During Diwali, celebrations among families and friends have always been a tradition. These celebrations are done by wearing new clothes, bursting firecrackers, and eating sweets. But, we rarely think about the exploitation of marginalized communities and the environment to cater to the excessive consumption of these sugar, oil, and dairy-based products.
After launching Rakhis to raise awareness among consumers about the exploitation of cotton growers and how the monopoly of textile mill owners have affected the livelihoods of spinners and weavers, the Gramart Project has launched a new initiative – ‘Seed crackers’ and ‘seed sweets’.
“To raise conversations about these topics, we have launched BeejParva – a series of eco-friendly, exploitation-free and meaningful alternatives to the current methods of celebrations,” says Tanmay Joshi, who is a part of Gramart project.
To keep alive the nostalgia of bursting crackers, but avoiding the noise, smoke, and bright lights that affect birds and animals, resident artisans of Gramart project have conceptualised seed crackers.
The artisans spent a few weeks teaching rural women across Paradsinga village, situated in Sausar Tehsil of Chhindwara district, Madhya Pradesh, on how to make cracker look-alikes from waste paper with seeds embedded in them.
The aim behind these crackers is to encourage people to spend Diwali in an eco-friendly way and choose something constructive for the generations to come.
“40-50 families have taken up the work and have made ladis laced with microgreens, chakkars with onion seeds, bombs with roselle seeds and more,” says Tanmay.
One cannot light these crackers, but would have to sow them in the soil, water it, and watch it grow into a plant.
If you want to buy a set of seed crackers, 21fools, an e-commerce platform that sells seed-based products, is offering packages along with coir pots and coco peat disc to plant them in.
You can place an order here.
To start conversations about the realities of the food we eat during Diwali, farmers and rural artisans are making sweet look-alikes from waste paper mache.
They are made to look like laddus, cham-chams, barfis, and cookies, but have live seeds harvested by the farmers within them. It can be sown in soil or coco peat and within a few months it will grow into a plant.
Palm Oil-Free Laddu – Palm oil is a commonly used medium in making chips, instant noodles, ice creams, chocolates, toothpaste, and various cosmetics. Owing to the high consumption, India has reduced import duties on the same, which directly leads to producers growing more.
“This has led to the collapse of the village oil extraction industry that is well-known for its cold-pressed oils. The palm oil-free laddu is a way to initiate conversations around the bitter truth about the oil industry and urge people to choose locally grown & pressed oils,” says Tanmay.
The seed-laddu, when planted, will grow into tomato or radish plants.
Wheatless cookies – With festivities, wheat consumption sees an extra surge in the form of cookies, cakes, and bread.
“Compared to growing traditional crops like millets, sorghum, or pearl millet, growing 1 kilogram of wheat in India has a water requirement of over 1000 litres. Being a winter crop, all this water has to be irrigated either from under the ground or from canals/lakes. Apart from that, this crop also has a meagre fodder output. The wheatless cookies are a reminder to people about their consumption patterns and a request to be conscious about what they consume,” says Tanmay.
These cookies, when planted, will grow into brinjal or purslane.
Sugar-free Barfi – India is the largest consumer and producer of sugar. But more than 1500 litres of water is required to produce sugarcane which yields 1 kilo of sugar. To produce such high quantities and meet the requirements from different industries, the farmers are overworked.
Tanmay says that the concept being the sugar-free barfi is to think about the social exploitation these farmers undergo and how they cannot enjoy any benefits from the hard work they do.
Once planted, these barfis will grow into Okra or amaranthus.
Sovereign Cham-cham – This popular milk sweet is aimed at raising conversations about the consumption pattern of dairy in the country.
Tanmay says, “The dairy sector in India is rapidly shifting from backyard milk production by farmers & pastoralists to industrial production by corporates. With state policies favouring the latter, these small producers are forced to give up their animals and become slaves of the corporate world.”
Planting a sovereign cham-cham will grow into chillies and carrots.
You can read more about the seed sweets and the stories behind them here.
How it is made
The look-alikes are handmade using water paper collected from paper mills and printing presses.
Once the resident-artisans worked out a process to design and make the crackers and sweets, small workshops were organised for interested women. They were taught the process, and once the women were confident, given the necessary raw materials. They either gather in common places to work together or take the raw materials back to their homes.
The finished products are directly shipped to customers or sent to collaborators who distribute the products through their e-commerce platforms.
If you wish to spend this Diwali in an eco-conscious manner, you can order the sweets here.