Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

To migrate or not to migrate

The eternal dilemma of the forest dweller

This is the story of Rajendran, who works as the village coordinator for Sigur region, one of Keystone's field centers. He is an Irula boy from the Sigur Plateau in the North Nilgiri region.

Rajendran was born in July, 1985. As there is was no record he does not know the date. His birth place is Chockanalli village in the Sigur plateau. His family comprises of his father, mother, sister and brother. His father and mother work on daily wages for their living. He studied in the Government school at Mavanalla, 15 kilometers from his village. He studied in the school till class 6th. Being a wage worker, his father was not able to pay the school fees for three of his children. Owing to his family situation and his lack of interest in studies at that age, he discontinued. He then had to support his family, so he worked in a garage and learnt to use the tools. After some time he left the job. His father had cattle and he had to take care of them. The cattle were kept in pattis - a place where the cattlesheds are. The pattis were deep inside the forest, in a place called Odavarapatti. He used to take the cattle for grazing inside the forest. By taking his cattle for grazing he knew the forest very well, the path to be taken for grazing, the wildlife in the area etc. He was all alone by himself in the forest and he managed independently. He had no other responsibility, just taking care of his cattle till the age of 17. After his vanavasa(forest stay), he returned back to his village, Chocknalli, for 6 months he was in the village. He and few of his village boys went to Gopichettipalayam to work in a spinning mill. In 3 months he learnt to operate the machine very well, where it usually takes 6 months. The management was impressed with his performance. As it was a routine job he did not like to work in the mill, and so he came back to his village. He found a job as a guard in a farm near his village. He worked there for almost six months and was looking for a change.

This is when Keystone was giving training in beekeeping. He initially came for the meeting as stipend was provided to the trainees. The training was for a duration of two weeks and his daily visit for the training kindled an interest in beekeeping. Seeing his interest in beekeeping activity Jaysudha and Jaishanker, who were in charge of the Sigur region for Keystone activities took him on work. And again, after few months of his new job, as the bees migrate he went away (actually he absconded) to work in Coimbatore in a canteen. And after three months he came back home again. As he felt embarrassed, he did not ask for a job in Keystone. He worked in a field near his village on daily wages. Few months passed by, he and his friends planned to go to Bangalore in search of a job. Even when they were setting off to go he was not happy about his decision. They went up to Thepakadu, waited for the bus to Bangalore. They waited for a long time for the bus, as he was waiting he was convinced that he will not go to Bangalore. He returned home.

He (the prodigal son) found a job in Keystone field resource centre at Sigur. He works as the Village coordinator of Sigur region. He has been working for the past two years. He had been involved in beekeeping activities, nursery and feels that he has learnt on the job, and has gained experience to his job and more responsible now. He would like to become an excellent and well known beekeeper.

- as told by Rajendran to Shiny Rehel, both from Keystone Foundation, Kotagiri, Nilgiris, India.

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Local Organising Committee