Graduation Project at Melghat

1 January 2021 | Friday
"As a country, India doesn’t live in the 21st century but rather in different times that are parallel to each other. Different parts of the country have different levels of accessibility to resources, infrastructure and technology with respect to time."
-Aarushi Bapna, Speculative Stories from Shapur Jat
The first place I really truly saw and experienced this was in Melghat where I spent 2.5 months, working on my product design graduation program. It was there that I experienced going to Melghat as a form of time travel, going back to a simpler time, where the culture, habits, and values of the people embody “use what you have, to create what you need”. The concept of waste doesn’t exist - there is a purpose and place for everything, but sometimes you just have to create it.
I came to Melghat after learning of Dr. Ashish Satav, founder president of Mahan, an NGO founded in 1988 to provide preventive and curative medical services to the region that faces many challenges, including malnutrition. Today, in 2020, there are over 400 NGOs working with the community to solve various problems with a variety of different methodologies and approaches. When I went to Melghat, I was in search of a graduation project that would use a different approach than what was currently being addressed. I wanted to create hopeful future scenarios and narratives along with the people of Melghat, for the people of Melghat. I wanted to facilitate a space where the community could define and create their own solutions and interventions to the challenges and circumstances of their environment. What I decided to focus on was the use of emerging technologies to support future farmers of Melghat, India. But, in order to understand the project, we must first understand the region, including its culture and climate.
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Melghat: The Place, The People, The Culture.

From geography to weather, to its people and culture, the Melghat region is unique. Although to the outside world, this region is known by “malnutrition” and “Project Tiger”, it is a city with rich culture and history; one that is deeply connected to and intertwined with its climate and environment. This connection between the environment and the people, and how they intersect in a space of creative innovation is a core aspect of the region’s culture. In fact, it is the pulse that lies at the heart of Melghat’s vitality and the lifestyle of the Korku tribe. The weather in Melghat is extreme in all three seasons, with summers peaking at 48°C then dropping to 1°C in winter, with annual rainfall being between 950-1400 mm. The extremity of the environment directly impacts the lifestyle of the Korku tribe of Melghat.
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While there is hardly any documentation available on their settlement, culture and lifestyle, it is evident that the current lifestyle reflects the environment of its region and climate. While the area boasts of the world’s largest teak or ‘Sangwan’ forest, it is also rich in Bamboo, providing a foundation for the Kacha houses, which the Korku tribe inhabit. Although on first glance, these dwellings may look as if a child’s drawing has come to life, in actuality, they are made of locally available material, intentionally designed and structured to survive the extreme weather conditions of the region. The skeleton is made of teak wood and the rest of the structure is made from bamboo. The bamboo walls are then covered with a mixture of mud, cow dung and fodder thus lending it necessary temperature variations in extreme weather conditions. In other words, it’s cool in hot summer months and warm in cold winters.
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About the creators
 
Written by Siddhi Patil
Siddhi is a Product Designer, Design Researcher and a Sketchnoter. Her work revolves around Human-Centered Design and Sustainability. Siddhi loves exploring the realms of creativity and community building. She is interested in designing for social good.
Find some of her work here.
 
Edited by Emily Churchill-Smith.
Emily is a writer, writing coach, and editor. A strong believer that words are the vessel of the soul, Emily supports writers looking to dive deeper into their content to convey their messages in their unique and authentic voices.
Find some of her work here.
Looking for writing support? Contact Emily at emily.lea.cs@gmail.com