• Janet McIntyre Adjunct Prof UNISA, Adjunct Visiting Research Fellow, Adelaide University, Adjunct Assoc Prof Flinders University
  • Ms
  • Pak Rudolf
  • Ms University of South Africa
  • Prof Akwasi
  • Ibu Ida or Prof Ida
  • Norma University of South Africa


Problem The big issues of the day are  poverty, climate change and pandemics  linked with rapid habitat loss and urbanization in Africa and Asia. The root causes are a lack of representation of multiple species, a lack of accountability and an unsustainable way of life. We are addressing ways to address governance and re-generative living to protect the commons with Indigenous communities in Africa and Indonesia

In Venda , The Tshidzivhe  Project and Bamboo co-operative  has been set up  as part of an action research  project. The aim is to learn from Indigenous leaders) to raise awareness and capabilities for co-operative social enterprise in line with Indigenous local knowledge systems  and to assess the process.

The project  responds to the UN policy to address food, energy and water security and the need to redress high rates of urbanisation and the cascading impact on human security (UN Urbanisation Report, 2014, UN Sendai Risk Platform, 2030, IPPC, 2020). In terms of innovation we draw on and adapt the principle of the ‘One Village, One Product approach’, decreed by President Jokowi (2014) in Indonesia, to enable working across sites to facilitate the mapping of opportunities and the cross fertilisation of ideas . It uses a gender mainstreaming  and relational multispecies lens  to support wellbeing.


Rationale: The rationale is that forests need to be protected as they are ‘the lungs of the planet’, to cite Chief Raoni, nobel peace price nominee for 2020.  


Methodology: We are using participatory action research and mixed methods. The focus is on values, perspectives and ways to make a difference through addressing a range of practical concerns,  such as: food, energy and water security.  Ontologically our perspective is shaped by recognising kinship with nature, as expressed by Indigenous custodians. Epistemologically we explore ways to enhance education based on working across cultures and disciplines using a cross cultural approach and mixed methodology. Our team includes members with  social , cultural and policy knowledge as well a a team member with high level computing skills. Axiologically we support the  notion of transformative research that promotes balancing non-anthropocentrism with an approach that draws on Indigenous wisdom whilst addressing patriarchal notions through gender mainstreaming . The Balancing Individualism and Collectivism Special integration group has focused on learning by doing using an applied mixed methods approach. It is based on a community of practice spanning NGOs, community projects and university departments. Some of the fieldwork is supported by a small NRF fund, some funding from UNISA and in kind support from participants who meet regularly on line. We work together because of shared values and mutual respect .


Results: The  work in progress paper reflects on the lessons from two case studies in order to discuss 1. how they address Elinor Ostrom’s  principles  to protect the commonsand  2. Implications for social, economic and environmental challenges  with a practical focus on food, water and energy security through regenerative enterprise. The two case studies are of forest communities in Venda in South Africa and Ciptagelar, West Java, respectively. They are   discussed in terms their social, environmental and economic approaches. The research is conducted together with local leaders who contribute to praxis and writing up the results. We hope to set up and monitor a project to support organic farming in Venda and to learn from these ( already functioning )organic communities, so that lessons can be scaled up and shared in the hope that people will be encouraged to follow their examples, in line with President Jokowi’s One Village, one or many (organic) enterprises which has resonance in South Africa. In both cases the communities see themselves as related to nature, in the case of Venda, they express this as a totemic relationship and have been inspired to apply an ecological calendar which was taught to them during the time Mphatheleni Makaulule (second author) spent time learning from Amazonian leaders. In the case of Ciptagelar , the nomadic way of life is based on a sense of being stewards who do not commodify rice, a sacred source of life , which is in turn dependent upon all the co-existent creatures and ultimately the forest which is their home. In both communities the environment and people are priorities managed by observing the natural cycle. Both  communities rely on an ecological calendar  to guide  the planning  and harvesting of crops. In Tshidzivhe Venda a rigorous approach to planting crops, harvesting from the forest and re-planting the forest is observed and the entire community acts as caretakers and are required to ask permission before harvesting from the forest. Similarly, in Ciptagelar, West Java  the chief reads the signs when it is time to move to another area  and follows a careful approach to biodiversity ensuring that paddy is grown only for certain months so that other creatures can thrive during other months.


Key words:     principles, protecting the commons, circular economy and regeneration


Author Biographies

Janet McIntyre, Adjunct Prof UNISA, Adjunct Visiting Research Fellow, Adelaide University, Adjunct Assoc Prof Flinders University

Adjunct Professor Extraordinarius, University of South Africa ,  Adjunct Visiting Research Fellow, Adelaide University, Adjunct Assoc Prof, Flinders University,email : or


Pak Rudolf

Mr Rudolf Wirawan is based at the University of Adelaide where he is registered for a higher education degree. He is also CEO of Wirasoft.

Ms, University of South Africa

Ms Patricia Vhahangwele Lethole is a Higher Education administrator for distance learning and is currently engaged in a research project involving setting up a bamboo co-operative in Venda at the University of South Africa , she is also undertaking research towards her doctoral degree.

Prof Akwasi

Professor Akwasi Arko-Achemfuor , College of Education at the University of South Africa,

Ibu Ida or Prof Ida

Professor Ida Widianingsih is based at the University of Indonesia in Bandung , Center for Decentralization and Participatory Development Research, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Padjadjaran ,

Norma , University of South Africa

Professor Norma Romm, Department of Adult, Community and Continuing Education, University of South Africa, advisor on the team