Interview with Sukanta Sen (BARCIK)
Pieter Jansen, programme officer at Both ENDS, interviewed Sukanta Sen from the Bangladesh Resource Center for Indigenous Knowledge (BARCIK). BARCIK is an NGO that works in the field of environment, biodiversity conservation and development. They have been promoting the significance of local and indigenous knowledge in development initiatives as well as the empowerment process of local and indigenous communities.
What was the main reason to start the Resource Center?
The main reason to start the centre was to explore the importance of local and indigenous knowledge, as in Bangladesh the agriculture and rural environment build on local knowledge and wisdom. The centre was initiated to facilitate research, advocacy and campaign.
Can you give an example of how BARCIK incorporates indigenous knowledge and local practices into contemporary development programs?
Policy planners, the agricultural department of the Government of Bangladesh and even some of the researchers in Bangladesh have thought of a plan to increase the food supply in order to feed more people. They all considered the introduction of hybrid rice the only way to do. Though in local communities exist several varieties of rice which are environment friendly and even have lower production costs. Together with local communities we have documented a local classification of products as rice, medicinal plants and fish of which people in other areas can benefit as well.
Do you have a Bangladeshi environmental and/or spiritual leader that you take as an example in your work?
No, we do not follow any single environmental or spiritual leader as an example rather we follow and recognize thousands of farmers, fishers, traditional healers, traditional cultural activists all over the country and try to learn from them.
What chances for the poor and changes in society for better or worse do you expect from the Asian Development Bank and other developmental institutions?
BARCIK does not work with any international financial institutions like the Asian Development bank or the World Bank. We do not believe their role is pro-people, because in the end their influence makes our society dependent and vulnerable.
What is the most successful activity by BARCIK so far that you would like to share with other people and organizations in South Asia?
BARCIK led an agricultural research and farmers-to-farmers extension process. These are processes in which farmers or communities take a lead in their own agricultural system or development as a key actor. This is our most successful activity and many small NGO's in Bangladesh are interested to learn this process. Also four NGO's from Nepal visited our field sites to learn more about the facilitation process from farmers. Furthermore we jointly work with Both ENDS in a project on gender in the working process with the families of non-timber forest products producers, specially the honey/wood collectors in the Sunderbans area. We want to test a practical approach to mainstream gender in our work on natural resources management, each in its specific context and based on its specific ambition. BARCIK feels proud to work jointly with Both ENDS.
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