The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka is said to be “probably the largest participatory democracy movement on the planet”. Today, of the 38,000 villages in Sri Lanka, more than 15,000 of them are part of the Sarvodaya Shramadana network.
The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement aims for systemic change from the bottom up, and I first read about it in this series of articles a couple of years ago. As Craig Mackintosh explains:
In contrast to the rapid centralisation and government dependence we witness today, the ideal for every Sarvodaya village is Grama Swarajya, or self governance, where every village effectively becomes its own village republic.
Building these decentralised communities – “those that nurture the values of self reliance and self restraint” – is the central thrust of the movement.
It was in part two in this series of articles that Craig shared an interesting story which is the topic of this article:
So while we were going on like that, quite accidentally, in one of the villages [was] an old traditional physician, who was basically a farmer. But, from his grandparents he inherited particular medicine for some things like cancer. So I happened to accidentally talk to him, in order to take a patient to him. Then we started talking about life, and he used for the first time I heard, these words ‘basic needs’.
He said,“If our basic needs are satisfied, what more do we need?”
Ariyaratne and his colleagues then sought to find out what were the basic needs of villagers – asking them to list ten, in order of priority. After surveying 660 villagers, and averaging the results, they end up with the following list: