles in which they once roamed around freely.

The villagers, AMS & ACCORD together decided to improve the housing standards of Kottaimeedu using traditional housing techniques. As a model, it was decided to build a community hall using similar techniques.

A plot was selected, shaded by two Rosewood giants, the gods were propitiated and work began. Villagers got together and made more than 2000 soil cement blocks, no small feat when you consider that they had to continue with their regular work also,  levelled the plot and work began on the actual building.  With minimal help from one mason as well as the never ending enthusiasm and support of our resident architect, a beautiful structure was built that merged traditional materials with modern technique. Mature bamboo provided the rafters and green tinted tin sheets provided the roof. A strong and stable structure that will require minimal maintenance for years to come and which will play host to not only meetings and conversations but also the livelihood projects expected to start soon at the village. When it comes to tribal societies, “Slow & Steady” is not just a maxim, it’s the only way!

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