Dr Vandana Shiva, environmentalist, advocate of food sovereignty, author and founder of Navdanya – an organisation which promotes biodiversity conservation, biodiversity, organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving – urged the Goa government to give a thought to Mollem forest, as we are aware that Mollem forests are under threat due to the three linear projects.
She said, “I do hope that the wonderful lessons I learned from the Chipko Movement and the people of Goa have been learned over the years. The people of Kerala, sadly, suffered floods because their forests were destroyed. With the heavy monsoons that the Western Ghats get, we cannot afford our forests and the biodiversity of our forests to be devastated, So, honourable Chief Minister, please give a thought to Mollem, which is your Chipko.”
She was speaking at the interactive session on the topic, ‘Biodiversity Friendly Farming’ organized by the Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB), which was attended by Chief Minister, Pramod Sawant; and Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Chairperson, GSBB, Nilesh Cabral; at Maquinez Palace, Panjim, on September 14, 2022.
BIODIVERSITY & HEALTH
Dr Shiva explained that extreme climatic conditions, like floods and droughts, will grow and that’s why it is necessary to save our forests and, in turn, our farms.
She gave the example of the Chipko Movement of the 1970s in the Himalayan forests, where women of the Garhwal region started hugging trees in order to save them from being cut down as they realized that every time the forest is cleared, there are landslides, floods and droughts in the next season. “These women woke up the world to the fact that forests are our source of our water, oxygen, and stability of our soil. They changed the thinking of science, development and ecology. I went to Chipko to study biodiversity and my teachers were these women.”
Dr Shiva also expressed her happiness in inaugurating Goa’s first seed bank at Curtorim.
She added that seeds are life and one cannot invent life as it is not a human invention, and hence, can’t be patented. She gave the example of Patent Law, for which she worked with the Parliament, which states this.
She further informed that India is a land of 2 lakh varieties of rice, and many of these are salt tolerant, which will become increasingly relevant with climate change. She gave the example of Orissa, which was hit by a storm in 1999; at the time, her organisation provided the farmers with salt-tolerant varieties. And then, the Orissa farmers donated two truckloads of salt-tolerant seeds to Tamil Nadu farmers, during the Tsunami.
Dr Shiva maintained that the entire idea of chemical agriculture is to grow a monoculture of a few varieties to sell more chemicals. “The economy of the land, soil, farmers goes down when chemicals are introduced.”
She stated that organic farming has various names—natural, permaculture; bio-dynamic, etc as we are the land of bahuda—we never have one name for anything. We are a land of diversity and, thus, understanding our diversity, means understanding our civilization.
She also elaborated that the use of fossil fuels in our food system has given us 50 percent of our greenhouse gases, 80 per cent disappearance of our biodiversity, 75 per cent destruction of our soil and water resources and 75 percent of chronic diseases.
Dr Shiva highlighted that biodiversity does not produce merely nutrition and health per acre, but biodiversity everywhere. “Our soil has 3,600 per cent more mycorrhizal fungi—they are the true creators of fertility in soil. Research has shown that a 500 per cent increase in production takes place where the fungi population increases. The biodiversity of soil, plants and insects — having a variety of insects ensures that we never need pesticides—are indicators of sustainable agriculture.” She advocated that we can address the issue of malnutrition and chronic diseases by having healthy food, which is grown in bio-diverse rich soil.
She also shunned the new concepts of growing food like lab-made food, or farming without farmers—the future of food without farms, future of fish without water and oceans.
She stated, “Biodiversity of soil creates more nutrients for plants, biodiversity of plants gives us health, biodiversity of food nourishes our gut microbiome—100 trillion companions we walk around with. If we take care of them, the planet will be healthy, and we will be healthy. If we neglect them, or if we are violent towards them, by feeding them pesticides, monoculture—that’s the beginning of our disease, and now science is also recognizing it.”
Dr Shiva also pointed out that it is because of biodiversity that we have the livable planet. The cooling of the planet comes with biodiversity, which we need to focus on due to the climate change crisis.
PESTICIDES, COMMUNITY GARDENS & MORE
Further, during an interaction with the audience, Dr Shiva spoke on various issues related to farming, such as how use of pesticides, has devastated the ecology of Punjab, how using of drone technology to spray pesticides is bad science as it is bad for the ecology as a whole. She highlighted that chemical-based farming is cheap as it is highly subisidised.
When asked how Goa can increase its farming production, which stands at around 6 to10 per cent now, she suggested having small gardens (where one can grow a diverse variety of food) and also having community gardens. She also suggested that the GSBB have edible gardens in schools as it is necessary for children to learn how to grow food. She explained that the food for mid-day meals in schools, or in hospital canteens, should be local and seasonal food as it is healthy and nutritious. This, in turn, will also benefit local farmers.
She appreciated the traditional food festival, which was held during this event. She pointed out that such festivals make one realize how rich one’s biodiversity is.
Dr Shiva said that food is now used as weapon. But actually, we need to create food for peace—peace for our bodies, for health reasons; peace for the soil, for re-generation of the earth; and for peace within communities.
She highlighted that for biodiversity of soil, land, we need to protect our forests and gave the example of the Chipko movement and need to conserve the Mollem forests.
She concluded, “I don’t think the land and soil of Goa will forgive the people if she does not reclaim her food sovereignty to regenerate the biodiversity.”