Skip to main content

Seeds of freedom

India Programme / Partner story

Photo credit: Transform Trade (formerly known as Traidcraft Exchange) 

In the Santhal Paragana region of Jharkhand, India, seeds are central to the livelihoods of many women of the indigenous Pahadiya community. This is especially true of local seeds that the community uses to grow its most significant crops, including maize, cowpeas, rice beans, millets, and pulses. Without a reliable place to preserve, store, or acquire these seeds, the community can become vulnerable to exploitative agricultural practices. 

That is why the UK-based not-for-profit organisation Transform Trade (formerly known as Traidcraft Exchange), which works for trade and climate justice, is helping the Pahadiya community to create their own solutions to the seed challenges they face.  

Transform Trade knows that seeds are not just a source of future plants or food. Seeds also store the genetic keys important for biodiversity, which in turn helps to ensure food systems are resilient in the face of potential shocks, such as from climate change or crop loss. 

Transform Trade and its partners work closely with the community to create seed banks, from where seeds can be borrowed and deposited. The seed bank provides a safe and trustworthy place for members to store seeds for future use. “Seeds are our lifeline,” says Namita, a participant in the project. “We cannot think of farming if we do not save our seeds.” 

A local management committee oversees the seed bank and weighs, dries, cleans, and stores the seeds carefully. This ensures that seeds remain free of dirt and insect attacks. “We had to put in a lot of time in drying and cleaning the seeds to prevent damage due to pests,” says Jawahar. “The seeds we received from the seedbank are healthy and clean. Earlier whenever there was need for money, we would sell our seeds. Now at least I know that my seeds are stored safely in the bank.” 

Transform Trade and its partners now support five community managed seed banks, with a membership of 1,428 Pahadiya households. For the community, and for women in particular, the collective effort of managing the seed bank has opened the way for new opportunities. Thanks to the project, the seed banks are emerging as a place where women farmers can ensure the health and nutrition of their community. 

Oak supports the work of Transform Trade through our India Programme, which works to support equitable opportunities for all, because everyone should have a fair chance at creating a life for themselves. You can read more about the programme and its strategy here. Transform Trade works at grassroots levels in India to understand the needs of communities and applications of basic income to transform lives. You can check out its website to find out more.