Seeds of Resilience: A Compendium of Perspectives
Agricultural biodiversity is essential to the future of food. A deep pool of biodiversity will ensure that we have plant species and varieties that can withstand changing weather patterns. Agricultural biodiversity is directly connected to global nutrition, dietary health, cultural and culinary diversity, and to the resilience of local economies and markets. Seeds are central to the everyday practices of small-scale farmers that feed 70 per cent of the world’s population.
In order to understand the landscape of initiatives working to advance seed diversity globally, the Global Alliance commissioned a Compendium of Perspectives to illustrate a nuanced discussion on agricultural biodiversity, at times aligned and at times divergent. The majority of experts asked to contribute to this compendium support community based approaches to agricultural biodiversity conservation, a perspective often underappreciated in global discussions and policy circles where more formal, institutional, ex situ approaches have been the primary focus. Community based approaches have been given more voice in this compendium in an effort to bolster their importance and shine a light on their fundamental contribution to sustainable food systems. Many of the contributors to this compendium articulate that an important opportunity is being missed—an opportunity to foster better linkages and partnerships across diverse seed systems and across approaches to agricultural biodiversity. This opportunity aligns well with Global Alliance members’ mandates to support organizations and networks that strengthen community based and farmer centred seed systems.
The synthesis that follows represents a summary of the contributors’ key points and the shared themes woven throughout the compendium.
1. Diverse and robust local seed systems are central to sustainable food systems that are renewable, resilient, equitable, diverse, healthy, and interconnected.
2. Farmers have a crucial role in improving seed varieties and enhancing agricultural biodiversity, a role they have played throughout the history of agriculture.
3. The knowledge and practices of smallholder farmers, particularly those who are women and Indigenous Peoples, are central to the survival of local seed systems.
4. The value of resilient and diverse seed systems goes far beyond any economic measure. Community based seed systems are connected to diverse cultural and culinary traditions, health and wellness, resilient agroecological landscapes, and sustainable local economies.
5. Maintaining and enhancing agricultural biodiversity is critical in light of global challenges such as climate change, and food and nutrition security.
6. There is an urgent need to support community based and farmer managed seed systems in order to protect and enhance agricultural biodiversity.
7. Farmers should not be limited in their ability to access, exchange and improve the seeds they use—whether they are locally managed, government produced, or commercial seed varieties from other regions of the world.
8. Organizations led by Indigenous Peoples, women farmers and smallholder farmers need greater voice and influence in the development of local seed policy as well as the international governance systems that affect and regulate seeds.
9. There is great potential in farmers and the more formal seed establishment coming together to co-create solutions where they have a common agenda.
10. Strategic opportunities for positive change include: to continue to research and document the importance of community based seed systems, to support seed leaders to engage in policy advocacy, and to leverage additional funding from philanthropy, governments, and bilateral agencies for community based seed systems.