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Recipient of Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development Award presented in Philippines.

Recipient of Krishi Bushan Award by Government of Maharashtra.


Member of IFOAM Member of IUCN
Fair Trade India

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Gauri Mirashi

Five months after graduating with a B.A. in Environmental Studies-Politics I came across Arundhati Roy's 'The Algebra of Infinite Justice' in the IIRD office. One of her articles in this book discusses the absurdity surrounding the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River- the lack of data available to merit the construction of the dam, the number of ‘Project Affected People’, and the number of people affected by the project, and how the math of those who benefit from it and those who suffered because of it just does not add up. She stands in support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The article left me feeling confused, guilty, hypocritical and quite lost. I thought a lot about the article but didn’t quite know what to do with myself after having read it.

My first assignment at IIRD was to translate English-Marathi-English for a Canadian journalist. She had made her way to Aurangabad to work on a book about small organic farmer movements around the world. Since I had started volunteering only two weeks before her arrival, translating for her was a great way for me to get to know the organization as well. And I was completely impressed by the women of IIRD. Two interviews stand out in particular.

While telling us about her childhood, Chandrakalabai stated "I was in 5th grade when my village was submerged by the Jayakwadi dam. It was re-settled at a higher elevation, but my father chose to move to another village. We had 17 acres in our village. We managed to buy 4 acres in the new village. I was sent to my uncle's place where I stayed till I got married.. " and so her story continued. I kept up with my translation but was completely taken aback by the matter-of-fact-ness in her voice.

The next day we had a meeting with the women directors of the Mahagreen Company. It turned out to be more of a conversation than an interview. Yamunabai, one of the directors started to tell us how she anticipates losing her land under the proposed ‘industrial zone’ from Bidkin to Shendra. She thinks she will lose all ten acres of her carefully tended organic farm, as will most farmers in her village. Talk of when the land appropriation will take place, how much the compensation will be, can be, dominate farmer meetings and evening chit-chat. Most of the people in her village are opposed to the belt. For Yamunabai no amount of compensation can substitute what she receives from her land every year. With money and no land, she says she can't do anything. She is very worried. The other women directors express their sympathy, concern and disapproval of the proposed project. Then they all request me to tell the journalist that they must return to their fields to pick cotton and perform other household chores. And Yamunabai and the others leave.

Both Chandrakalabai and Yamunabai shared stories of displacement much closer to home than the Narmada Bachao Andolan. I benefit from both the water of the Jayakwadi and the industry-friendly climate of Aurangabad. I am implicated in their situations. IIRD has brought me face-to-face with this fact and I think it would be a valuable experience for all residents of Aurangabad to try and grasp the language of the farmers who grow their food!

Chandrakalabai's experience of displacement was in the past and she seems to have made peace with it. For Yamunabai displacement is an impending possibility. And yet both women continue to work their fields, work with IIRD to make organic agriculture techniques available to farmers in their area, raise children and grandchildren, lead women’s groups in their village and chit-chat over evening tea. They have no doubt contributed greatly to the empowerment of women, to the increase in soil fertility and improvement of the quality of the environment in their area. It is however the every-day-ness of their work that is stunning. It is something that eluded me when I read Arundhati Roy's book.