Well-Being Studies

‘Happiness and well-being’, it has been planned, will be a key theme for discussion at the Indigenous Terra Madre 2015. Thus prior to the event, as preparation, the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (IPAFS), which is one of the organisers of the event has sought to develop a paper based on case studies to inform discussions at ITM. IPAFS are keen to facilitate a space for indigenous communities to reflect on their own wellbeing as a basis for making sense of modern ways of living in relation to their own. This work will take place in the context of on-going debates about what the pursuit of human wellbeing and a post-2015 development agenda should all be about.

The research can bring to the fore a diversity of viewpoints about ways of “being” that make life worthwhile for different people and cultures. These need to extend beyond the ‘psycho-sphere’ of modernity, which informs most of today’s policy level discussions about wellbeing and happiness.

The initial focus is to carry out research in the Philippines in collaboration with the Tebetebba group followed by the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) in North East India. The aim is to use these initial studies in 2014 to secure funding to add further communities to the research ahead of ITM 2015.

With this mission in mind, a 5 day workshop for the “Well-Being study” was conducted at Nongkynrih village, Jaintia Hills on 23rd June, by the NESFAS team along with Elizabeth Hacker and Sanju Gurung who came to be a part of the studies through a partnership between the Power, Participation and Social Change (PPSC) Team at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), working in five countries in the global South. Elizabeth and Sanju were introduced to NESFAS through Jody Aked, an experienced facilitator, specialising in the study and application of well-being research to community and organisational development. Jody currently works with participatory research techniques as Lead Researcher on a learning project using participatory approaches to assess the impact of volunteering as a development intervention to alleviate poverty in fishing, forest and agricultural communities. As part of her role to build capacity among country-level partners in the use of participatory approaches, she has been designing and delivering custom training with academic departments, locally-based NGOs and community groups.

The workshop saw 11 people participating from six villages, Madankynsaw, Nongkynrih, Mulum, Mokyndeng, Raliang and Mulieh. The facilitating team implemented Digital Story Telling (DST) as a tool for narration and to digitally record and share the people’s perspective of what well being means.

In order to get a better understanding of the much unsettling term, “Well being”, the participants were divided into 5 groups as it also enabled them to participate for a collective contemplated output. As it turned out, each participant agreed that the literal translation of ‘well being’ in their language is “I bha I Mit” which to them, would further coalesce the following 11 sub topics: 1. Good and collective governance 2. Access to resources 3. Love and mutual respect 4. Preservation of traditional culture and lifestyle, agriculture 5. Sense of community- the ‘we’ feeling ( support and co-operation) 6. Peace and harmony 7. Education 8. Health 9. Nature and environment 10. Food and seed sovereignty and 11. Spirituality.

To produce the digital stories, the participants were given basic training in story board making, photography, videography and editing. By the end of the workshop, there were three digital stories told and produced by the participants themselves.

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