Bija Vidyapeeth offers a unique insight into the tenets of sustainability and deep democracy through interactions with the foremost intellectuals of our times and communities whose survival is intrinsically linked to sustainability in an ambience that reinvigorates our vital link with nature, promotes contemplation, enquiry and dynamic action. Bija Vidyapeeth is an attempt to restore the last art of sustainable living through an experiment in international living, where people of all cultures live, cook, eat and learn together the inestimable value of diversity and organic living from one another.
About a year ago I used these words (taken from the official brochure) to begin an article about Bija Vidyapeeth (the School of the Seed), the brainchild of Dr Vandana Shiva, a world authority on the environment, author of various studies about the problems of intellectual property rights, GMOs and sustainable agriculture, and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1993 (click here to read the article).
To cut a long story short, Bija Vidyapeeth is an international college that organizes specialization courses on issues such as sustainable agriculture, globalization, the prospects of Gandhism and non-violent protest, and biopiracy.
Over the coming months, in collaboration with the Schumacher College in the UK, Bija Vidyapeeth will be organizing a series of new courses.
The first will run from October 1-14 and will be entitled ‘Nature as Teacher – Farming in Nature’s Way’. Lectures will be delivered by Vandana Shiva herself, Masanobu Fuluoka, a Japanese activist who has been arguing the case for sustainable agriculture for 60 years, and Tewolde Egziabher, an African negotiator who has greatly influenced the G77’s positions on issues such as the patentatibility of living materials. The course will address the crisis of food systems, recent epidemics (Mad Cow and Foot and Mouth), of GMOs, huge wastes of resources, and the preservation of biodiversity.
‘The crisis in our food systems , at the levels of ecological security, food security, nutritional security and livelihood security arises from farming against Nature. Across Asia, Africa and Latin America, innovative systems, rooted in timeless principles of farming in Nature’s Ways are spreading rapidly ensuring sustainability and the production of abundant safe and healthy food,’ says Bija Vidyapeeth in the course presentation.
‘A course on Business, Ethics and Sustainability’, led by Anita and Gordon Roddick, founders of the famous Body Shop chain, will subsequently be held from November 10 –14.
The third and last course, from December 1-14, will be entitled ‘Creating Cultures of Non-Violence – Gandhi and Globalization’. The lecturers will be Vandana Shiva herself, Satish Kumar, director of programs at Schumacher College, editor of the magazine Resurgence, and a great expert on Gandhian non-violence, and Kamla Chowdry, chairperson of the Vikram Sarabhai Foundation, and a former lecturer at the Harvard Business School. The course will aim to explore, understand and practice non-violence in contemporary times, reflecting issues such as terrorism and social, economic and political inequality. The ‘violence’ of globalization will also be compared with more ‘pacific’ practices such as sustainable agriculture and the defense of biodiversity. ‘As war clouds gather, creating cultures of peace becomes our most important task,’ reads the course brochure.
Nicola Ferrero is editor of www.slowfood.it