Tribal Culture & Sustainable Development



    • The Prime Minister remarked that the world can learn a lot about sustainable development from Adivasi culture and it can be a solution to global problems like climate change and global warming.


    • India comprises 8.6% tribal population, has access to an enormous indigenous knowledge which through recognition, adoption, and mainstreaming has the potential to provide sustainable solutions to concerns related to falling agricultural productivity and soil quality, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, pollution, and Climate Change challenges.
    • Sustainable Development refers to a way of achieving economic growth and development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

    What is Tribal Culture? 

    • Communal living: Many tribal communities in India have a strong emphasis on communal living and sharing resources. They live in close-knit communities and often make decisions collectively.
    • Connection with nature: Tribals have a strong connection with nature, with traditional beliefs and practices that revolve around the forests and animals.
    • Self-Sufficiency: Tribe is a synonym for a self-reliant community, a tribe is a relatively closed society and its openness is inversely related to the extent of its self-sufficient pursuits.
    • Spiritual beliefs: Tribals often have their own unique spiritual beliefs, which may involve the worship of ancestors, nature spirits, or deities. 
    • Folk arts and crafts: Tribals are known for their unique art forms, including pottery, weaving, and jewellery making. These crafts often have spiritual or cultural significance and are passed down through generations.

    Tribal Lifestyle and Sustainable development

    • Respect for the natural environment: Tribal traditional practices, such as using natural materials for housing, food, and medicine, and living in harmony with the cycles of nature.
    • Conservation of natural resources: Sustainable practices involve limiting the use of resources to ensure their long-term availability, such as rotational farming or allowing forests to regenerate before harvesting timber.
    • Community-based decision-making: Collective decision-making takes into account the needs of the community as a whole and ensures that decisions are made in a sustainable and equitable manner.
    • Emphasis on intergenerational knowledge sharing: Passing down knowledge to the next generation includes traditional knowledge of the natural environment and sustainable practices for managing resources. 
    • Promotion of biodiversity: Tribals have developed practices to protect and promote diversity which includes traditional methods of agriculture, such as intercropping and seed-saving, as well as the protection of sacred sites that are important for the preservation of biodiversity.
    • Use of renewable energy: Tribal communities have traditionally used renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower which can be expanded and modernized to provide clean energy for more people.
    • Protection of water resources: Tribal communities rely on water resources and have developed practices that can help to ensure that water is available for future generations, and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Regenerative agriculture:  tribal communities have been practicing regenerative agriculture for centuries, which involves practices like crop rotation, intercropping, and regenerating soils with organic matter. These practices help to sequester carbon in the soil, which can help to mitigate climate change.

    Challenges faced by tribals in performing their lifestyle

    • Land rights: Tribal communities have been displaced from their traditional lands due to industrialization, and mining which has resulted in the loss of cultural identity, and social and economic marginalization.
    • Discrimination: Tribal communities often face discrimination and prejudice from the dominant society, including limited access to education, healthcare, and other basic services.
    • Climate change and environmental degradation:  Climate Change, such as changes in rainfall patterns, increased frequency of natural disasters, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, pollution, and loss of habitat, has negatively impacted their traditional livelihoods and ways of life.
    • Socioeconomic marginalization: Many tribal communities have limited access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, which can result in poverty and social exclusion.
    • Cultural assimilation: Many tribal communities face pressure to assimilate into the dominant culture, which can lead to the loss of traditional knowledge, language, and cultural practices.
    • Lack of political representation: Tribal communities often lack political representation and may not have a voice in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
    • Health challenges: Tribal communities often face challenges in accessing quality healthcare, which can result in higher rates of disease, malnutrition, and other health issues.

    Government initiatives to conserve tribal culture

    • TRIFED’s Initiatives For Tribal Population
      • Sankalp Se Siddhi – Mission Van Dhan: The Government plans to establish 50,000 Van Dhan Vikas Kendras, 3000 Haat Bazaars, etc.
      • Institutional Support for Development & Marketing of Tribal Products / Produce (Central Sector Scheme)
      • Tribes India Outlets: The outlets will showcase tribal products from all over the country and the outlets will have a specific geographical indication (GI) and Vandhan corners.
    • Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs): The scheme covers activities like housing, land distribution, land development, agricultural development, animal husbandry, construction of link roads, etc.
    • Support to Tribal Research Institutes (TRIs) and Tribal Festivals, Research Information, and Mass Education
    • Scholarships for pre-matric, post-matric, and overseas education 
    • Support to National Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation
    • Vocational Training in Tribal Area: The aim of the Scheme is to develop the skills of the ST youth for a variety of jobs as well as self-employment and to improve their socio-economic condition by enhancing their income.
    • The mechanism for Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) through (MSP) and Development of a Value Chain for MFP’ as a measure of social safety for MFP gatherers (Centrally Sponsored Scheme)         

    Way Ahead

    • Tribal lifestyles can offer solutions to climate change and global warming through sustainable practices that protect and preserve the natural environment.
    • Overall, tribal lifestyles can provide valuable lessons for sustainable development, particularly in areas with high levels of biodiversity or where development threatens the natural environment. 

    Source: Science Direct