Women as seed conservation and agro-ecology experts helping their communities resist climate change

Organization: SOL, Navdanya

Country: India, France

Representative: Clotilde Bato

Website: https://www.sol-asso.fr/les-graines-de-l-espoir-phase-2/

Winner: yes


Description of the project: The project “Seeds for Hope” improves the climate resilience, food sovereignty and economic autonomy of farming communities (20,000 people) in the valley of Derhadun, in Northern India, relying on women’s knowledge and action. They are trained to reproduce and conserve local seeds, learn agro-ecological techniques and food transformation, which reinforces their power to make decisions. The project is led in partnership with the association Navdanya, created by Vandana Shiva. Direct beneficiaries: 1457 farmers and their families in 69 villages.

Climate impact: The project addresses both mitigation and adaptation: agro-ecology reinforces soil fertility and moisture (organic matter contents increased by 25% between 2011 and 2015), seeds conservation and reproduction ensure biodiversity rehabilitation and food sovereignty: yields have improved by 20%, dependence on the purchase of seeds lowered by 50% and the quality and quantity of food supply are progressing. The Uttarakhand intends to become a 100% organic State.

Gender impact: The project promotes the key role that women play in subsistence farming and family nutrition in rural India. As owners of knowledge, conservation actors and distributors of seeds, as well as trainers in agro-ecology and micro-savings, women have gained a local political role, their living conditions and financial autonomy are improved. The project ensures their increased involvement in the good management of natural resources at all levels.

Scalability / replicability: The project’s durability is ensured by a 10-year partnership between SOL and Navdanya. Its model builds on the communities’ autonomy, from seeds reproduction to short circuit sale, in 2015, it was extended to 16 new villages, then in 2016 to 40 new villages in 3 states and in 2020 it will be extended to 20 new villages. The project touches on other cross-cutting themes: sustainable water management, sanitary food, solidarity through support groups, multiplying indirect beneficiaries.

2020 update: Navdanya and SOL have been partners for over 10 years. In the field, both associations have coordinated “Seeds of Hope” project from 2011 to 2019 and Small Farms International India since 2016. In 2011, the two associations began by training and raising awareness among nearly 500 farmers from 13 villages in the Dehradun Valley in the State of Uttarakhand, and in 2015 16 new villages joined the project. The success of the activities carried out as well as the enthusiasm of the local populations, encouraged the associations to develop activities in two other states in northern India by adding 40 new villages in 2016 Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to their actions.

In the end, both projects allowed the training of 1457 farmers (80% women) in 69 villages, including 1000 women, to agroecology. The diverse and nutritious products from the farmers’ fields are accessible to 55 000 inhabitants of the area. There were also 274 seed keepers trained to the conservation and multiplication of 30 climate change-resilient seed varieties identified in North India. Both projects also allowed the creation of 38 groups in which 606 women help each other and 17 community seed banks that reinforce farming communities’ autonomy. Then, the creation of 23 school gardens allowed awareness raising among 8381 children, including 4434 girls.

These promising results encourage Navdanya and SOL to continue their partnership in favor of local farming communities, with the aim of contributing to the construction of more sustainable agricultural and food systems in the framework of a new project “Seeds of Resilience” that will start in November 2020.