Dr. Vandana Shiva – philosopher, author, scientist, environmentalist, feminist and activist – is leading a movement for sustainability, peace and social justice. After receiving her education in India, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics, an M.A. in the philosophy of science with the University of Guelph, and a PhD in nuclear physics from University of Ontario. While at graduate school, she was troubled by the fact that India had the third biggest science community in the world and yet remained one of the poorest countries in the world. “Science and technology is supposed to create growth, remove poverty. Where is the gap?” she asked.
Her curiosity shifted to understanding the actual workings of society and this “dark side” of science. Dr. Shiva went on to explore science policy at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangladore where she “explored interdisciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy.” She quickly became a leader in the field of environmental impact, deeply alarmed by the threat to biodiversity posed by biotechnology. In response to the plan of world agri-business leaders to control the world’s supply of food and pharmaceuticals through the procedure of patented, genetically-engineered seeds, she established the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE). The research initiative provided support and guidance to environmental activism.
1984 marked a year of the violence in Punjab, as well as the Bhopal tragedy, in which hundreds died from the effects of toxic gases that leaked from a chemical factory near the central Indian city of Bhopal. The violence demanded a shift in the practice of agriculture. Dr. Shiva founded Navdanya in 1991 to search for nonviolent farming, which protects biodiversity, small farmers and the Earth.
“Navdanya” means nine crops that represent India’s collective source of food security. The main goal of the conservation program is to support resident farmers, rescue and preserve crops and plants that are facing extinction and make them available through direct market. Navdanya has a primary membership of over 6,500,000 farmer families in seventeen states of India. It has further established 111 Community Seed Banks in 17 states across India. The organization has also conserved countless varieties of rice, wheat and millet, among others. Navdanya even provides training and education to farmers across the country.
“Navdanya/RFSTE’s journey over the past two decades has taken us into creating markets for farmers and promoting tasty, healthy, high quality food for consumers. We have connected the seed to the kitchen, biodiversity to gastronomy. And now we have joined hands with Slow Food to celebrate the quality and cultural diversity of our food,” Dr. Shiva said.
Dr. Shiva has received many honors in her lifetime, including the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for her work in making women and ecology the center of the international development agenda. She has published over 300 papers in leading technical and scientific journals, along with numerous book-length publications. Vandana Shiva has devoted her life to fighting for the rights of the ordinary people of India. Her intellect and passion has made her an advocate for people across the entire developing world.
– Ali Warlich
Sources: The Green Interview, Naydanya
Photo: The Weeds Network