“Seed is the first link in the food chain. Saving seeds is our duty, sharing seeds is our culture,” says Dr. Vandana Shiva, founder of Navdanya, an organization whose mission is to conserve and save seeds, promote sustainability, teach healthy eating and cooking, and foster the success of women farmers in Indian.
Navdanya, which translates to “Nine Seeds,” represents the nine crops that are essential to India’s food security. It sees women as an essential party of agriculture because, in Shiva’s words, “when women do farming, they do it for life…they do it for their children, they do it for nutrition, they do it for taste.” Currently, the seed savers have collected approximately 5,000 crop varieties of indigenous seeds, which are then made available to Indian farmers, free of charge.
Shiva has also partnered with Schumacher College in the United Kingdom to form Bija Vidyapeeth, (which translates to Earth University in Sanskrit), a learning center based on the principals of sustainability, non-violence and holistic practices. Students learn about seed saving, organic farming, cooking and composting, and how to apply these to the present day.
For further information on Shiva’s work, please check out The Perennial Plate: Adventures in Sustainable Eating, an online food series hosted by chef and activist Daniel Klein and filmed by Mirra Fine. Klein and Fine visited Shiva to talk with her about Navdanya, the importance of seed saving and women farmers.