grantees » K. Ayyasamy

G. Ayyasamy, India

Ayyasamy is from the remote village of Ittarai in the middle of the Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu, India. Despite being the second son, he was chosen by his community to follow his father’s role as Village Gowda, or leader. Ayyasamy was raised by his grandfather, where he learnt the many skills of a forest wanderer, farmer and traditional ritual leader. He works as a Village Coordinator for the Keystone Foundation, where he documents traditional knowledge systems, trains farmers in beekeeping, and promotes organic agriculture, which is one of the biggest challenges. Ayyasamy is relentless in his efforts to lead the marriage of traditional knowledge with modern ecological innovations, and his initiative is even more astounding considering just how far he has to travel to reach out to other areas in his district.

Using the JWH initiative grant, Ayyasamy completed a digital skills internship, covering word processing, digital photography, videography and editing. These courses have greatly improved his ability to document traditional practices, as he’s been creating and sharing documents and archives for the region, which have enhanced farmers’ participation in meetings. Documenting the traditional lifestyle has also had unexpected benefits: “Shooting and interviewing with a camera has become essential in everyday village life. I am in high demand to document cattle killings by tigers in the region.” Ayyasamy also conducted an exchange visit to Sahajasamrudha, an NGO in the neighboring state of Karnataka, which granted him the knowledge to effectively organize a seed bank for future food security in his own village. He became instrumental in reviving millet cultivation, and organized indigenous food festivals to encourage the practice of traditional recipes. Notably, he was awarded the Young Leader in Millet Farming trophy at the National Convention of farmers. He has gained a larger network within which he is well respected, and has independently published various posters promoting traditional foods and nutrition.