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Can you tell us about your background?

Shamika Mone made a life changing decision to use her knowledge and skills in the field of agriculture research for the betterment of the farmers of our nation. Backed up with a graduate degree in Industrial Microbiology and a postgraduate degree in Biodiversity, Shamika decided to take the less trodden way of exploring biodiversity in agriculture, specifically seeds. Currently Shamika is working in the Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) since July 2012. It is a network of organic farmers across the country with a central office in Mapusa, Goa. Presently she works for the central office as a Research Director. As an organization, they work with farmers in different states convincing them to implement organic cultivation practices.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

When asked about how did she venture into this field, Shamika says “During my post-graduation days in Biodiversity, I was influenced to do a doctorate in the field of biodiversity in agriculture. It was a less competitive venture without any glamour. I was offered to pursue my Ph.D. in the organic farms in Vidarbha. During my pre-Ph.D. days in Wardha, I witnessed many problems associated in the farming sector in the drought affected rainfed regions of eastern Maharashtra. Farmer suicides were at the peak and the outcry made me realise that the farming sector needs me more than I need a Ph.D. And thus I dropped my Ph. D. plan, made the life changing decision to use my knowledge and skills for the betterment of the farmers of this nation in whichever way possible.”

Initially everyone around Shamika, thought it was a foolish decision to work in the sector of agriculture as she could get a well paid job in any of the laboratories in her hometown Pune. Traveling to unknown small villages and farmlands by giving up the comfort of home was looked upon like a bad decision. However, her first project changed everyone’s perspective.

Shamika’s interests to pursue research in agro-biodiversity or agroecology got recognised when a couple from Kodagu (Coorg) invited her for her first project. She worked for almost 3 years documenting insects, birds and wildlife on the organic and chemical (conventional) coffee and cardamom plantations. That research got published in the Scientific Peer Reviewed Journal in Dec 2014 and opened doors for Shamika. This was when her close family realised the magnitude of Shamika’s work and started supporting her dream.

Can you tell us about your work?

Shamika’s work took her to Istanbul for Organic World Congress in Oct 2014. She was also elected as a South Asia representative of organic farmers in Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers Organisations (INOFO), a self organised structure within International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). In June 2015, Shamika was called to present her work on organic seeds in Berlin, Germany. In Oct 2015, Shamika represented organic farmers from Asia in an African Organic Congress (AOC) in Nigeria where she presented on seed keepers in India for a farmers forum initiated within AOC. In Feb 2016, Shamika visited Rome, Italy for representing organic farmers from South Asia in the 6th Global Farmer’s Forum.

Since 2013, Shamika has been traveling across the country documenting seed savers and the diversity of seeds that they possess and tend to conserve since generations together. Her hard work has paid off and it has been documented as a Source Book on India’s Organic Seeds that got officially released by Hon’ble Maneka Gandhi, Department of Women and Child Development in February 2015. This book serves to increase the accessibility and availability of these indigenous organic seeds for the organic farmers in villages as well as cities.

‘Organic’ has got a lot of attention and branding lately. However Shamika has her concerns regarding the same. She says, “In today’s world, anything gets branded or popularised so quickly that it loses its true value. As the word “Organic” became branded and popular among the elite class, many fake certifying agencies came in along with corporate control and fake organic outlets. So at this point of time it is very crucial for citizens to be aware. Choose to buy from the only real, known jaivik, sendriya organic farmers”.

Your advice to students?

Shamika feels today’s generation kills their dreams amidst being part of the rat race. She sincerely requests all of us to, “Follow your heart and choose an occupation that you like the most. Try to achieve excellence in the same and success will automatically follow your way. Do not lead a superficial life with a rat race at college level, job, marriage, better paying job, cars, houses, bigger car and houses. Finally at the end of the day, no rest and peace to the soul. Instead follow your true calling.”

She also adds, “Eat healthy organic food as your health is most precious than other gem on the planet”.