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Beejotsav was set up in 2013. The movement seeks to connect agro-ecological farmers and producers with consumers in a bid to cut out any middlemen which may exploit one or both parties or even adulterate the products themselves. The organisation works as a collective of farmers (including urban farmers), seed-savers, and those buying the produce. A core tenet of the collective is that everyone should have access to food cultivated using agro-ecological practices (meaning it fosters biodiversity and avoids the use of harmful chemicals and pollutants).

Beejotsav organises a yearly seed festival “to celebrate seed diversity, organic farming and sustainable lifestyle choices.” In 2019, over 20,000 people from across India attended the festival. The festival has fostered networks between producers as well as between producers and consumers. The networks allow for the exchange of knowledge regarding agricultural practice, and also provides avenues for seed exchange outside the purview of corporations. In addition to this, the collective also organises many smaller scale events in communities, schools, colleges, and so on (seed exchanges, awareness programmes, workshops, etc.). Beejotsav is also a strong promoter of seed sovereignty and conducts policy advocacy work in this area.

It goes without saying that the covid-19 pandemic has placed a strain on the initiative’s normal range of operation, including halting the yearly seed festival. Indeed, the pandemic has also placed a massive pressure on producers, many of whom were not able to access their normal networks to sell produce due to restrictions. Producers in Nagpur who are part of the collective were able, together with other Beejotsav members, to form a makeshift street market. Members would cycle around in person collecting produce from farmers and hauling them sometimesdzens of kilometres back for storage until they could be sold at the market each weekend. All the pricing and details of the initiative were agreed upon by everyone involved. The market was a great success, with the produce selling out completely – week in, week out. The market was discontinued in December 2020 when restrictions were lifted. However, the rapid manner in which this was organised, and the success and positive impact it experienced, demonstrates the effectiveness of networks of mutual aid and participative decision making.

The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary People report writes that Beejotsav teaches us that “farmers can be connected to nearby cities, towns and villages and helped to sell their organic produce directly to consumers, thereby avoiding big companies and middlepersons who exploit them. But it is imperative in this process to build consumer-farmer relationships and connections which leads to trust. These relationships can be mutually beneficial not just in times of crises, but at all times.”

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