CONFESSIONS OF A PARTICIPATORY NONEQUILIBRIUM HUMAN
ECOLOGIST ‘A NEW SYNTHESIS’ – AN INDIAN EXPERIENCE.
READER IN BOTANY,LOYOLA ACADEMY,SECUNDERABAD
The Deccan Plateau, of the Northern semi-arids, in the Indian subcontinent, historically,
captures,a canvassi of livelihoods, with vivid entitlement exchanges, admist prudence
and profligacy, of the Human ecology of communities. The rural-urban trasitional
continuum, portrays a ‘dynamic reality’ in the contemporary scenario, of an emergent
city. The Hyderabad metropolitan, my ‘sense of place and belonging’ , is poised towards
government populalist policies of e-governance , ecotourism and widely trumpeted
people’s participation, with World Bank aid and NGOs in the bandwagon.
The landscape is dynamic and specially and temporally disaggregated, in the microniche,
with communites, experiencing , diverse, dfferentiated urban and rural elements, in the
households, under transience.. Parallel to this is the unseen ‘shadow economy of
survival’, on an everyday crisis, with fuzzy entitlement exchange and rural-urban
The ‘local, complex, diverse,differenciated, unpredictable, (lcddu)’ communities and
livelihoods on the continuum experience, turbulence and embark on multiple voices and
realities, far from neat synergism and consensus-based blue print approaches, as well as
external bureaucratic fantasies, in urban agriculture and community forestry.
The present study, conducted in ‘1995-2000’ on a continuum, had conventionally started
with a blue print approach, the study of Food-Energy nexus and agroecosystems,Farming
systems,with RRA/PRA methodological galore, an NGO led coalition,and a
questionnaire survey method.
Paradoxically,the researcher encountered a developmental wary audience,half-filled
sheets and the participatory fetish of the NGOs and the government programmes.The
sustainability elements,conceptualised,were in contradiction to the ground
realities,captured on a messy matrix of transience,in multiple voices,under pluralistic
THE GROUND REALITIES
Unknowingly,on apriori terms,by experiential participatory processes,sequestered in bits
and pieces,with opposites as well,the evidences,were deduced,while straddling the
shifting middle ground of blue vs process approaches,pitfalls of quantitayive
research,limits of energy analysis,agroecosystem analysis,projection modelling,hurried
comparison with success stories,.Strategic rationalities,are no doubt,to be acknowledged,
from other studies! The unknown, yet emergent complex human ecology of patterns,
processes, flows,l inkages and decision-making, in changing contexts and
phenomenology,were in oral testimony,visual mapping and sharing sessions,in sharp
contrast to issues envisaged!
On introspection,the researcher,was able to weave the patterns (fortunately,in contrast to
the peer reviewers,who found it as an abberent,to conventional studies!),from Food-
Energy Nexus-the central dogma of Human Ecology,enroute entitlement
mapping,disaggregated analysis and mapping,fuzzy entitlement exchanges,trans-
pastoralism,herder’s mobility, and an array of (un)sustainability indicators.
The discovery of the methodolical processes was by backcasting,when the stumbling
was into the vortex of nonequilibrium ecology,participatory action research
processes,facilitation, and experiential,surrogative,as well as grassroot indicators and no
The multiple voices,eclectic methods,is now put back into realities,by seperating the
methodologies from the conceptul frames,an issue to reckon,where those creative spaces
and moments of inspired thinking ,were at work,to address to the lost roads and newer
paradigms,are to be realised!
THE METHODOLOGICAL PROCESSES-‘APRIORI’MODE,-A NEW
Investigation in semi-arid, fragile livelihoods and environmental change, included-
PRA,RRA, environmental entitlement analysis, community forestry tool box, Naturalistic
inquiry, Focus groups, Participatory observation, case study, units of analysis, breaking
the ice experiences, tree inventory and LKMS, stress and shocks, stakeholder analysis,
historical ecology, ecoregional constructs, GIS mapping, livelihood analysis, historical
ecology, ecoregional constructs, GIS mapping, livelihood analysis, pariticipatory indices
of household vulnerability, fuzzy entitlement mapping, changes in land use,…
The research while seeking indicators, as envisaged by backcasting, affirms, the belief,
that the magic toolbox can disappear, as contexts change, pitfalls can occur and fitness of
function is a guiding tool, in apriori terms, participatory experiential learnings and
evaluation, in microcontexts. The methodologies remain open, ephemeral, context
specific, addressing to the creative space in policy implications and can cotribute as a
convenient yardstick to monitor, evaluate, our own experiences, the NGOs, funding
agencies, participatory researchers alike, while on limits to the transitions, beyond the
‘Eclectic’ participatory methodological and conceptual frameworks, are apparently, the
realities, to be explored, experienced, in the current ‘search niche’, towards eco-
sustainable initiatives on the peri-urban/urban edge., in the human ecology perspective.
Given the current impasse’ and the fallout of community based sustainable development
initiatives, in the dimensions of turbulent ecology, of contemporary times, do we have an
audience, listening for a change? Can truly, NGOs and developmental aid initiatives
address to such complex people-centered processes and read the signals, instead of
confused or wrong ones, on the sustainability matrix?
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