News / 29 March 2016

Woodsmoke and Leafcups: into the heart of India

It’s hard to imagine that in our modern world communities exist who live in remote, inaccessible areas where their lives are dependent on what nature brings them. However, many of these communities still exist, for example in India. The Durwa-community in India is one of the many indigenous communities that struggles to survive in increasingly challenging conditions. Our colleague Madhu Ramnath describes their day to day struggle in his recent publication ‘Woodsmoke and Leafcups’. The book illustrates how he and his wife were taken in by the Durwa-community. Madhu describes the daily practices of life in the village, their traditions and rituals, their close social ties but also the immense challenges that face the village today. 

A trip of over thirty years

Madhu is affiliated to Both ENDS and the international Non Timber Forest products exchange program: NTFP-EP. He has committed himself to many initiatives that look towards protecting indigenous environments in the heart of India. Due to increasing external pressures these particular groups face growing marginalization. ‘Woodsmoke and Leafcups’ is more than an autobiography: it is the story about living and travelling in the Bastar region for over 30 years. The book idyllically presents the case of one society that finds it increasingly difficult to survive due to external influences, a growing problem that they have no control over.


Traditional knowledge about sustainability

Both ENDS provides support for these sorts of communities worldwide and helps them gain a voice in local politics, so they can decide about their region as well. “The world could benefit from the wealth of sustainable knowledge that lays hidden within these communities, it seems only logical to give them the voice to do so. This book is the first step towards that” according to Paul Wolvekamp from Both ENDS. “What makes this book special is that it, with a heap of humor, provides insight into the traditions, language and culture of the Durwa people. It provides insight into their intimate knowledge of the ecology and their daily struggle for existence, positioned in the middle of an increasingly inimical socio-political environment.



Hugh Brody a contributing author that wrote the foreword for the book, summarized the following: ‘This is a book that takes us to the daily life, the intimate preoccupations and the most urgent challenges deep in the forests of Bastar, in the very heartland of an Adivasi world. … In the stories, rituals, songs and everyday realities of the peoples who have lived since times immemorial on their lands in those forests… This is a book for everyone who seeks to know the world, … for all who would wish the world to save itself from mindless and destructive indifference to both the forest and the people who know the forest best … All who read it will be enchanted”.


More information about the book

More information about Both ENDS and Non Timber Forest Products

Review by the Indian Outlook Magazine

Review by Business Standard


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