On Seed Saving & Navdanya Movement

Dehradun / Uttarakhand State / North India

February 2018

I guess you have already seen that there is a spiritual tone in my writings. So you can ask how this topic ‘Seed Saving’ can be related to spirituality. Here is the reason why:
Every suffering of humanity and also every ecological problem comes from the illusion that we are separate from nature and from the totality of existence. We are ignorant to see what our egos contain, how our minds function and how the common worldview seperate us all from the unity of being. Based on their spiritual instincts people investigate this mainly through meditation or contemplative practices.
But you know, a lot more are searching deeply into it and even living this unity in their direct experiences through their connection with the natural world. By just touching the earth, planting a seed, growing their food. By taking part in the cycles of life they are realizing their true nature which is one and the same in every being. Cocreating with nature is bringing us the timeless memory of our oneness.
This essay is about what ‘Seed Saving’ means and about my visit to Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm in Dehradun India. I invite you to open your awareness to this highly important action, learn the issues around it and contemplate on what you can do or change in order to support.

Up until my journey started in October 2017, I was working as a ‘seed saver’ for almost 4 years. There were significant reasons behind this action of mine.
Seeds are the source of life and the first link in our food chain. In its essence the seed is all of the past evolution of the earth. Over the last ten thousand years communities traditionally used the seeds as part of their common field, independent from ownership. But today seeds are overtaken by corporations and laws are designed to control the seeds. If you control seeds you can control life on earth! But in fact no one or no government or no corporation can own the seeds. They belong to all of us, like water, like air.
There are many prices that we are paying globally. As the big companies started to get hold of the agricultural production world wide, the small scale farmers lost their power to maintain a place for themselves in the economical system. So sadly thousands of farmers in India committed suicide over the recent years.
One other dramatic side is that genetically modified (GMO) or hybrid seeds are threatening food security. Because of industrial and monocultural farming that uses these types, we have been losing more and more of this precious heritage. At the end unfortunately, we have lost 75% of vegetable and 94% of our crop varieties in the last century. So seed saving is an ethical urge to defend life’s evolution. Seeds are gift of life. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, culture and sustainability.
I invite you to protect our rights of preserving, sharing, using and developing the heirloom seeds. Support the seed savers and related projects around you. Even if it is one pot in your balcony, you can be a seed saver. And please be aware of what you eat, consume consciously. You can choose to purchase your food from the small scale farmers who need your support to survive in this economical system. Else you will be supporting the big companies that only and only produce unhealthy food and unfortunately support the destruction on our planet.

What seedsavers do are; they find the heirloom seeds, cultivate them, then take the new seeds and preserve them. At the end they spread the seeds to the other people or farmers. By multiplying the seeds this way, they support the biodiversity and the continuum of our heritage.
My Seed Saving project was based on the seed library I created with almost 400 different species that were mostly from Anatolia. I gave my full time and energy on multiplying the seeds each season. Then I was sharing them for free with some small scale farmers, ngos or independent seed savers.
I worked in my low cost garden where I used no chemicals or artificial fertilizers, enriched the condition of the soil, recycled the wastes and used the water consciously. The abundance was unbelievable. When you treat mother nature with care and love, her response is always an unbelievable abundance. The pictures below show the gifts of my garden. I take it as a miracle.

So as I am interested in seeds, biodiversity and natural farming, I wanted to take the chance and visit Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm. It is located near Dehradun that is only 60km away from Rishikesh in north part of India.

Navdanya is a movement and a network for Earth Democracy that aims to protect India’s biodiversity based food heritage. With this vision they have created 122 Community Seed Banks in 18 states of India and Bhutan. They have trained over 900.000 farmers in seed and food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades. They help consumers by creating awareness on the benefits of local, fresh organic food. They are also committed to keep our mother earth free from agrichemicals that not only pollute but also destroy the biodiversity and the soil health.
Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm is located on a 47 acres of land including mango and lemon orchards, farmland, a seed bank, a medicinal herb garden, a soil laboratory and accommodations for the community.

The picture above shows the farmland where they experiment different species altogether to test or maintain resistance. They mimic the nature and combine different varieties in a diversed way and see how they cope with each other. The aim to do these experiments is also to investigate how the proper efficiency can be maintained to feed a family with a limited area of land. They promote the cultivation of varieties like amaranth and millet that started to become forgotten food.

There is also a rich medicinal herb garden in the farm. Volunteers are working and taking care of the cultivations with the support of some members and farmers of the community. I talked to some of the volunteers. On the contrary to what I was expecting, the volunteers’ professions were mostly based on social science rather than ecology or agriculture. They were working on community building, peace, freedom, justice, ecofeminism, management, economy. This was showing me the emphasis Navdanya puts on democracy in all fields of life.

The seed bank here (above) doesn’t exist purely as a heritage museum, the intention is to re-introduce these seeds into agricultural production cycles. Every year, the saved seeds are distributed for free to farmers willing to cultivate their land organically. The next year, the same farmers either return seeds to Navdanya or give some of the seeds to other farmers for free. By this way Navdanya promotes and spreads the practice of organic and biodiverse farming and ensures the continuity of the seeds.

You can guess how much I was amazed to see this spectacularly rich seed bank. The organised order and the care they take impressed me so much. The board above shows the number of varieties of the seed bank. For instance there are 730 different varieties of rice here. This indicates the numbers only of the seed bank here. There are 122 community seed banks in India. The numbers are unbelievable.

Mr Chander who is one of the seed keepers here hosted and accompanied me. I presented them a set of seed varieties from my seed library. Handing over the seeds to Navdanya and experiencing the solidarity in between different spots of the earth was a pure source of happiness for me.

I had the chance to meet Vandana Shiva (above) in person during the Yoga Festival in Rishikesh. She is the founder of Navdanya and an environmental activist who is the source of inspiration for many people in the world.
We met just after she gave her powerful lecture entitled ‘Yoga of Action’. As I listened to her, I once more realized how mother nature had become my very first source to feel the interconnectedness. Mother nature guided me to realize the true meaning of peace, unconditional love and compassion. Mother nature opened the way for me to experience generosity, solidarity, cocreation and abundance. The result was pure love and happiness. I am so grateful for my past times when I was living a simple and calm life in a village and doing seed saving work. I learned a lot from those days.

Photo by Filiz Telek

“A seed sown in the soil makes us one with the Earth. It makes us realize that we are the Earth.” Vandana Shiva

The Author