About the Organization
Vanastree (http://www.vanastree.org) is a self-generated seed-saving cooperative located in the heart of the Western Ghats mountain range in southern India. Its main objectives include promoting food security and bio-diversity through sustainable farms and home gardens, and empowering its members through networking and outreach.
The word “Vanastree” literally means women of the forest in Kannada, underscoring the organization’s goals of empowering women and promoting ecosystem health. By working to preserve seeds and cultivate bio-diverse gardens that mirror forest ecosystems, Vanastree participants help to preserve traditional food systems and uphold local plant knowledge, while also generating healthy products to sell to market. These sales also help participants to earn supplemental income.
Vanastree emphasizes the traditional role of women in conservation and empowers them to make a difference. Through meetings, trainings, festivals, and other networking events, Vanastree brings women and local community members together to share knowledge and promote healthy, environmentally-friendly farming and gardening practices.
Vanastree is comprised of over 150 individual women in over 20 seed groups located in and around Sirsi (typically within 40km). Each regional group meets regularly to exchange seeds, discuss best-practices, network, and socialize. Groups usually include around 5-10 members but can range in size from individual gardeners to larger networks.
Each seed group chooses one representative to attend monthly meetings in Sirsi, where leaders meet to discuss overall goals, outreach events and conservation practices, and to network and exchange knowledge. In addition to these monthly meetings, seed leaders and other group members may visit the Sirsi office to contribute products for sale, sort seeds, assist with projects, and network.
One of the most valuable outputs of Vanastree is its seed bank. Members who save seeds from their home gardens can exchange them with each other, or sell them to the seed bank. The seed bank has a registry for incoming and outgoing seeds, a set standard of quality, and a system for the evaluation of seeds. Women are also paid for the seeds they bring in, which helps them earn income.
Vanastree continues to network within the region, while simultaneously reaching out to other communities to share knowledge and best-practices. Its founders hope to continue supporting home gardeners through workshops and trainings, and to continue to hosting festivals and other community education events.
The organization is currently seeking: organic and open-pollinated seeds, volunteers and interns, a space for an office, nursery, garden and extension outlet. Please see their website for more details: http://www.vanastree.org/about-us.
“Since saving seeds for the seed bank, I have realized what an important activity this is which was not the case before. I visited my mother’s home this weekend and was horrified to see that out of 8 beautiful bottle gourds they grew and dried, they saved seeds from one, and threw the rest into the fire. I nearly cried and scolded them so much. Imagine how fare and wide those destroyed seeds could have traveled, and the food and sustenance they had the potential to provide” – Vidya, Sirsi 2011