Monday, May 2, 2011

A Visit to Navdanya

Vandana Shiva, the noted Indian environmentalist and activist, is speaking at Amherst tonight. I'm very sad that I will most likely have to miss it--an unavoidable work conflict, alas--but I'm grateful to have had a chance to meet with her for tea this morning.

I met Vandana Shiva for the first time in Delhi in January. Since I was going to be in India already, I was asked by a colleague to investigate the possibility of sending Five College students interested in sustainability to an organic farm and education center outside of Dehradun, run by Dr. Shiva's NGO, Navdanya. Through my friend Rasil (in whose documentary, Harvest of Grief, Dr. Shiva is a clear and excellent voice), I was able to meet Dr. Shiva for tea. A week later, I went up to Dehradun to spend a few days at the farm. (Of course, since this was India, it was more complicated than that. I was originally supposed to go to Varanasi first, but my train was delayed by 11 hours, 17 hours, 23 hours and then finally canceled, so I had to do some frantic scrambling. The folks at Navdanya were very accommodating, though, and didn't seem at all fazed when I asked if I could come up the next day rather than the next week.)

I had a lovely stay there. Dehradun is in the foothills of the mountains, and the farm is on the outskirts. In addition to the permanent staff, there were 6 interns and volunteers in residence when I was there along with a January interterm group from Colby College (small world!). I didn't write about it at the time, though I meant to, so I thought that Dr. Shiva's visit was a good excuse for me to post some Navdanya photos now.

Here's the sign you see at the entrance:

After which you go down a peaceful road toward the farm:

Then, the office and dining hall (and the stone wall outside where I sat several times to take advantage of the office's wireless connection!).

A particularly interesting sign in the office . . .

Although the sun came out during the day, nights and mornings were freezing. I slept under two incredibly thick and heavy comforters (the being suffocated by your covers means of staying warm) both nights, with my fleece hat on. The second morning, Jeet Pal, a member of the staff, brought me a cup of herbal tea, which I sipped sleepily (and warmly) from under my pile of covers. Given this, I was especially glad that Navdanya has solar hot water heaters--and the water was hot even when the sun wasn't out! Here's the building next to where I stayed.

A project by a recent intern documented all the local staff and farmers associated with Navdanya. I was only there for 2 1/2 days so didn't get to meet everyone who works there, but those I did meet were all very kind and helpful.

The second day I was there, I went on a farm tour with the Colby group, which had just arrived. We walked through the fields and ended up at the seed bank. Seed is saved from each harvest (Navdanya has 40 something acres of farmland) and then distributed to farmers, both locally and across India.

A posted list of seed varieties:

The rice room!

The fields were also labeled. There were a mix of vegetables and grains, plus some experimental fields.
There were also trees of various sorts and a medicinal herb garden. I wondered what a person had to do in order to have his name on the sign next to the tree he planted.

There are lots of reasons I'd love to go back, but one is to look at the cool trees again:


Alexandra said...

Thanks for sharing memories of this trip to India. Loved that sign! I will tell my brother and sister-in-law, who live in Amherst, about the talk. Thanks!

Tara said...

I've missed your photos!

Sue Dickman said...

Alexandra, I hope they made the talk! If not, though, Vandana comes to the US every year so hopefully she'll be back in town again. I hope she had an audience--it turns out that George Soros was also speaking at Amherst at the exact same time!

And Tara, thanks!

m. heart said...

Hi! I've been periodically googling the blog world to read about people's experiences at Navdanya (visiting as an intern is on my dream list at the moment) and found myself here - and then discovered you're in Easthampton and I'm not so far away in the hilltowns! Even the blog world is small I guess ;)

Sue Dickman said...

Very cool, m. heart! I hope you make it to Navdanya. It's a lovely place. I was just there for a few days but hope I can get back someday for longer.

AnkeB said...

Dear blogger and visitor of the Navdanya project,

I am Anke, an undergraduate student from an honors college in the Netherlands, and for one of my courses (a research seminar) I am currently doing a small-scale case study on Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya project in India. Unfortunately, due to the limited scope of my research, I do not have the means to travel to India myself, which is why I am mainly relying on first-hand experiences from others like you, who went to see the project themselves. The aim of my case study is “to explore the Navdanya initiative as a way to gather insights into attempts to establish subsistence farming as a viable future and/or alternative to cash-cropping and industrialized agriculture”. I found your blog about your time with this project, and I would therefore like to kindly ask a few minutes of your time for you to answer the follow question: could you describe for me what, according to you, the strengths and weaknesses of the Navdanya project are based on the observations you made and the experiences you yourself had? I would be extremely grateful to hear back from you (it only needs to be a few sentences) as soon as possible.
Kind regards,
Anke Brons
Email at:

namercado said...

Hello, thank you very much for this blog.

Im Nadia, I'm master student in sustainable delopment. I'm interested in agroecology projets and food security. I heard about Nadvanya work and I thinks its so interesting.

This year I need to make a intership in one organization, so I would like to know more about someone who was made de intership's program at Navdanya center.
You said that you was met with some students at the moment that you was visited Navdanya, you got in contact with them? you could put me in touch with some of them? in order to exchange some email about their experiences¿?... I will be grateful if that is possible.
Maybe my question its too much or too late, any way I really appreaciate your post!nice!

Best regards!!


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