Bhoomi Festival and seed banks in India
October 6, 2023: We are all aware of banks, where most of our money is parked. But how many of us are aware of something called ‘seed banks’? They are decentralised, village-level repositories of indigenous seeds. Among those who run seed banks in Bharat is Navdanya, the food rights watchdog piloted by farm rights activist, Dr Vandana Shiva. At the annual Bhoomi Festival hosted by Navdanya at the India International Centre in Dilli on October 1, 2023, women farmers exhibited folk seed varieties and demonstrated how they keep indigenous food alive in the face of industralised farming.
Most of the food you eat today is produced by the toxic cartel of big agribusiness companies. But there are people in the farming sector who decided to fight for you. Fight against what? Poisonous chemical inputs in our food and drinks, and a misleading narrative of food crisis solutions.
They sent a strong message from the heart of Dilli to the power elite. And they are a bunch of women from the villages, who run seed banks. They save seeds for you, they feed you, they take on the struggles and broken food system to make your life easy. The annual Bhoomi Festival is a unique gathering that stands up against fake food and celebrates natural farming.
Women’s participation in agriculture is often ignored, but they are the ones who save seeds and fight hard against the agri-food industry. An industry that is hungry for billions of dollars in profits that it can make from the inhuman patenting of seeds – and from the mass sale of toxic chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Right now, about 80% of India’s earning women are into farming, about 33 % of them are farmland labourers, and about 48% are self-employed farmers. But only 13% of all Indian women own land. Is this why the enormous contribution of Indian women to the country’s farming sector is trivilised?
In this deeply patriarchal society, women’s role in farming is brutally downplayed. Wherever you see a farmer’s picture is displayed, it is usually that of a man with a sickle or shovel on his shoulder. In fact, women are right at the centre of farming activities not only in Bharat, but all over the world. They are ones who toil the most on farmlands. Small farmers and rural women are the backbone of agriculture.
The Economic Survey for 2017-2018 revealed something alarming. More and more men are leaving their villages and migrating to the cities in a maddening pursuit of currency earnings. And increasingly, women are single-handedly running the entire agriculture sector. From seed savers at the seed banks, to cultivators, to entrepreneurs, to farm labourers, their presence is omnipotent. Yet, their contribution to soil and food is ignored by the male-dominated society.
As you will discover in this special video report, these women led by Dr Vandana Shiva – who handle seed banks – assembled at the IIC, having come from Uttrakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and West Bengal. They have a strong message for corporate giants who are trying to illegally snatch patent of our seeds, sell costly chemical inputs, and eventually destroy Bharat’s farming sector.
The Bhoomi Festival is organised annually by Dr Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya group. It is a celebration of seed banks, and of women’s power in saving seed, society, and life.
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