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Northwest Meets South Asia

by Josh Vincent — last modified Dec 21, 2011 04:24 PM

In 2011, NCAP was fortunate enough to meet with activist Vandana Shiva. Get the scoop on that conversation here.

Kim Leval and Vandana Shiva

Protecting the environment is hard. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Working to stop pesticide use and reform farming systems gets a lot of wealth and power rallied against you. Agrochemical companies go to great lengths to perpetuate the pesticide treadmill and protect their profits, which are considerable. But we are richer. The advocacy world is full of dedicated, inspiring people who have a talent for speaking truth to power. In March, NCAP visited with one of the best, internationally renowned scientist and activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Shiva’s work casts pesticide use and exposure as environmental justice concerns that are tied to a lack of food sovereignty. She sees this problem in her home country of India, where farmers have suffered physically and economically as the practice of input intensive, mono-crop farming has been increasingly imposed.
“The pesticide industry has pushed green revolution practices everywhere to make farmers feel they are backward. Even when there isn’t a problem, they start promoting pesticide use. Once there is pesticide use, the beneficial species go. You actually start to get pests so you have to use more pesticides,” Shiva explains.

This dependence leads to increased pesticide pollution, exposures, and associated health problems. It has also created insurmountable debt for many farmers.

This is exacerbated by the use of expensive, genetically engineered crops which prevents the traditional process of seed saving and reduces biological diversity in the region. Now, many Indian communities face a dearth of food and resources along with increasing pollution and pest problems.

Shiva has written books, organized communities, and fought court battles to help solve this issue. What’s more, she works directly with Indian farmers to develop alternatives to pesticides through the organic farm and educational center, Navdanya.

Using the same peer-to-peer model that drives NCAP’s Organic Field Days, Navdanya brings farmers together to share organic farming methods. The center also hosts a seed bank that has conserved more than 5,000 crop varieties to date…much to the chagrin of large agrochemical and biotech companies seeking to dominate seed markets with genetically engineered breeds.

Shiva’s vision for the organic movement is perhaps the clearest embodiment of that ‘think globally, act locally’ mantra which is so popular in the advocacy world. While working in India requires a different approach than it does here in the Northwest, she is quick to acknowledge the inherent similarities that unite us:

“It would be wonderful to have some of your farmers visit us in India, to see how agricultural systems that are being promoted here are also being promoted there, and through that solidarity build this movement to a higher strength,” Shiva says.

Watch the Full Interview