A people's knowledge centre
Bay of Bengal
A people’s “Knowledge Centre” in the islands of the Bay of Bengal
In the Sundarbans, one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, SOCEO in collaboration with the local NGO Mrittika Prayas, is in the process of building a knowledge centre. The goal is to create a place, where the local community can learn and share learning that helps individuals to live sustainably and to seek livelihood solutions creatively, innovatively and conscientiously. The idea is not only to establish an aware, able and empowered community but also to develop a team of inspired community-based trainers who, in their turn, will impart trainings to the wider community—thereby creating a process that will go viral. The institution will be run by the community, for the community.
The knowledge centre will offer the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and know-how needed to live in a sustainable manner. Its philosophy “Learning for living”, is a philosophy of obtain abilities and propensities to engage in a livelihood option, which fosters individual welfare without wilfully compromising the common future.
For nature lovers the world over, the Sundarbans denotes the dense mangrove forests at the mouth of the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, one of the largest deltas in the world and home to the Bengal Tiger. Though being known for its beautiful nature, the area is characterized by a large rural population challenged by poverty, lack of basic infrastructure, and a river-besieged and embankment-protected existence, threatened at every moment by natural disasters. The situation has become more tense with the region being seriously threatened and has already been affected by the effects of climate change. Namely, there is an increase in salinity, problems with submergence and an increased vulnerability to extreme events, such as the cyclonic storm Aila in 2009.
Moreover, the area’s poverty has resulted in problems, such as massive migration for work to other parts of India. The migration, in many places, has resulted in disruption of family life and attendant traumas. What is more worrying is that in many parts of the Sundarbans, dire poverty has resulted in sex-trafficking, a trade that sucks in many poor women, including very young teenagers.