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Tehelka (2004.12.25): Sow the seeds of revolution

The Chipko spirit is still strong in the Garhwal Himalayas
by Harsh Dobhal for

Thirty years is a long time for any movement to continue. But the famous Chipko movement lives on — thriving and pulsating, challenging and sustaining, albeit in a different form. The men and women who once hugged the trees to save them from commercial felling, continue their struggle against the harbingers of one-dimensional development, to save nature and its children, local diversity and culture. The slogan, “Kya hain jangal ke upkar: pani, mitti aur bayar, ye hain jeene ke aadhar, (What do forests bear: water, soil and air; these are the basis for life),” that reverberated in the Garhwal Himalayas for the world to take notice in the 1970s, is still echoing 30 years on, in the Hewalghati valley of Tehri Garhwal. This time in the form of the Beej Bachao Andolan (Save the Seeds Movement).

In the 1970s and 1980s, when High Yielding Variety (hyv) seeds were being introduced all over the country and cash-crop driven agriculture was destroying traditional farming, crop yields of the hyv started becoming less in Garhwal, while soil fertility was declining and dependence on toxic chemicals was increasing. The ecosystem was also severely damaged. As a result, Chipko activist and a local farmer, Vijay Jardhari, along with other activists from Jardhargaon and nearby areas, formed the Beej Bachao Abhiyan, later re-named as Beej Bachao Andolan (bba), to rejuvenate traditional farming and agricultural diversity. The aim was to negate ‘modern but destructive’ agriculture practices, search and conserve indigenous seeds and promote traditional farming. [more]