Seed Conservation

Seed Conservation

Originally uploaded by Find Your Feet

After a ride across London in the wind and rain to work yesterday morning, it was good to arrive to a colourful story from one of our partners in India. Being a new member of the FYF team, I love these little sources of inspiration.

Our partner Sabla works in Rae Bareli, (Uttar Pradesh) one of the poorest districts in India. Sabla is empowering 1,500 women in Rae Bareli to bring about lasting changes to their lives by supporting women to organize themselves into self-help groups and to engage in environmentally sustainable horticultural activities which boost their income and increase the food available to their families.

Recently Sabla organized a procession to raise awareness around the importance of organic fertilizer and the conservation of seeds. It sounds like the women had a really great couple of days!

What can be a better way other than a procession on brightly painted bullock carts for creating awareness among the people?

The participants started gathering early for the activity and there was enthusiasm and excitement among us all. We then set off on a two day procession to nine villages in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, talking about the importance of organic fertilizers and the conservation of seeds. Over 600 women joined the procession along the way and over 1500 people came to see the video shows and plays we were putting on.

Articles on the procession were published in national newspapers like Hindustan, Dainik Jagran, Amar Ujala and Aaj.”

I have learnt a lot about sustainable agriculture since I started working at Find Your Feet. Dan, our Director, is an agronomist (as well as an anthropologist.) He recently completed a number of position papers for FYF and I think it might be useful to quote his paper on ‘sustainable agriculture and agricultural biodiversity’ to give a bit of context to the Sabla story:

Whereas once husbandry methods such as time of planting, crop rotation, field rotation, intercropping or polycultures based on natural biological process were the predominant means of maintaining soil fertility and reducing pest infestation and the spread of diseases, this has been largely replaced by quick response external inputs in the form of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides together with higher yielding crop varieties bred for yield potential.

We have clearly prioritized production potential over systemic resilience with all its concomitant risks.”

In a nutshell biodiversity and the conservation of seeds is vital in ensuring the production of food now and in the future. For smallholder farmers living in developing countries, the loss of local crops represents a loss of choice that further heightens their vulnerability to food shortages.

The Sabla procession does not stand alone. I read an interesting article recently in Pambazuka by Astrid von Kotze: ‘The world food crisis: a ‘silent tsumami?’
“There has has been nothing silent,” she writes, “about environmentalists’ and farmers’ vigorous protests against the ‘green revolution’ with its dwindling of crop-biodiversity, against corporate agriculture based on GM technologies that prevent farmers from saving seeds for future years, against the partnership of Monsanto and Cargill as they began to control seed, fertiliser, pesticides, farm finance, grain collection, grain processing and livestock production.”

Clearly there are voices that need to be heard in the debate about responses to the world food crisis. Which is why it is maybe apt that I have kicked off this blog with an awareness raising procession involving 600 marginalised Indian women…!


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