In 2013, WEA and Vanastree began a partnership to support the sustained organizing and capacity building of rural women leaders and small-scale forest home gardeners in the Malnad region of Karnataka, India to preserve traditional knowledge, promote indigenous seed saving practices, support climate adaptation and mitigation, and further the rights of women farmers.
Goal: Ensure seed and food sovereignty and the transfer of traditional knowledge in Karnataka State by supporting women to build and scale seed businesses, lead trainings to increase farm biodiversity and productivity, participate in demonstrations and exchanges, and build networks in their communities and beyond.
Projected Impact: Over 4,000 women farmers, their families, and communities employ regenerative farming practices to increase farm biodiversity, traditional seed saving, and women’s intergenerational agricultural knowledge in the region, thereby strengthening food security and community resilience to chemical farming pressures and climate changes.
Manorama Joshi is a mother, wife and farmer in the Malnad region of Karnataka, India. She is also the spirit of local women’s agriculture and a seed leader in her community. Through her work with Vanastree, Manorama helps to support a peaceful seed revolution.
The Malnad Mela is a Seed Festival that is hosted by the women of Vanastree. It is a place to sell and exchange organic, local, seeds along with other products celebrating biodiversity
At a Glance
Women in South Asia have crop yields 20-40% lower than those farmed by men because they lack access to improved seeds, best practice and technologies, and markets.*
75% of the Western Ghats is unprotected and largely used in various ways for agriculture. Conserving the unprotected forests that serve as rest-stops in human-modified landscapes for the rainforest’s many moving parts, and pushing for a return to the long standing tradition of biodiversity-friendly agriculture are the most important tasks in the Western Ghats.*
Women are the backbone of the rural economy in developing countries and are responsible for 60-80% of food production. They also tend to be the most knowledgeable about crop varieties.*
"Seeds have no caste, creed, religion, or gender. They are universal and secular. We nurture this sentiment strongly in our work with various communities."
— Manorama Joshi, Vanastree
The Western Ghats region of Karnataka State is a biodiversity hotspot that faces great threats. The introduction of chemical agriculture has been devastating to the region’s long history of plural, biodiversity-based, and ecologically sensitive agricultural and forestry practices. The changing climate has rendered the monsoons—one of the area’s most essential ecological events—unreliable. Rainfall patterns have drastically changed. Deforestation has increased, soil degradation has worsened, and women farmers are hit the hardest.
The Western Ghats has a large number of forest home gardens that are critical in halting deforestation and species loss. Home gardens are repositories of biological diversity and therefore a source of food security, nutrition, medicine, and traditional knowledge. Over the last 3 years, WEA has worked with the Vanastree Collective, who has uplifted and supported small-scale food systems and the women who steward them for nearly 15 years.
Together in 2016, WEA and Vanastree are partnering on the Seeds of Resilience Project to train 20 women farmers as traditional seed savers. We will also train 120 women farmers and 20 youth directly and approximately 500 farmers indirectly to protect biodiversity, adapt to climate change, and respond to the region’s growing food security concerns. Our team aims to achieve the following:
Household Seed Saving. 20 women will participate in trainings to cultivate, store, and manage seeds for varietal purity and diversity. They will be supported to sell their seeds to hundreds of farmers and to a centralized seed bank through self-managed micro-enterprises.
Community Access to Seeds. Over 4,000 women farmers, their families, and community members will access indigenous seed varieties through the 20 women seed savers and community seed banks. The Vanya Seed Bank will increase the number of seed varieties it manages and sells by over 25%.
Home Garden Biodiversity and Productivity.120 women and 20 youth will directly participate in trainings and in turn train approximately 500 other farmers to increase their knowledge of good agricultural practices, participate in model gardens, demonstrations, and exchanges, and increase their access to diverse and high quality seeds.
Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer. 200 women will strengthen their leadership and networks through participation in group activities. They will also increase their self-confidence and their capacity to be social, ecological, and economic leaders in their families and communities.
Sustainability. Vanastree will move towards all activities being sustainable with no outside funding beyond this project.