Students of MA in Media Governance (MA 4th Semester) visited Navdanya Biodiversity Farm as the part of CCMG’s Educational Tour 2016. Swati Dey, who was part of the Tour, reflects on the philosophy of Navdanya and its relevance to some burning questions of our time.
These days, every year is being declared as the ‘hottest year ever’, or at least has a hottest month or day! Travelers who used to visit hill stations to seek the solace in the lap of nature, are however disappointed upon when they witness the reduced snowfall, melted ice, evaporating rivers and the disappearing greenery. So, will all our natural beauty really vanish? Would we not have anything left for our future generation to be calm at? Do we NOT have any solution to ‘seal’ the depleting Ozone layer? Well, amidst such pessimism, arise hopes from the UN’s Paris pact, perhaps Delhi’s Odd-Even formula, and definitely organizations like Navdanya – that restore optimism for our future generation.
Visiting Navdanya Biodiversity Farm (Dehradoon) was the part of CCMG’s Educational Tour 2016. Fortunately our visit was scheduled on the Earth Day: April 22, 2016. Our Navdanya tour was kick-started by a delicious organic lunch: all self service. While washing our own dishes, we learnt that they have replaced dish-washing soaps with ‘Reetha’ and traditional scrotch-bites with dried ridge gourds (Luffa acutangula). The latter (or ‘torai’) is also used as bathing loofah in rural households.
Coming soon was another surprise: planting saplings on the Earth Day, which rushed the adrenaline in us. It was followed by a session of Navdanya’s introduction: its members, journey so-far, motive, contribution to the nature and methods adopted. This is where we also realized that the shady area we were sitting at, is over a water tank that accumulates and harvests thousands of liters of water, that are further channelized to the farm lands for irrigation.
Navdanya Biodiveristy farm, also known as Bija Vidyapeeth, was founded by the world-famous eco-feminist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, in 1987. It is a large farm focusing on organic farming, and saving biological and cultural diversity of India. It does not use chemicals and fertilizers like urea: although they increase the production, they deplete the soil quality and restrain the part of the land for farming in future.
By purposely connecting the relevance of organic farming with the Gods and Goddesses, Navdanya has been using Indian heritage and mythological stories to empower local farmers to contribute to their ‘mother nature’. More women than men are part of the movement, adding substance to the slogan ‘eco-feminism’; as they strongly believe:
“Educate a Man, and you educate an individual
educate a woman, and you educate a family, thereby a society, and so on.”
At its Dehradoon base centre, it has succeeded in raising the water level from 120 ft to 60 ft, by natural farming techniques. Navdanya, apart from fearlessly voicing out the danger of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), has been fighting against the corporate patenting of seeds, plants and all forms of other lives, which affects the farmers’ livelihood who cultivate them.
Navdanya has about 111 community seed banks spread across 17 states of India. It provides good quality seeds to the poor farmers, who cannot afford to buy them otherwise. In exchange, it asks for certain percentage of the yielded seeds after the cultivation period is over. They claim to have been preserving the seeds with utmost care, however when observed closely the seed jars had insects in it. On asking about the same, one of the attendant responded that the seeds are coated with wood ashes due to which the insects cannot destroy them, however, they would still look into this.
To spread the word about these and many more best practices, Navdanya has been inviting students, from across borders, to pursue their courses or internship, learn these skills and further promote it; such guided tours are also an add-on.
Overall, the Navdanya team had made us love the nature more, encouraged each one of us to do our bit to save the nature and also try to live a simpler, hence happier life.