Spring is officially here! This is always an exciting time of year to talk seed and food, as many of us prepare to plant the seeds we’ve purchased from fairs and gatherings, or those exchanged with friends and neighbours. The rest of us are looking forward to eating the fruits that warmer weather will bring soon enough.
Gaia team members Joseph and Tom have been joining in the fervor for healthy, diverse seed at the start of this year. In February they headed to Brighton’s famous Seedy Sunday gathering. Connecting with Gaia’s friends in the growing UK movement for seed and food sovereignty, they’ve captured the vibrancy of the day in this blog.
Embarking on the Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme
Gaia is currently preparing to embark on an exciting and ambitious three-year programme to create an ecological seed system across the UK and Ireland. This will involve webbing up the existing organic seed sector and supporting more initiatives and growers to emerge through up-skilling and access to resources and equipment. We’ll be identifying a serious of Regional Hubs across the British Isles and, in due course, looking at on-farm plant variety trials and breeding programmes.
This is the first time we’ve been part of such a large-scale programme in the UK and we’re thrilled to be working alongside a diverse group of partners from across the food movement – from the Landworkers Alliance to the Seed Cooperative, the Soil Association to the Irish Seed Savers.
The food and seed sovereignty movement in the UK is teeming with enthusiasm and experience. Through this programme we want to support the movement to become more cohesive and produce a greater abundance of ecologically grown seed. To help us realise the programme’s potential, we’re delighted to announce that Neil Munro - who you may know from Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library - joined the Gaia Team as the manager of the programme at the end of March.
Seed: The Untold Story comes to the UK
We’re are also excited to be working with the US producers of SEED: The Untold Story to launch their award-winning documentary in the UK. The film follows passionate seed keepers protecting our 12,000-year-old food legacy and reveals how the battle for control of our seed supply is fast becoming a defining story of our time.
Small Farmers setting the record straight!
Whilst Gaia’s Seed Sovereignty Programme gets growing on the ground, at the international level we’re tackling the mainstream myth that industrial agriculture is the only way to feed a growing global population. In actual fact, 70 – 80 percent of our food is produced by small, family farmers using sustainable methods of agriculture. Through an incredible collaboration of over 40 of the world’s most iconic photographers - Rankin, Nadav Kander, Martin Parr and Sebastiao Selgado to name just a few – the ‘We Feed the World’ exhibition will showcase the work of these farming communities and highlight the positive impact their method of agriculture has, not just our food supply, but on biodiversity, climate change and our health and wellbeing. This is a critical story of our time and by working with big name photographers it’s a chance to really set the record straight, whilst sharing the incredible merits of agroecology to a global audience.
Last week one of the forty photographers working on the project, Nick Ballon, was in Bolivia with an indigenous Quechan community who have revived 100 different varieties of potato. Nick has been learning about the principles of “buen vivir”. This philosophy, embedded into the culture of many indigenous Andean peoples, means ‘good living’ - in harmony with ourselves, other humans but most importantly our living planet.
There will be a Vivienne Westwood ‘shopper’ designed specifically to support the campaign, so look out for that in the Autumn and pledge your allegiance by purchasing one. The exhibition will be in London and touring globally from Spring next year. Follow We Feed the World on twitter to stay up to date with the project.
Voices of Maize
A powerful collection of stories from indigenous maize keepers across North and South America has recently been compiled as a collaborative project by Asociación ANDES; Tezozomoc and the South Central Farmers Cooperative, amongst others. Entitled Voices of Maize, the collection aims to restore and re-engage the sacred in corn, and show the fundamental role of Indigenous cultures in the creation and conservation of maize. This comes in response to the threats that corn cultures are facing through the globally imbalanced relationship to maize. More here.
Other news from our work on Seed, Food and Climate Change Resilience
In Frome, Somerset… In February, Gaia’s Deputy Director, Rowan, returned from her maternity leave and moved to the Somerset town of Frome. The thriving network of farmers and growers trailblazing agro-ecological methods of farming in the Frome area have given Rowan some top tips to share for those of us wanting to eat local and expand our minds!
- Check out The Food Assembly. The company connecting people to local producers in their area is well established in Frome, and new locations are emerging all the time. Keep an eye on the website to see if there’s one near you!
- For those looking to widen your food sovereignty reading lists, Frome farmer Chris Smaje writes an excellent blog – Small Farm Future- as well as supplying Frome’s people with vegetable boxes from Vallis Veg.
In Ethiopia… Rural women in Africa have a unique perspective on seed, joining the dots between land, biodiversity, climate, and the nutritional needs of the family.
In a new interview, farmer Dawi Mamo, from Gindeberet in South-Western Ethiopia, discusses the impacts of losing local seed varieties, and how trainings and community dialogues pioneered by Gaia and our partners are re-uniting women farmers with their seed and their culture.
In the UK… In February The People’s Food Policy launched their website and shared plans to develop a document – to be released in May – which will map out a UK food policy based on the Right to Food, food sovereignty and agroecology.
The team behind the People’s Food policy has spent over a year holding roundtable discussions and workshops with over 250 representatives from across the UK food and seed movement to see how food sovereignty could be integrated into a workable policy framework. And not to be perturbed by the referendum result in June last year, they are looking to seize the opportunity to create progressive food policy which can help the UK population realise their right to local, fair and nutritious food as we prepare to leave the European Union.