This month, Trailblazer shines the spotlight on a woman who has spent the better part of her life working on restoring agricultural biodiversity. At a time when even fruits and vegetables are chemical laden, Serene Indus Valley resident Vanaja Ramprasad, has an important message for us – go organic.
Vanaja is the founding Trustee of GREEN Foundation, an organization that has worked in different agro-ecological regions of Karnataka. In her 20-odd years of work for the GREEN Foundation, Vanaja has worked with marginalized farmers in the dry land regions of Karnataka to promote the use of indigenous seeds and agricultural practices.
Vanaja was born in a small village near a forest in Pollachi. In 1974 while working in a Nutrition Rehabilitation centre, Vanaja witnessed how malnutrition was affecting people. Her research revealed how indigenous agricultural practises are being replaced by hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers.
On further research, she came to know about women farmers who were preserving indigenous seeds. Together with five of these women farmers, she started her journey in conserving these seeds as a counter response to corporate control over the basic food production.
After 20 years, she has managed to establish a seed network among farmers in various locations of South India through GREEN Foundation.
Vanaja has also written books on biodiversity – Living on the Edge(2015), Hidden harvests: Community based biodiversity conservation (2005) and acknowledges her family’s support in her mission. She is particularly grateful to her husband who took care of their young daughters like a mother when frequent travelling kept her away from them in the initial years.
Currently Vanaja, who has retired from duty, attends meetings and gives delivers talks on the importance of seed conservation. In the past year and a half at Serene, she has extended her support in growing the kitchen garden at Serene Indus Valley.
She urges everyone to grow kitchen gardens to yield organic vegetables and strive to be a conscious citizen and conserve food and water.