Monkey Mayhem - Introduction
“The who, what, when, where and why of the new project”
19th July 2019 - Design for Need, Project, Monkey Mayhem, Introduction
By Finn Brownbill and Matt McClumpha
Situated between hot plains and the Himalayas in Northern India, lies the Himachal Pradesh State. This region encompasses 100s of villages and farmland spread across its spectacular, rugged mountainous terrain. Summers reach scorching hot temperatures, partnered with a monsoon season of which approximately 70% of the yearly rainfall is received during this time (June to August). Life across this region can come with many challenges, with members of the community battling against poor agriculture, deforestation, a lack irrigation and clean drinking water. There are also many socio-economic problems such as, gender inequality and a lack of health care and education. By means of collective participatory action, over the last 40 years the communities across the region have worked on improving these problems in partnership with the RUCHI organisation.
With headquarters in the small village of Bandh, RUCHI is a non-profit which tirelessly follows its mission of: “Integrated rural development through people centred environmentally sustainable action”. Working with teams of long and short term volunteers, RUCHI ensures that for sustainable community development to take place the power must be given to those in the community to make the changes needed. Through personal projects and partnering with many NGOs and international charities over the years, RUCHI continues to transfer knowledge gained from these projects to the members of the communities through education and empowerment. Previous projects include watershed management, the creation of bio-gas energy sources, new agricultural technology, the initiation of women and youth groups and much more. RUCHI’s devotion to not only improve living conditions but also to help people live a life of self-respect was something that jumped out at us when we were looking for our next project.
So we reached out to them with the hope of learning more about the communities they work with, what are the main issues they face today and to see if there’s anywhere our skills could be put to good use. Dharamvir, the founder of RUCHI was extremely informative, helpful and open to the possibility of collaborating with Design for Need. Of course this was just the beginning, by which many questions were sent his way, ideas were thrown around, resulting in the creation of a few project briefs. The issue we settled on revolved around the communities’ monkey problem. Due to deforestation, wildfires and overgrazing, wildlife habitats and food sources were being destroyed. This forced populations of Rhesus Macaques (also known as brown monkeys) and other wildlife to migrate in desperation. Unfortunately, this movement brought the monkeys to the foot of the villages and farmlands, leading to the ongoing raiding of crops, further damaging the already frail agricultural conditions. As agriculture is the main source of income for 90% of the region, this has been quite a momentous problem for a long time, and one Dharamvir noted the rural population were desperate to find a solution for.
And with that, the project begun. In mid May, Matt flew over to India to meet up with RUCHI and the surrounding communities to learn more about the monkey problem with the aim of developing a low-cost, sustainable solution which the community could benefit from. The next few blog articles will cover what we learned from talking to members of the community, the solution we came up with and the overall design process. The project was an incredible experience which we are excited to tell you more about.
Finn and Matt
Both founders Matt and Finn occasionally join forces to write articles together, like this one. Because two heads are better than one. Enjoy!