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Revolution of the Seed

sarada's passage to navdanya part III

June 26, 2010 by saradagrace

The last few days have been a whirlwind of sights and colors. Settling into Navdanya has been like a dream: misty mornings followed by scorching afternoons, followed by star filled evenings, one after the other. The sounds of Hindi are becoming more familiar to my ears and I have learned the names of most of the community members here.

There is Ganga in the kitchen, who sings while he cooks, and Jeet, the man who has come from deep in the Himalayas to work with Navdanya. Leaving behind his family as so many men from this area must do to send money home, he tells me that he is so grateful to have this work that pays him well enough that he does not have to go into the military where he may be killed in the ongoing conflict that holds Kashmir in chaos.

Clackity-clack of the Buses

As I feel the shifting of the early morning breezes on my face, I can hear the calling of the cow herders, chasing wayward cattle, intent on greenery rather than road side garbage.There is the ever rumbling clackity-clack of the buses (shocks long flattened by years on the road) shaking their way down the main road, the swaying of white butterflies and the still sweat of the promise of heat.

Last week I journeyed with a group of interns into nearby Dehradun, the capital of Uttaranchal, and a dusty sprawling metropolis that seems to hold 10 degrees in its concrete. Perched in the back of the clackity-clacking bus on a swaying tank filled with gas I am passed a small child to hold, and I clutch her to me, although I know that she will not keep me from bouncing out of the open bus door at the next bump in the road.

Dehradun Daze

After a dusty day of shopping (and the most incredible air conditioned supermarket stocked floor to ceiling with Belgian chocolates) we visit the nearby community of Tibetans in exile. A golden Buddha stands serenely in the centre of the monastery, which seems to be the hub in the spokes of windy Tibetan streets. The colors are brighter here, and the sky is filled with rope upon rope of prayer flags, whipping mantra across the entire valley.

My work at Navdanya is settling into a routine. I have been helping the office with their monthly reporting (three months behind) and I am working my way through creating a form that can be used to report to funders. In between power outages (when everyone yells at me simultaneously in a variety of languages, “SAVE, SAAAAVVVE!” before the computer screen goes black for an unknown length of time) I walk to the fields and practice what is known in Hindi as the ‘essence of humility’ or labor in the sun. There are always ways to help: the spearmint patch needs weeding or the cows have eaten the cabbage and it needs to be replanted. Over it all is the endless shifting of rice and lentil grains, and the discovery of hundreds of tiny rocks, insects and pieces of dung in between the precious bits of food.

Whipping Mantra Across the Valley

Navdanya exists in response to the corporate control of food systems. It links farmers around India and across the world in the fight for that which sustains each human being on this planet. Corporations such as Monsanto are urging India (and other countries around the world including Canada) under the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s TRIPS (Treaty of Intellectual Property Acts) to patent all of India’s traditional seed sources. Once patented, the seed becomes the private property of the corporation that has patented it, and farmers can be sued for property violation if they grow the patented seed without purchasing a license. Patented seeds can be genetically modified until they become ‘terminator seeds’, seeds that do not regenerate on their own but instead must be ‘initiated’ by a chemical process. These seeds can not be saved, and must be bought each planting season.

Women Farmers sorting seed

In response to the far reaching consequences of this inhuman practice, over 17,000 farmers (an underestimate) have committed suicide in India over the last 10 years. No longer able to meet farm debt payments, or support their families, death seems to be the only option. Navdanya is in the centre of the fight against this tragedy in India. Linking farmers around the world, Navdanya supports farmer education and works for policy change in India and beyond. They have already successfully overturned the patents on Indian basmati rice, neem products and on a traditional variety of eggplant – however, the fight is ongoing, and corporate capitalism weighs heavily on the side of genetic modifications.

The beauty of this place is saturated in this context, and with the deafening roar of the earth – each plant seems precious, the earth a vessel of the sacredness of life. It brings me to tears to think of the cruelty that humans have toward others on this earth.

How can it be that we live in a world where some can take away the right of so many to have access to water and food? How can it be that profit is more important than feeding a child? How can it be that the lies of genetic altercations of food (that it produces more food or that it helps crops to be resistant to disease) can be told again and again and believed?

Each Plant Seems Precious

It is a struggle for my mind to find balance in this reality. In the world as it is today, it becomes a radical act of resistance and creativity to sit on a burlap sack, somewhere far in the Indian countryside sorting each tiny grain of rice into small piles. It becomes revolutionary to hoe in the garden, and to transplant one tiny calendula plant, which will later be harvested and made into a balm for cuts and bruises.

A part of me wants to be in the streets, or at the doors of the government – telling someone, anyone, who will listen what an atrocity this mess is. Another part of me is content in being patient, and remembering the revolution of the seed as I sit in the shade and run the dusty grains of rice through my fingers. “I am a farmer”, my new friend Biju told me. “I am simple, and I am honest. This is enough to make the world change.”


Yogini, activist, and humanitarian, Sarada Eastham, is a former YDC graduate and Youth Coordinator at RYYO, living an inspired life as a student of International and Community Development. Her internship with Navdanya; a biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Northern India, and her cultural immersion have been unfolding before us on Lightwaves. This article has been featured as part of our June 2010 sustainability week.


  1. Wow. Truly inspiring.

    Comment by Nola Landucci — June 26, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  2. Brings tears of both sadness and hope to my eyes too :)

    Comment by Amanda Jahnke — June 27, 2010 @ 1:32 am

  3. Thank you Sarada for keeping us posted. This article was humbling and educational for me. Much Light to you, Biju and all involved in this incomprehensible situation. – Faith Stuart

    Comment by Faith Stuart — June 27, 2010 @ 5:22 am

  4. Indeed Wow – thank you Sarada, for the radical clarity of your message. Much light to you

    Comment by Paris — June 27, 2010 @ 11:09 am

  5. Thank you for writing with such depth and clarity, Sarada. Your insights bring your experiences alive for me. What an inspiration you are in such a complex world. Namaste.

    Comment by Terri — June 29, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

  6. Wow. This article truly inspired me. The crazy way our food supply is controlled is unbelievable to me, and it breaks my heart to think of all the people in India who are being affected by this. I did not realize the control was that far reaching – thank you for opening my eyes. I admire you so much for what you are doing. It makes me realize that we can make a difference. Namaste

    Comment by Nicole — July 3, 2010 @ 5:40 pm

  7. I am grateful for all of your comments. One of the things that I have learned throughout my internship is the intricate connection between all beings and communities. My choices intimately affect people around the world. A friend just passed on an incredible YouTube video that speaks to this. It is called “The Story of Stuff” and it details how power and choice affect people around the world in different ways. It is worth viewing if you are interested in learning more about Globalization and consumer choice – all of which affect our food, water and air supplies. Thank you everyone!

    Comment by Sarada Eastham — July 27, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

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