What happens when a family of three – a father, mother and their six-year old son – decide to leave behind their urban lives and go back to their roots to create model villages? Proto Village happen! Kalyan Akkipedi, a visionary and social innovator, has had a long journey of transforming lives in a small village in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur. To share his experiences, he along with his 12-year-old son Rishab were invited for DEFDialogue. They took turns to share stories from their small village and how involving community in innovative experiments can lead to sustainable initiatives.
Their vision “a model village built for the villagers, by the villagers” focuses on how the villages can be a centre for learning, practice, demonstration and dissemination of knowledge and how any community, with a little bit of sustained effort, can organise itself to be resilient, ecologically sustainable, socially cohesive and economically viable.
“My corporate job paid me well. However, I was never satisfied. I realised I am working day in and out to make an already rich person become more rich,” he said. It was when this thought hit him, that he started to question about his contribution to the society at large. With the decision to travel to villages to understand how the ecosystem works, Kalyan took on a journey that would turn his life around.
He reached Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh and decided to live in the village to understand the living conditions and functioning of a village ecosystem. Soon enough, he started to actively involve himself in all works in the village—from from building huts to agricultural processes—he tried to learn it all. “I don’t believe in urbanisation of cities. It has led to a lot of problems that we are facing today. We need to rural-ise cities,” he told the audience.
Rishab, his son, shared his typical day in the village, “We go for a run early morning – girls and boys included. Taking a bath after that is compulsory. There are consequences to not taking bath!” he quipped.
Having immersed himself in the rural lifestyle, Rishab is now building a house using recycled paper for his grandmother. Their journey led to Kalyan founding Proto Village which focuses on creating resilient model villages. Hand-picking villages, he tries to live with the community members, tries to create innovative sustainable solutions to their problems with respect to food, agriculture, education, housing among many more.