Based on the principle of “Earth Democracy,” Dr. Vandana Shiva has dedicated her life to protect biodiversity, save seeds, and promote traditional organic farming methods that protect farmers’ rights. Since the mid-1990s, she has been promoting traditional knowledge and livelihoods, sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation, particularly in support of small communities and marginalized groups, including women, small farmers and indigenous and local communities in India. Dr. Shiva founded Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 18 states in India that provides training on sustainable agriculture and agroecological techniques.
Navdanya’s farm in Uttarakhand conserves more than 2,300 varieties of paddy rice, wheat, barley, oats, mustard, millets, pulses, spices, vegetables and medicinal plants. Innovative agroecological techniques are developed and adapted to local resources and biodiversity studies in this experimental farm. In 2004, a learning center, Earth University, was also set up. Navdanya has helped set up 122 community seed banks across the country, trained over 800,000 farmers in seed conservation, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, and helped set up the largest fair-trade organic network in the country.
Women are keys to Navdanya’s work. Diverse Women for Diversity is the global movement started by Dr. Shiva in 1995. The movement has rejuvenated women’s skills, knowledge and livelihood related to seeds, and processing of healthy traditional foods, thus empowering women, and benefitting society.
Navdanya’s “Seeds of Hope” project is a good example to highlight the effectiveness of the organization’s work at local level. Between 2011 and 2015, 486 farmers (95% of them women) have been trained in Uttarakhand and have converted to organic farming, 55% produce surplus, 13 community seed banks are operating, and biodiversity has increased by 25% and soil quality by 10%. Festivals, marches and informative rallies are used to raise awareness on biodiversity, food sovereignty and farmers’ rights over seeds. Navdanya’s work based on biodiversity in agriculture has increased food and nutrition security. Measured as Nutrition per Acre and Health per Acre, biodiversity conservation has the potential to feed two India’s. Through True Cost accounting measured as Wealth per Acre, incomes of small and marginal farmers have increased 10 fold. Dr. Shiva and Navdanya’s work thus contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and particularly to Goal 1, to end poverty in all its forms everywhere; Goal 2, to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture; Goal 5, to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; Goal 12, to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns; Goal 13, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts; and Goal 15, that includes to halt the loss of biodiversity. “Seeds of Hope” encourages women’s spearhead role in communities’ food security. Understanding the mechanisms and issues of climate change, farmers can change their production habits with the support of citizen consumers.
Based on her approach and knowledge of agronomy and economic research, Dr. Shiva has been influential on policies at national and international levels, and has contributed to the world discourses on biodiversity, access and benefit-sharing, and biosafety. She has promoted and developed alternative agricultural solutions jointly with small farmers in India. She has contributed as an expert to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to India’s Biodiversity Act, Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Act, and Forest Rights Act. Her great influence in challenging policies has shaped a planetary alliance to protect the planet’s biodiversity and people’s rights.
As described above, the great achievements of Dr. Vandana Shiva are in line with the principles of the Prize. She is therefore a truly deserving winner of the MIDORI Prize.