More and more people are waking up to understand just how insecure our food system is these days and how far we have moved from our relationship with our food. At the root of this crisis is the crisis over viable seed, a crisis precipitated by large agricultural interests that promote vegetable and fruit varieties that are easy to transport and have a longer shelf life , rather than varieties that are more nutritious.In this article below on seed saving by kay Baxter, learn what some are doing around the world to remedy this situation.
In our changing and unstable world, the question of food security is becoming increasingly relevant. Our ability to grow healthy food locally and sustainably is dependent in many ways on the quality of our seeds. It has been a focus of the Koanga Institute for many years to support home gardeners with the skills needed for self reliance, and understanding the process of saving high quality seed that is well adapted to local climates is fundamental to this. Almost all seed available commercially today is grown by large companies either in Europe or the USA. This leaves the home gardener extremely vulnerable to global instability if they are not saving their own seeds. Genetic diversity in our food crops has been lost on a drastic scale due to the industrialisation of our food production. The incredible diversity we once had, with thousands of genetically unique varieties, has been reduced to a tiny number of varieties that have been selected for their suitability to commercial applications (not the requirements of a home gardener).
The Koanga Institute holds a significant and valuable collection of NZ heritage seed (vegetables, herbs and flowers), and has international recognition for their unique work in the field of seed saving and seed production. The founder of the Institute — Kay Baxter — has been dedicated to saving these seeds and making them available in NZ. Over the past 30 years, Kay’s work for the Institute has ensured the survival of more than 800 NZ heritage seed lines, many of which are now available to members and home gardeners. A major focus of our research in the past few years has been finding ways for home gardeners to increase the nutritional density of their produce, adapting biological agricultural methods to suit home gardeners.
Very few soils have the complete balance of minerals required to grow produce to support optimum human health. This is not such an issue while we have food available to us from many parts of the world, but as we look towards self reliance (be it on a family scale or a local community scale) human health will suffer if these deficiencies aren’t addressed. Once the minerals have been balanced, then it becomes possible to manage the recycling and regeneration of these nutrients.
As community based organisations develop skills and networks that foster local sustainability and community self reliance, the question of seed saving becomes increasingly important. While seed saving is not difficult, there are many things to take into account if you are serious about ensuring food security, and the survival of specific varieties.
This 5-day workshop will give you the skills and understanding to grow and save your own seeds, and to ensure that the seeds you save will be high quality, for longevity and with the potential for optimal nutrition. Whether you are planning to set up a seed bank for a larger community, or would like to address food security for your immediate family, here you will find the skills and resources required. Processes taught are very low tech, and could be adapted to suit any situation, including rural villages without electricity or technology.
* International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, October 12, 2009
Straight to the Source
On the occasion of the World Food Day, agro-industry proposes a second green revolution based on genetic engineering. This suits their interests but does not contribute to feeding the poor. Organic Agriculture based on its encouraging concepts, experience and examples proposes a paradigm-shift in food security policies to ensure that hunger is history by 2050.
In 2009, the number of undernourished people reached one billion, three quarters of them live in rural areas . This is more than ever before. Despite the fact that the world produces 125% of the required food for all, 15% of people are hungry; and most of them are women and children. Global agriculture production today fails to feed the world’s poorest people since they lack access to income and resources such as fertile land, water, seeds and knowledge for a farming system adapted to local conditions and the demands of markets. The green revolution accomplished a lot but failed to combat hunger. It focused only on technology and relied on huge quantities of climate damaging inputs such as agro-chemicals.
Putting the last first IFOAM advocates for a paradigm shift in agricultural policies and offers its practices and systems to policy makers for adoption especially in the global south and for regions with food insecurity. Organic Agriculture puts the needs of rural people and the sustainable use of natural resources at the centre of the farming system. Locally adapted technologies create employment opportunities and income. Low external inputs minimize risk of indebtedness and intoxication of the environment. It increases harvests through practices that favor the optimization of biological processes and local resources over expensive, toxic and climate damaging agro-chemicals . Organic Agricultural practices bring land degraded by unsustainable farming practices, severe drought and soil erosion back into production . And in response to a frequently asked question: Yes, the world can be fed by the worldwide adoption of Organic Agriculture. The slightly lower yields of Organic Agriculture in favorable, temperate zones are compensated with approximately 10 – 20% higher yields in difficult environments such as arid areas .