High in the hills above Rishikesh- the birthplace of the great Ganges river, there’s a secluded valley. Hand hewn terraces perfected over the centuries, line the walls. Gravity fed river rock irrigation channels lay like patchwork over the valley floor. Water buffalo are used to plow. Just north out of the hustle and change of modern India, one man has taken it upon himself to preserve his areas agricultural legacy.
Vijay Jardhari experienced during the course of his lifetime the introduction of hybrid seeds into his seemingly isolated valley. These seeds, in combination with the fertilizers that they were sold with, amazed him and other farmers for the first few seasons they grew them. By the time that he and others realized that the breeds did not not do well after a few seasons, and that they did not stand up to drought or severe weather, many of the native varieties- bred specifically for the area over millennia, had been lost. The story is not uncommon, what is special about this valley however, is the mission of one man to reverse the trend.
Vijay is a humble man. When he speaks of the seed bank he started, of how he trekked all over the Garhwal Himalayas around his valley to collect seeds from other farmers, of how everyone in his valley thought he was mad, he laughs. He is the type of man who sings with his four daughters as they work at the seed bank. He thinks nothing of his work to give away as many seeds as possible to other farmers.
Vijay has made it his life’s mission to educate all those willing to listen about the value of saving seed. Like a Ghandi of seeds, he patiently explained to us the different varieties, about how people now visit him from all over India, of how he intends to die saving seeds. With his soft voice and broad smile, you can’t help but like him. Surrounded by 600 varieties of beans of every color, perched high on a terraced hillside, you can’t help but want to stay with him, and save the world bit by patient bit, one seed at a time.
For more information, please see his organization’s website: Beej Bachao Andolan
– By Jessy Beckett