Interview of Chukki Nanjundawamy, farmers’ leader from Karnataka, by Sabina Yasmin LVC Youth Exchange activist from Bangladesh.

Sabina: Hi Chukki, thanks for answering my questions. You are doing amazing work at Amritha Bhoomi and are also a role model for young women in the movement. First could you tell me about Amritha Bhoomi and your activities there?

Chukki:  Amritha Bhoomi is an agroecology school in Chamrajnagar, Karnataka. We are the Agroecology School of the South Asian region of La Via Campesina. We have 80 acres under organic cultivation and a training center, auditorium, and mess. We are working on the revival of traditional agriculture practices and opening a space to bring agroecological innovation from around the world.

Sabina: What are your future plans?

Amritha Bhoomi (Sabina, Mythri, Luca, Puneet, Narendra)

Chukki: In my work I focus on three main issues: women, youth, and agroecology. I want to put my energy and time here.  I see agroecology as an area where we can engage both women and youth and create a space for them to work. Though women are involved from seed to cultivation to processing, most landholding is in the hands of men and only men have market access. Youth (both men and women) can be engaged in building a solidarity economy, which would reduce migration to cities. We can build direct markets, cooperatives, and provide necessary trainings to activate women and youth in rural communities.

Sabina: You have been involved in KRRS since you were 14 years old. Do you have any message for young people in the movement?

Chukki: When we are young we are always very enthusiastic. We think: I want to do this! Revolution today! Very active. We always dream and we want to see a change immediately.  Dreaming is really important – something that is possible or impossible, that’s secondary.

Sabina: I think that dreams are the first step.

Chukki: Yes, they are. We observe: My village is dirty, poor, no sanitation. So I imagine my village in another way. Very good toilets. Everybody is clean. Everybody is friendly, happy. They bring smiles on others faces. But to reach that dream you can spend all your life.

What I have learned over the years is that you have to have a lot of patience.

People who are working for social change, this is a lifetime project. This is not a project for 2 or 5 years, not like an NGO which has a target and so on. This is a continuous process. It’s our life. This is not a profession – 9 to 5 and then I have my personal life. Our personal life is the movement.

Sabina: How do you tackle the challenges and problems you face?

Chukki: Courage.

You get courage only if you are honest with yourself. If you are saying something, and doing something else you won’t have any courage. If you are doing what you are saying, you are not afraid of anything.

I’m not afraid of anything. Whoever will come, I will take it on. Because I believe in truth. I think my life is based on truth. I don’t believe in God, religion – nothing. But my path is clear. I know it is a difficult path, no? lots of obstacles will come. Always people are pulling you back. But you just see your goal, which is a common goal.

Not your personal goal, a common goal. It’s not about your career.

To reach that goal you need a lot of capacity. You have to go on evaluating yourself. Why did I make this mistake? Why did this happen like this? Maybe we should have done it in another way. It’s very important not to make the same mistakes. Learn from mistakes, this is how you grow.

Nobody’s born with all the capacities. You learn a lot in life. Life teaches you.

Sabina: Experience and nature.

Chukki: Just go on learning. Learning never ends. That’s how you evolve and grow.

And always keep your hope. Sadness and disappointment are normal, but you have to always have the capacity of waking yourself up. Nobody will wake you up. Nobody will say – Hey, Sabina, come on! You have to motivate yourself.

It’s true we have lot of people. We are in a movement. We have fellow activists, and family. But it’s like a bonus. You have to work based on your own capacity. We can’t think of doing something based on the other’s capacity. We have to think of doing something based on our own capacity.

Even if I’m alone, nothing will stop me – you have to think. If you reach that stage, any problem will come, you will face it.

Sabina: Thank you for your time, Chukki.

Chukki Nanjundaswamy is a Working President of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and former ICC member of La Via Campesina. She is heading the project at Amritha Bhoomi.

Sabina Yasmin is a youth activist from Bangladesh Krishok Federation. She participated in a 3-week learning exchange to India visiting agroecological farms Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.

See more photos from her time in India here.