Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University) is Navdanya’s learning center located at the Navdanya Biodiversity Conservation Farm in Doon Valley, Uttarakhand, nestled between the Ganga and the Yamuna, the Shivalik and Himalayan mountain ranges. Navdanya has created a biodiversity sanctuary for birds, butterflies, insects and soil microorganisms, through saving more than 1500 varieties of seeds and trees. Here, nature in its diversity and dynamism is the highest teacher. We draw inspiration from India’s ancient Aranya Sanskruti – of learning from nature and forests.
Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University) draws inspiration from Rabindranath Tagore, who created Shanti Niketan, a university based on living in and learning from nature. He was also the inspiration behind the Schumacher College, with which the Bija Vidyapeeth is associated as a learning center. Tagore said:
“India’s best ideas have come where a man was in communion with trees and rivers and lakes, away from the crowds. The peace of the forest has helped the intellectual evolution of man. The culture of the forest has fueled the culture of Indian society. The culture that has arisen from the forest has been influenced by the diverse processes of renewal of life, which are always at play in the forest, varying from species to species, from season to season, in sight and sound and smell. The unifying principle of life in diversity, of democratic pluralism, thus became the principle of Indian civilization.”
In Tagore’s writings, nature is not just the source of knowledge and freedom; it is the source of beauty and joy, of art and aesthetics, of harmony and perfection. It symbolizes the universe.
Here at the Navdanya farm you can join in organic practices, learning from nature, nature as teacher, learning from farmers; farmers as teachers. Through active participation and observation you will gain much knowledge from farmers. Sir Albert Howard was sent to India by the British to introduce chemical farming and industrial agriculture. He found the soils fertile and no insects in the field. InAn Agricultural Testament, Howard said,
“I could do no better then watch the operations of these peasants and acquire their traditional knowledge as rapidly as possible. For the time being, therefore, I regarded them as my professors of agriculture. Another group of instructors were obviously the insects and fungi themselves.”
At Navdanya we do not just grow crops and biodiversity, we are cultivating community. You learn to be a member of the Earth community and the community of Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University). You will learn from community by being part of a community and participating in community activities.
You may join us on the farm for:
- Informal internships throughout the year as a Bijak (literally means ‘the sower of seeds’, which for us is learning and spreading the knowledge of biodiversity and the practice of Earth Democracy). As a Bijak you become a part of a way of life here at Bija Vidyapeeth, you learn to sow, care for and harvest biodiversity. Our intention is that you take these learnings, processes and this way of being with you and sow these seeds in your community.
- Bija (Seed) - join in the seed saving and biodiversity conservation activities of the community seed bank, in the growing, harvesting, and documenting of 700 varieties of rice, 200 varieties of wheat and other seed varieties by working on the fields, medicinal, kitchen and other gardens with the Navdanya Team, sowing, harvesting, weeding, planting, pruning, seed selecting, threshing and doing other seasonal & necessary activities.
- Anna (Food) - the biodiversity of the Navdanya farm and farms of our members in different parts of the country is the basis of the diversity of the Navdanya organic kitchen. We have brought back healthy, nutritious crops we call ‘forgotten foods’ in our recipes. You learn how to cook with Indian spices which are also medicines in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition. As a Bijak you can help in working the kitchen and dining hall, harvesting, cooking, cleaning and serving with the Navdanya Team
- Gyan (Knowledge), Navdanya is based on knowledge as living and free, a dialogue with the intelligence of Nature and people. Education at Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University) includes self learning but also courses for education for Earth Democracy. As a Bijak you will join the Navdanya Team in the back-end support for farmer training, courses and group visits, this would include maintaining the library, office work, audio-visual systems, etc. You can also participate in our school programs, through ‘Gardens of Hope’ and environmental education.
Each Bijak will participate in one of these activities for 3 hours per day and learn through service (please remember to note your preference in your Bijak Application).In addition to this, one hour will be dedicated to cleaning common areas as Navdanya’s philosophy is based on taking care of and being responsible for the commons. The rest of your time may be divided into sharing their knowledge and skills to other Bijaks plus afternoon sessions from Navdanya team.
Bijaks must be self-directed, self motivated and inspired to learn from nature and community. We consider this to be an active pursuit on the part of the individual who chooses to spend their time here. The farm and its biodiversity changes throughout the year, providing one with huge opportunities to learn from nature. You are becoming a part of a community and are encouraged to join in the flow of an existing community and process.
If you do not have the spirit of service and you are not inclined to give shramdaan (the gift of labor for cultivating community), Navdanya is not the place for you, please refrain from applying.
Those interested should apply at least two months prior to arrival to allow for necessary communications before the scheduled date and to ensure there is space at the farm during your stay. Keep in mind the visa processing time according to the Indian consulate and embassy in your country. Please be aware that space is limited, especially during certain times of year due to courses or school groups and we cannot always guarantee space. Please fill out the online application.
In case you want to be associated with Navdanya for long term research please communicate this in detail in your application.
Prior to your arrival please go through the Visitor’s Guide (upload updated guide) so that you may get acquainted with our farm, ashram and current processes.