Navdanya is a movement for Earth Democracy, a concept based on viewing the world and its inhabitants as one person, which started in 1996. Navdayna seeks to protect and elevate India’s biodiversity based food heritage through giving farmers the means to grow their food organically, by educating them in organic farming, connecting them with buyers of produce, so that the farmers can sell their rice, veggies and wheat independently of Navdanya. The organisation gives farmers the knowledge of how to save their seeds so that they can regrow their crops every year, instead of buying new seeds every year. Bija means seed in Hindi and is the key to this whole operation. Navdanya have assisted in creating 122 community seed banks in 18 states in India and Buthan, and they also provide seeds to farmers when a natural catastrophy strikes; such as the earthquake in Nepal a couple of years ago.
Navdanya’s main goal is to turn as many farmers as possible away from chemical farming to organic farming. So far they have converted 5 million farmers across India, Nepal and Butan. They never force or try to otherwise convince farmers to switch to organic, only the farmers themselves can to make this choice. Before, Navdanya had a focus on finding farmers, but at this stage, farmers find them by word of mouth from other people in the Navdanya network. By going organic, the farmers are freed from the vicious cycle of releasing increasing amounts of chemicals into the soil every year. This costs money and destroys the health of farmers and their families. Farmers in India and all across the world have economic and health issues due to chemical farming, and if they become self-sufficient at least they have their basic food needs covered. Navdanya teaches farmers how to switch to biodiverse farming methods and to prioritise feeding themselves first, not only growing cash crops for export. It takes 1 to 2 years to convert from chemical to organic farming. Navdanya works with farmers in 22 out of 28 states in India. The farmers write journals about how they are doing and what they need help with. There are 7 regional coordinators and they divide the 22 states between them. If many farmers need help with for example watering, Navdanya either goes to them or pays for their tavel and accomodation for a course here at the farm. The Navdanya Biodiversity farm is also a proof that it is possible, farmers come here because they need to see that it can be done!
Navdanya works to increase awareness around the benefits of local, fresh organic food and the harm that the chemicals in pesticides used all over the world causes to us humans, the animals that eat them, bees as well as the soil. It’s not just pesticides, but also fertilisers.
Navdanya also advocates for farmers’ rights. Navdanya was started in 1996 by Dr. Vandana Shiva. Dr. Shiva has since then fought the poison cartel, as they call it here, which is companies such as Bayer (which now also is Monsanto) Sungenta…. In the last decade, Monsanto almost got a monopoly on seed production in India. Dr. Shiva stopped this! She fights with MultiBILLION dollar companies in order to protect farmers, to protect us humans from bad food and to protect the planet as one living organism! So the third part in Navdanya’s philosophy is to promote democracy knowledge, sovereignty knowledge and scientific research on biodiversity, agro-ecology and climate change.
The farm is the center of the Navdanya movement and Dr. Shiva’s projects. Navdanya is a trust, which is different from NGO’s in the sense that it needs five directors. For major decision at least 4 of the directors need to sign. Within the Navdanya concern, there are six (or five, depending on how you count) different branches. These are:
- The Navdanya Biodiversity farm, at the heart of the work and the first to be set up
- Earth University, which is a learning center located on the farm, and also from which courses are conducted. This is where we fit in.
- Navdanya Natural Product Limited (NNPL) – which is a company by which they help farmers who have transitioned from non organic to organic to sell their products. NNPL buys the product from the farmer and adds another 7-10% on the price, that the farmer recieves directly. Navdanya then sells the product under the Navdanya name. NNPL barely makes any profit out of this.
- Navdanya International is the international branch by which Navdanya coordinates action internationally.
- Navdanya Biotech – is their research branch, and
- The Climate Change office
On the farm, around 30 people work all year, plus Bijaks (interns, volunteers, what we are) and visitors now and then. Out of the 30, around 10 people live on the farm. The others live close by in the neighboring villages. The Navdanya land is 52 acres big, at the beginning it was only 5 acres. On these 52 acres they grow a bunch of stuff, of course, and they also have experimental fields for trying out crops of different kinds and combinations. They grow rice, millet, beans, vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, trees, they grow everything, to write everything down, we would need more space on this domain :P. Just on this farm they have over 60 medicinal plants…
Most of what is grown and not consumed immidiately is dried. Dried plants are easier to store and to ship (they do not sell Navdanya products from this farm). 15 % of the land is for the kitchen. Most of the land is for seed production. The food we eat is prepared by 2 chefs, and is basically the same food every day; rice, Dal and vegetables and chapati and papadam. Also this delicious treat called Jaggery (which is made from dates btw). One time we got paneer and sauce, we have gotten halva as a dessert twice also. We wash our own dishes and clean up a bit after meals. Everyone helps out, as part of the community life.
One key thing is that it is all harvested by hand. It’s a HUGE project but it is better for the crops, better for the soil and it allows biodiversity in the fields. A machine cannot know the difference between millets and rice, and millets are grown inbetween paddies to hinder cross-pollination.
Funding and partners
Since Navdanya is a trust, they cannot apply for grants, they also have to be very careful what money they accept. This is due to their fight against the multinational corporations. We Bijaks pay for our food and accomodation (1000 rupees per day/ person, and as our budget is 3000 rupees, it’s ok) and they do projects with other organisations, and government institutions. Dr. Shiva is the highest donor. They barely go even. But it is not about the money, it’s about making a lasting change! If you want to donate, or just to know more, visit Navdanya.org .
They have 860 international partners who are connected through different projects. They cooperate with 300 universitites, most of them in Germany. Every year, students come here to do projects, like Magdalena is doing for example. Students pick their topic and all the knowledge is here at the farm, with the farmers, the scientists and in the library, where all of Navdanya’s and Dr. Shiva’s publications are readily avaliable. But it is not required to do a scientific project to be here. Magdalena says that here, they just want you to be happy and well, and it is up to you to do your project, it is not required by them. All these students, researchers and experts that come here, all bring their special knowledge to this place. For example, there is a solar cooker here, which looks like this:
In the middle you put a pot or a pan and the heat from the sun, focused on that spot in the middle, will cook the food. If you put a piece of paper there, it will catch fire. Another cool device is the solar dryer, in which you can put fruits and veggies and leave it for some days until they are dried out. We tried this with bananas, it took 5 days and the dried bananas were delicious. They were not crisp though, as we kind of expected, but the crisp ones are actually fried. So, we put cut maybe 10 bananas and put them on a cloth on a mesh and then we just put them in the solar dryer, which looks like a small tent. Then after 2 days we turned them and after 5 days we collected them.
Dr. Shiva comes here now and then, but she is out in the world visiting universities and lecturing on conferences all over the world, but as I’ve understood it, this is her base.
Navdanya has an office in Dehli which mostly focuses on campaigning and influence. This is Climate change office as well as Navdanya International.
The interesting thing about Navdanya is their cause. We will write more posts about Navdanyas struggle against multi billion-dollar corporations, commercial capitalism and gender inequality issues.
Lots of Love
August and Linnea ❤