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Day 1 – Oct. 24th

The Sarson Satyagraha Uttar Pradesh 2015 started on October 24th with a public meeting of farmers in Tilhapur, Kausabhmi. Located about forty kilometers from Allahabad in the fertile Trans-Yamuna belt, this village had seen the systematic destruction of lentil, fibre crops, etc after the onset of the Green revolution. The meeting was organised at the house of Akhilesh Singh, an organic farmer from the area.
Despite bad rains and prevalent drought in the area, 30 farmers from the near-by villages had came to attend the meeting. During the meeting Darwan Singh Negi accompanied by Swapnil Srivastav of the Swaraj Viydapeeth, Allahabad spoke to the farmers about economic and health impacts of the Green revolution model of agriculture. They discussed the health risks posed by GM crops like infertility, skin allergies, etc with the farmers. Rising cancer, soil degradation and heavy debts on the small farmers were already major concerns of the local farmers.
Negi spoke highlighting the threat of Glyphosate use on the fields. He also informed farmers that this herbicide was classified carcinogen around the world and banned in Sri Lanka. Swapnil then took the discussion forward by talking about the GM technology and how it was another tool of the seed corporation to loot the Indian farmers of indigenous seeds and steal agricultural knowledge from our villages. The farmers present at the meeting shared their problems of low yields and loss of soil fertility even after the use of prescribed chemical fertilisers. One of the major concern of the farmers were the emergence of super weeds/ grasses that despite pesticide use sprung up each season and damaged their rice and other crop. Navdanya team shared some of organic technics like use natural pesticides, Jivaamrit, and intercropping, etc to resolve them.
The meeting ended with a distribution of of locally saved seeds mustard and Rai seeds by Navdanya team to the farmers. At the meeting the farmers pledged to use the local sarson seeds and not allow GM mustard to be planted in their villages.
After the meeting, we went to inspect an organic banana field that was ready for harvest. The farmer Akhilesh gave us a walk around the field, and said how he had to spend no money for cleaning his fields as banana planters from the area, had approached him and taken his climate resilient saplings to plant in their fields.

Day 2 – Oct. 25th

To spread the message of the Sarson Satyagraha, team Navdanya took the road to Nari Bari in Shankargarh on the second day of the sarson yatra Uttar Pradesh. Once a village of many ponds, lakes and intensive canal system, Nari Bari today is threatened by drought each year. Water for irrigation and recent climate change were two most prominent challenges faced by the area.
The place of the meeting was a private school building.About 60 chemical farmers from Nari Bari, Lohar, Kohadhia and other neighbouring villages had gathered here to discuss the current agrarian situation with them. They were all deeply troubled after third crop failure and looking for an alternative methods beyond those of farming. The meeting started by Swapnil Srivastav of the Swaraj Vidyapeeth, talking about the general misery brought to our villages and public health by seeds of the Green revolution. The farmers agreeded that the old indigenous crops such as Jowar, Bajra and other crops had completely disappeared from the region, the bio-diversity around the farms started going. Some of the older farmers present at the meeting were witness to agricultural prosperity and varieties of crops during their younger days.
Darwan Singh Negi then spoke about GM mustard seeds that been developed by seed corporations. He emphasised that our rural oil seed economy is bing ruined so that the GM mustard could be introduced into our fields.  Mustard oil and seeds have been integral to every Indian home and corporatisation of this seed is an attack on our culture itself. He then talked about the various harms the GMOs can cause to human and animal health. Taking the example of skin allergies from Bt Cotton, he spoke about how GM mustard carries an illegal terminator trait, that causes the seeds to be sterile. He also linked the sterile traits of GMOs to infertility in animals.
Next Indra Shekhar Singh, spoke to the meeting about the corporate attack on our rural India and why we must stand together to revive traditional agriculture and save seeds.
The 2 hour meeting ended with distribution of mustard seeds to all the farmers.
After the meeting we headed for Pathra, Meja. Awaiting our team in the a Mango orchard, were about 90 small farmers. The meeting also had about 40 women, who had come from 30 kms away just for the meeting. Most of the farmers present in the meeting belonged to an indigenous Kol tribe of the area. We were welcomed at the meeting by recitations of songs in the local dialect. The songs were themed on organic agriculture and highlighted merits of reverting back to organic agriculture.
Nutrition was a major topic of discussion here. The area has seen a gradual increase in sales of cheap subsidised refined soy oil The women farmers were alarmed by the rising breast and ovarian cancer in the area. Children as young as nine have been diagnosed with this fatal disease in the area. We helped see the direct link between chemical poisons such as Glyphosate, Endosalfan ,etc and these diseases. Kamla Devi, 55, a woman farmer, mentioned that after using spraying one round of these chemicals, she feels very dizzy and often develops a headache. Instead of being the cure for pest, the pesticides have become the new poisons in the area.
At the end of the second meeting, all the members got mustards seed to grow and pledged to return next harvest season with more seeds and give them free of cost to their neighbours.

Day 3 – Oct. 26th

Early on October 26th, Navdanya team headed out to the trans-Yamuna area of Allahabad to meet with small farmers. Our first destination was Jokhai, a small village about 40 kms towards Koraon. A group of about 80 farmers had gathered to campaign against GM mustard with us. At the meeting were about 30 women, who were deeply worried about the bad quality of refined oil, masala and the growing malnutrition of their children.
The meeting began with a discussion on failed recent harvest and drought. The farmers complained that hybrid seeds are very water intensive and not climate resilient. They said bad seeds were a major cause for failed harvest.
We started our dialogue with the farmers by first talking about the importance seeds in our tradition and culture. The older farmers were quick to relate with our stories, as they remembered their mothers and family members saving seeds in traditional clay pots. Seed saving which was common practices in these villages, now has completely disappeared. The farmers at the meeting on an average spent 20 percent of their money on buying hybrid seeds from the seed companies.
We explained to them, the schemes of agro-biotech companies through which want to take over from the seeds companies and make our farmers dependent on expensive genetically modified seeds. Their next target of this corporatisation was our mustard seed.
The farmers were very attentive when we talked about the dangers GM mustard poses to rural India. The so called miracle seeds of the Gene revolution, like their predecessors (from the Green revolution) will disrupt the rural oil industry and push farmers towards the debt trap, lower yields, low nutrition and disease.
Influenced by our talk, famers came out in a large numbers to collect tour local mustard seeds. They requested us for more seeds, as they wanted to their neighbours to also plant this seeds.
Next we head out to Mauhauli, a village in the foothills of the Vindhyachal mountains. It took us 30 mins to reach this meeting.
About 80 people from the around the villages had gathered to hear team Navdanya. The locals had prepared a few songs in the local dialect to make others at the gathering aware about the evils of chemical farming. In our talk, we introduced GM mustard to the farmers and told them the facts that seed companies are not telling them. These conversations covered healthy issues, yields, chemical agriculture and the rise of the profit making seed gene giants like Monsanto, who now control 95 percent of cotton in India.
Farmers of the area were hit the hardest by the weather. Last harvest was destroyed due to severe cold and most of them were still awaiting compensation from the government. They immediately understood that GM seeds will give more profits for the seed  companies and push them into further debt.
We ended our discussion, by talking about ecologically sound methods of agriculture after which distributed local varieties of mustard seeds. These were climate resilient seeds and given to them for free. The farmers were very enthusiastic on receiving this gift of seeds and hope they bring prosperity to the region once again.

Day 4 – Oct. 27th

On the fourth day of the Sarson Satyagraha, we left Allahabad for Varanasi. Our next stop was Raja Talab, located about 24 kms before Varanasi. The women of the area deserve a special mention as they successfully held off Coca-Cola from making a plant in their area.

We reached our destination by noon and were greeted a group of hundred women farmers from the area. Women as old as 75, had come to participate in Navdanya’s Sarson Satyagraha.

The meeting began with the formal welcome and introduction of our team. Next Navdanya’s Darwan Singh Negi along a village elder inaugurated Raja Talab’s first all women’s seed bank. The beautifully decorated room had over 100 varieties of locally saved seeds. The seeds were stored in traditional clay pots that had been adorned with ethnic patterns. They also demonstrated how this pot were made and crafted especially for saving seeds.

After the seed bank, we headed to a room where the dialogue between the Navdanya and the women began. We began by first congratulating the women for their efforts in creating a seed bank and proceeded to inform them about the health and economic disadvantages of growing GM mustard. We even shared some of the techniques to save seeds, which are used at the Navdanya’s seed bank. The women farmers spoke about the rising debts in their villages and the deteriorating women and child health in rural areas. Most of them complained for falling reproductive health and malnutrition among their children. Navdanya team tried to help them, by offering traditional recipes to fight malnutrition and made them aware of the effects of GMOs and agrochemicals on reproductive health.  The one hour meeting ended with pledge taken by women from over 30 villages to not let GM mustard we grown in their communities. We then gave away local rai and sarson seeds to women, and made our way for Delhi.

Related Campaign

Sarson Satyagraha – Civil Disobedience against GMO Mustard