Seed Guardians from four Latin American countries share their views and experiences regarding traditional seed saving, organic seed production, networking and the challenges with new laws and regulations. The situation may be difficult, but hope is rising!
In the last two decades, the consolidation of agribusiness in Latin America has pushed traditional farming to the fringes of agriculture. Genetic erosion, or the disappearance of traditional seeds, has been a direct effect of this. It is not just the seeds that disappear, but the cultural practices and food identities with them. Without the adequate seeds, real agroecology is far more difficult to implement. Even the programmes aiming to help farmers and indigenous peoples in the development of organic systems often fail to address this issue, or to understand the need to build local systems that are culturally and ecologically adequate.
The members of this panel have been working to build up and expand regenerative food systems that sprout from the management of traditional seeds. They propose a different way to address the common problems of farmers in Latin America, from the bottom up. But they have been challenged by the interests of big agribusiness and the complicity of the State, with laws and regulations that punish Agroecology and the small farmer. In this session, they will share their struggles and the strategies that have developed to transform society with the seeds in their hands.
There is a paradox in ‘conventional’ agriculture around the world: growers apply high volumes of nitrogen fertilisers and pesticides in order to promote and protect yields, but pests and pathogens (P&Ps) continue to challenge food security. In this session, a team from the University of Edinburgh will share their recent work that focuses on the biochemistry of crops and offers new explanations as to why this occurs.
Their findings support the conclusions of the French agronomist, Francis Chaboussou, whose translated book: ‘Healthy Crops, A new Agricultural Revolution’ (2004) is now being relaunched online. All their conclusions lead away from the treadmill of pesticides towards ecological ways of farming.
To shift the global food system towards sustainability is going to be expensive. When foundations with billions of dollars in endowments offer to help problems in the food system, it feels like a relief. But if you've an eye on the changes they have brought to food and medicine, the giants of international philanthropy deserve your scepticism. Drawing ideas from their forthcoming book Inflamed, Rupa Marya and Raj Patel will offer examples of how colonialism lives on through the activities and practices of the world's richest organisations.
Rosibel Ramos and Kenia Baca Merlo tell their story of how they overcame multiple forms of gender inequality and violence in rural Nicaragua by founding and helping to run the women’s farming cooperative, FEM (Foundation Between Women), which produces coffee, vegetables, honey, wine and hibiscus as well as running its own schools, self-defence groups and community seed banks.
From Estelí in Northern Nicaragua, the two generations of women share their struggle against multiple forms of inequality. Rosibel Ramos, a founding member of the FEM, left behind a life of violence and poverty and at 60 graduated from university. She eventually became the President of the FEM cooperative or Las Diosas (The Goddesses) as they call themselves, which provides a huge infrastructure for women in similar situations. She will be joined by Kenia who joined the FEM as a teenager and is now a sociologist, beekeeper and farmer.
Together, with their 1,500 all-female peers, they collectively run eight agricultural cooperatives, educational programmes for women and girls, community seed “reservoirs” and womens defense groups to confront gender-based violence. The aim is to emancipate women through a strategy of ideological, economic and organisational transformation.
Support for new genetic engineering technologies is quietly growing, even amongst groups claiming to be ‘for’ sustainability, agroecology and even organic. This is happening largely behind closed doors and without the informed input of stakeholders. In addition, there is now a global push to deregulate these technologies. It is a real and invidious threat to the widespread adoption of agroecological farming practices; yet, it is never talked about in those terms. How do we counter this threat, and how do we bring the discussion out in the open and encourage farmers, foodies and civil society groups – many of whom ignore or have abandoned the issue – to take it seriously? This session will explore the state of genome editing technology today, the threat that it poses to agroecology and in particular indigenous cultures, the claim that new genetic engineering technologies are a ‘benign’ tool in the agro-sustainability toolbox and the practicalities and ethical issues around co-existence.
Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au: I am the River and the River is Me. So say Iwi Māori who live alongside the Whanganui River in Aotearoa/New Zealand, in recognition of their inalienable connection to the land and water they call home. Fundamental to Māori cosmology is the idea that the whenua – the land – is an extension of the self: a relation, an ancestor, a placenta, a home. In recognition of this connection, several features of the landscape in Aotearoa/New Zealand—including the Whanganui River—have gained recognition as legal persons.
But what does it mean for a river—or a forest—to have legal personality? The legal personhood of nature is a legal tool that is being increasingly used worldwide, and which can better recognise human responsibilities for nature by implementing and encouraging a different relationship between people and the natural world. How can creating space for indigenous conceptions of the land, and indigenous mana motuhake (self-sovereignty) help to build food sovereignty? Join a panel of jurists, activists and food producers from Aotearoa/New Zealand to explore these topics in greater depth, and to consider how we can decolonise our relationship with indigenous knowledge, and embrace “two-eyed seeing” – weaving together Indigenous knowledge and Western science to enhance our perspectives and broaden our understandings.
Sikkim is located in northeast India, on the border with Bhutan, Tibet, and Nepal. It is part of the Himalayas, and forests, pastures and steep mountainsides make up most of Sikkim’s fragile ecosystem. It is also home to 66,000 farmers.
In 2003, the previous chief minister (Mr Pawan Kumar Chamling) began the process of making Sikkim 100 % organic. This ambitious goal was achieved in 2015 when Sikkim became the first fully organic state in the world. This session - run by farmers in Sikkim - will share how it was done, how they are sustaining it and planning to ensure its future.
They will explain how their work is geared towards farmer training – working with universities and government organizations – and assisting farmers to find a fair market. And how throughout this process they have witnessed a strengthening in their community and a greater sense of empowerment, particularly amongst women.
Hugu Setuj from Pongso no Tao island (Orchid Island, off the coast of Taiwan), explains the traditional and community management of his island's fisheries, which is borne out of a deep respect and understanding of marine life and biodiversity.
Tao mythology tells of an inter-species pact between the Tao and black flying fish ancestors, and an agreement to use appropriate fishing methods. The lunar and ecological calendar (ahehep no tao) govern the Tao seas to this day. Three distinct seasons, according to the life cycles of fish, determine which species, and whether the coral reefs or high seas, are fished. The Tao eat 180 different species of fish in total, all at different times of year, to distribute pressure on the food chain. The amian season is designated for farming, in which 50 varieties of local crops are cultivated.
Above all, the Tao system could represent an alternative multidimensional zoning system for the conservation of natural resources and the environment, as the basis for community sustainability, food diversity and food sovereignty.
African Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners from West and Southern Africa share their stories of working with traditional land-based communities in the revival of their seed and food sovereignty, the restoration of their sacred natural sites and the strengthening of their ecological governance systems, inspired by Earth Jurisprudence and indigenous cosmologies.
Across Africa, a network of Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners is accompanying traditional and indigenous communities in the revival and enhancement of their Earth-centred customary governance systems. African Earth Jurisprudence Practitioners from West and Southern Africa will share the philosophy and practice of Earth Jurisprudence and the work that Earth Jurisprudence has inspired on the continent: stories of accompanying rural communities in the revival of their seed and food sovereignty and traditional knowledge and practices, the restoration of their sacred natural sites and associated rituals, and the strengthening of their ecological governance systems derived from the laws of the Earth.