Exchange economy is what we’re all quite familiar with. This is the practice of me having something you want so you pay me for it and I give that something to you. It’s a direct exchange that involves money or barter. Gift economy is a practice that requires trust and faith in humanity. It presupposes that there are enough resources to go around and it’s all a matter of distribution. Gift economy is about being able to give what you have and ask for what you ned. It’s about communication. And it’s about giving and/or receiving without expecting the other. So if I need something I ask the community for it and if someone has it they offer it to me, without expecting something in return. And if someone needs something and I happen to have it I will offer it, knowing and trusting that at another time when I need something the community will also provide for me.
At Sadhana Forest we practice gift economy in several ways. Our volunteers offer their selfless service, their seva (Sanskrit), to the forest and community. They offer their skills, knowledge, and talents by hosting workshops. They offer their music, poetry, magic, and and stories through performance in our Open Stage Un-Talent Show. We offer our volunteers accommodations, acceptance, and knowledge about re-growing the Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest in southern India. We also have a Free Store filled with resources like clothing, shoes, and towels that volunteers can take from or contribute to at will.
At Sadhana Forest we practice gift economy to show an alternative that can co-exist with the exchange economy, each being relevant for different purposes and occasions. We are not saying that the exchange economy is bad, just that is doesn’t have to be the only way we meet our needs.