On my way back from Mussoorie, I stopped for a couple of days at Navdanya. Here’s how they describe themselves:
Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 17 states in India.
Navdanya has helped set up 111 community seed banks across the country, trained over 5,00,000 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 / Earth University) on its biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttarakhand, North India.
The grounds were getting all spiffed up, in anticipation of a visit from Prince Charles.
The farm serves as a seed-saving laboratory, small plots of a wide varieties of rice planted in one area, other plots of turmeric, or vegetables, or a mixture of crops.
The rice harvest was underway, staff, volunteers and interns from India and abroad harvesting plants, labeling bundles to be saved for seed, and separating the rice grains from the plants with the solid thwack of threshing.
Then into the seed bank, a mud-walled room, cool and comfortable…
…where under lock and key…
… 630 varieties of rice are stored, along with abundant varieties of wheat, millet, vegetables, spices and more. Farmers borrow and return payment in kind, growing the bank’s assets each year. In a time when the preservation of biodiversity is on the decline (there are more than 40,000 different varieties of rice in the world), these can become the repositories of the future.
Sentinels keep watch over.