All Images © Francesca Moore
Whilst at Navdanya we met Meegan, who had recently been volunteering at the RISE School, near Pollachi. She said that they could use some pictures for their website, and that it was stunningly beautiful down there, so if we could fit it in we should go and visit.
The school was set up by The RISE Foundation, a non-profit organization with a mission to increase educational opportunities for children in rural India, to give them the same opportunities as city children.
With a few vague directions we realised that the school, in the small village of Thimmanguthu, wouldn’t be too far off our planned route South so we made the arrangement to go and be picked up in Pollachi.
Thimmanguthu was by far the most remote place we had visited in India, perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise after the claim of ‘stunning beauty’. The school was nested amongst miles and miles of coconut groves, and was a good 40-minute drive to the nearest community where we could buy the most basic things, such as food. Had we known this, we would have arrived a little more prepared!
We were hosted in a lovely house on the school grounds, which in itself was isolated on the top of the hill. At the end of the school day all the teachers and students left, except the head mistress and the groundsman, who soon became our favoured supplier of coconuts!
We had a great time hanging out with the children, who loved Lorenza’s innovative sign language for names of fruits, and had a great bring-and-share lunch with the teachers, who said that the pasta pomodoro – with just a little more masala, and a few extra chillies – would have been just perfect! I preferred the Dal anyhow.
These shots show the students at work and play, and will soon feature on the new website and printed marketing materials.
Plus there’s a silly snapshot of us at the house with watermelon smiles.
All Images © Francesca Moore
Here are some highlights from a week at Navdanya’s Earth University (Bija Vidyapeeth), in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. Navdanya (meaning nine seeds) was founded by scientist and environmental activist Dr Vandana Shiva, who uses this organic farm as an educational platform to promote the art and science of sustainability based on ecological principles.
The farm offers support and training to local farmers in order to promote biodiversity and conservation through the act of organic farming and the indigenous knowledge of seed saving and sharing.
We were here, along with local farmers and many other politically and environmentally active volunteers and interns, to visit the farm and take some pictures.
It was extremely interesting to learn why the education of organic farming practices is currently so imperative to Indian farmers. And to learn that through the misunderstanding that industrialized farming practices, using costly pesticides and genetically modified or hybridized seeds, will produce higher yields. In fact this wasn’t the case – and adopting these methods, enforced by Government regulations, resulted in the Green Revolution during the 1960’s. Theses modified seeds were, in short, not high-producing varieties but only more responsive to chemical fertilizers, needing more fertilizer and thus requiring more water to grow. In a country where drought is endemic, this placed thousands of Indian farmers at economic ruin.
I was very fortunate to have met Chris and Marilyn from The Hummingbird Project, an inspirational couple who lecture in sustainable agriculture using permaculture systems modeled on the synergy of natural ecosystems. I.e. the earth-friendly organic way. I chatted to Marilyn in depth about how adopting Western methods of industrialized agriculture had resulted in the suicides of thousands of Indian farmers. They had just returned from the ‘suicide belt’, where the economic ruin of farmers, arguably caused by the pushing of GM seeds and costly chemicals by multinational companies such as Monsanto, has resulted in farmers literally drinking their pesticides in order to take their own lives. It is estimated that since 1997 between 125,000-200,000 Indian farmer’s lives have been claimed.
I don’t know if this was interesting to me for the sheer astonishment of what had been happening. Or for where I was going next; Bhopal.
I also caught this little snippet of wisdom on The Hummingbird Project blog;
“The beauty of the SEED is that out of one you can get millions. The beauty of the pollinator is it turns that one into the million. And that’s an economics of abundance. That’s an economics of sharing. That’s to me the real economics of growth. Because life is growing.” Vandana Shiva
The images above hopefully reflect the good work of Navdanya, and the positive results of education, experimentation and research towards a sustainable greener future. For more information see www.navdanya.org