How do we eat safe, pesticide-free food? Sangita Sharma, fondly called the Jewel of Karnataka in farming circles, arrived at the source of the issue: seed. She founded Annadana, a movement to promote the use of non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds, bringing relief to farmers who had become reliant on MNCs for chemically-enhanced, expensive seed. Over the last 20 years, she has distributed millions of packets of organic seeds to thousands of farmers.
She’s fondly called the Seed Guardian and the Jewel of Karnataka in organic farming circles , who criss-crossed India in search of an answer to the question: How do we get to eat safe, pesticide-free food?
Her quest ended at the source of all food, the seeds. Travelling the length and breadth of the country, she began to realise why things were the way they were : Seeds were no longer in the hands of the farmers. Sadly, every village and farmer she visited had the same story to share.
“Farmers all over India relied on the MNCs for seeds and bought them for high prices, along with chemicals. They became susceptible to drought and famine because they gave up traditional methods of farming. And burdened by the losses resulting from chemical farming, they abandoned their fields and migrated to the cities. Giving the problem at hand some thought, she came up with Annadana, a movement to promote the use, cultivation and preservation of indigenous non-hybrid, non-GMO and organic seeds, which today has found great acceptance among organic farmers across the country and even in many European countries.
Annadana has over the last couple of decades, distributed millions of packets of organic seeds from its seed bank situated off Singapura in Bengaluru to thousands of farmers across the country. More recently, it distributed over five lakh packets of organic vegetable seeds to farmers in Kerala after last year’s torrential floods washed away a sizeable chunk of farm cultivation in these parts.
Besides, her Gopathi Farms and Annadana Seed Bank organise workshops to help urban dwellers to grow their own vegetables at home, be it on a small balcony/terrace or kitchen garden. Over 20,000 farmers and farmer groups have attended their training programmes in sustainable agriculture as have thousands of interns from across 20 countries.