Sunday, October 10, 2010

Navdanya, Grandmother's university and more!

Recently I attended the The Global Change Institute : The University of Queensland  FOOD SECURITY SUMMIT : PUBLIC FORUM at Customs House in Brisbane which you can read about here. One of the key speakers was Jagjit Plahe whose doctorate was on the political economy of the WTO’s intellectual property rights agreement and its implications for small rice farmers in the North-Western states of India. She has recently published articles in Third World Quarterly, Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy and Intellectual Property Quarterly.

I was reminded of the work of  world-renowned Scientist and Environmentalist Dr Vandana Shiva who first came to my attention through the film  The Corporation and the international Slow Food movement. Read Slow Food's
Ten Reasons to Say No GMOS.  ... and also and article on

The following initiatives have been founded by Vandana Shiva - 

Bija Vidyapeeth is Sanskrit for “Seed Learning Centre” with “bija” meaning 
literally “seed” as well as “origin” or “source.” The Bija Vidyapeeth seal also
 says “vasudhaiv kutumbakam” in Sanskrit. This means “one world family.”

Navdanya means Nine Crops, which collectively represent India’s food security.
Navdanya started as a research programme at Research Foundation for science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) to help support and guide environment activists. The Punjab Violence made farming and agriculture a fairly violent industry and Navdanya was born out of this quest to find non violent means to farming, especially through the protection of biodiversity and small farmers.
Navdanya’s mission is to support local farmers, rescue and conserve crops and plants that are being pushed to extinction and make them available through direct marketing.
More info on and at this excellent brochure here.

Bija Vidyapeeth Campus

Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India.
Navdanya has helped set up 54 community seed banks across the country, trained over 500,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped setup the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country.
Navdanya has also set up a learning center, Bija Vidyapeeth (School of the Seed) on its biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttranchal, north India.
Navdanya is actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture. It has created awareness on the hazards of genetic engineering, defended people's knowledge from biopiracy and food rights in the face of globalisation and climate change.
Navdanya is a women centred movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity.

recently reprinted

This looks very appealing - a celebration dinner!

Roots and Shoots: An organic dinner to celebrate the diversity of our food basket
As Navdanya and India International
Centre celebrate Bhoomi the Annapurna, whose Food Basket is ever bountiful and diverse, we have curated a dinner around Roots and Shoots. This dinner aims to reconnect us to the myriad sources of food and expand our culinary awareness beyond the limited offerings of monoculture farming systems. It is only when we rediscover and reclaim these roots, shoots, leaves as well as fruits, vegetables and grains that we can start strengthening our food security.
The shoots of the future of our food grow out of the roots of the heritage of our crops and the cultural diversity of our cuisines.
We hope you enjoy this biodiverse meal with us on 2nd Oct.2010, 8.30 pm at Private Dining Hall.
Due to limited seating facilities at IIC Private Dining Hall, we would like you to confirm your registration for the dinner at an early date. The dinner bookings are being done on a first come first served basis.
Bon appétit

(Dr. Vandana Shiva)
Menu :
-    Brahmi flavoured buttermilk
-    Mint flavoured fresh lime water
-    Beetroot soup
-    Nettle flavoured potato soup
Pickles and relishes
-    Ginger pickle
-    Garlic pickle 
-    Bamboo shoot pickle
-    Onion relish in organic vinegar
-    Tomato and date chutney
-    Plum chutney
-    Mint chutney
-    Mixed tandoori platter of roots
and tubers : (shakarkandi ,
arbi, rataloo)
-    Nandigram “aloo” chaat
-    Peanut chaat
-    Crudités with garlic flavoured dip
-     Raw papaya salad flavoured
with aami adrak
-     Carrot and raisin
Main dish
-     Zeera aloo
-     Mili juli Saag (cooked in clay handi)
-      Beetroot cutlet
-      Mixed seasonal vegetable aviyal
-      Beans porriyal
-      Dum Gobhi in tomato and coriander gravy
-      Allium Pakori kadhi
-      Navrangi daal
Rices and Breads 
-      Mooroonga leaves pulao
-      Brown rice methi pulao
-      Mixed herbs parantha, kalonji
puri, raagi roti, multigrain roti
-      Petha halwa
-      Handmade seviyan payasam with jaggery
-      Fig and honey ice cream 

On Seed Sovereignty: 

Gathering in the Name of Seed Sovereignty

Posted on Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Navdanya’s Bija Vidyapeeth held its Seed Sovereignty workshop on the biodiversity conservation farm outside Dehradun February 24–26. Quickly following Navdanya’s International Conference on Two Decades of the GMO-Free Movement in New Delhi, the programme zeroed in on seeds and biodiversity as the answer to the spreading devastation of industrial agriculture, GMOs, and seed monopolies. Sixty farmers, seed bank coordinators, physicians, scholars, and documentary filmmakers from all over the world attended—exchanging their stories, information, inspiration, and ideas for the future of the seed sovereignty movement.
The majority of participants were Indian farmers from Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Ladakh, Uttar Pradesh, and the villages surrounding Dehradun in Uttarakhand. All in attendance were Hindi- or English-speakers, and Dr. Shiva provided lively translations between the two.
Dr. Vandana Shiva launched the first day of the workshop—introducing the objectives: understanding the need for seed conservation, introducing participatory breeding to build on farmers’ knowledge, protecting farmers rights to seed saving in the context of patents and intellectual property rights, and discussing the legal framework for open source seed keeping.
Benny Haerlin, Coordinator of Save Our Seeds, Germany, presented the successes and challenges of the GMO-free movement in the European Union. He highlighted the findings of the International Assessment of Science, Technology, and Development—namely that intercropping with maximum biodiversity is the answer for a sustainable future of agriculture. Haerlin underlined the importance of learning from the plant and the seed. The solution to hunger is not reducing nature to codes and economics, but rather simple: everyone should grow a garden in their backyard.
On the subject of biodiversity for diverse growing conditions, Dr. Salvatore Ceccarelli educated the attendants about participatory breeding. Dr. Salvatore works with the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, Syria, breeding climate-efficient crops in a laboratory. After doing commercial breeding for many years, he is now committed to educating farmers worldwide that they can breed their crops for adaptability to climate change themselves—in the field.
The many Indian farmers in attendance who work with Navdanya—coordinating seed banks, networking farmers, and participating in seed sovereignty campaigns—shared their work in groups by village. Many of the farmers who work with Navdanya have won elections for leadership in the village Panchayats based primarily on supporting campaigns to keep the villages organic, GMO-free, and seed sovereign. One participant, Ramesh Sakharkhar, came wearing a hat and shirt covered in seeds that he has saved in Maharashtra, India. He is a Seed Satyagrahi—insisting on seed sovereignty and resisting seed monopoly. Sakharkhar shared many slogans he uses to mobilise farmers, including: “Save the local seeds. Save the local breeds. Save the farmer.” and “Keep one eye on the plow, and one eye on America.” The latter expresses what many Indian farmers know all too well—the U.S. Government and its agribusiness companies are always scheming to own the seed, control the methods of farming the land, and own the farmer
In a final discussion the group formed a list of effective programmes to spread and new actions to take. Actions address: defending the right to keep seeds, educating youth about the importance of biodiversity and seed sovereignty, declaring the rights of nature, and evolving crops for climate change efficiency.
In between the lecture and discussion sessions participants gathered to enjoy the rich biodiversity of the  farm. Navdanya’s staff led groups to the soil testing laboratory, through the thriving intercropped fields, and to the seed bank—where hundreds of varieties of grains, pulses, and vegetables are conserved year after year.
Throughout the course, guests shared ideas and inspiration during tea break and at mealtime. Meals, cooked by the resident Navdanya chefs on the farm included masala dosas made with rice and millet flours, red rice, green papaya salad, and amaranth halwa for dessert. All of the ingredients are organic and local—most are coming from the farm itself—and the meals are divine.
The Seed Sovereignty workshop is one of many programmes at Bija Vidyapeeth. Coming up in April is Grandmother’s University, where we gather to celebrate and preserve women’s wisdom about biodiversity, healthy cooking, and natural healing. See the ”Courses in 2010″ page of the Navdanya website for more information about the rest of this year at Bija Vidyapeeth.

A sobering moment at the recent Food Security Summit was hearing Jagjit Plahe describe one of the critical results of the disruption of India's farming tradition and seed heritage  by transnational companies like Monsanto has been the huge rise in Diabetes brought on my the old and diverse food culture being replaced by a monoculture diet of white rice which has been forced on the farmers to greater expense.

This is sobering for 2 reasons. It should never have happened.... and it is a crisis being repeated elsewhere!
Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the latter ready to perish for the circle of villages till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance, but ever humble, sharing the majesty of he oceanic circle of which they are integral units. Therefore, the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle, but will give strength to all within and will derive its own strength from it.”


pRiyA said...

hi sophie, thanks for your comments on my blog. just thought this link might interest you:

pretty incredible isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Hi Priya,
Im so glad you linked this to me tonight. I must post on it!
WOW. It is stunning to see the individual seeds... very beautiful! And then the massive space full of them!
Big Thank you!

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