The Banana Tree Case
The conflict was between two neighbors in Sri Lanka, whose houses and land were separated by a live tree fence. A dispute arose when a neighbour with a kitchen compound started to dump all her kitchen waste and other garbage into Chandra’s garden space. Several complaints by Chandra brought only temporary relief, after which the routine would start again. Chandra finally got fed up with all the quarrels, but was very cautious not to involve their men folk. After much thought, a fine idea stuck to her mind one day.
On her way back from the market, she bought a banana plant and planted it in her home garden space where the neighbor would dump her garbage. Now, whenever garbage was dumped Chandra would carefully space out the garbage so that it turned into compost for her banana plant. Day by day she would do this and keep watching the banana plant growing healthy and strong. She was so happy to see that banana tree growing tall and, one fine day, she saw the buds forming. She was excited and could not wait until the fruit started growing.
After a period of seven months she saw bananas on her tree. She could not wait until it matured and ripened. Finally, when she found out that it was the time to bring down the bunch of bananas, she sought her husband’s help. She very carefully cut the bananas and separated the good half, nicely packed them into a box and took them to the neighbor who dumped garbage into her home garden compound.
When Chandra with a broad smile offered the bananas, the neighbor was surprised and asked "why this is?" Chandra. even with a broad smile, said, “If not for your help I would not have grown the banana tree that gave these fruits. All the compost that went into the growth of the tree was the garbage that you put into my home garden compound. I have brought half of the first harvest to you in appreciation of your cooperation and to say thank you for your help.”
The neighbor was in tears. She embraced Chandra and hugged her. She apologized for what she had done and promised not to do so in the future. It was the end of a conflict that led to a strong neighborhood relationship. These two are now in leadership roles in the township in negotiating in other people’s conflicts and providing advisory services.
This example is now being shared by many social activists and government officials, all thanks to an initial workshop by SAMADANA/M (the Centre for promoting Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, Peace Building, Conflict Handling and Human Rights). SAMADANA/M was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency in its initial stage to build the capacity of SAMADANA/M when we were struggling to establish ourselves on firm ground. If not for that and other funding, SAMADANA/M would not be in existence today.
Since 1993, it has conducted training programmes, workshops on Conflict Resolution and Handling nonviolent methods and skills in various parts of Sri Lanka, as well as different types of action oriented activities that promote reconciliation, national integration and harmony.
Normally, our training ends up with follow-up activities that would be evaluated and assessed at the follow-up workshops or trainings. This particular training workshop, in Ambantota town concluded with follow-up assignments. One was to identify existing conflicts in the area and to employ some of the learnings to bring the conflict towards a win-win solution.
Nine months later, at a follow-up assessment and a feedback meeting, one of the many report cases was the particularly innovative and creative Banana Tree example mentioned above.
By: Dr. Muzzammil Cader, Moderator/Executive Director, SAMADANA/M, Chairperson, Zonal Task Force - Central Province, Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanism.