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The Future of Food: Seeds of Resilience

Summary of Recommendations from Contributors

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International/national policy and advocacy

  • Strengthen the capacity of farmers’ organizations and social movements to address policy matters that are central to their seed, food and livelihood systems.
  • Support the development of policies and laws that promote and strengthen community based agrobiodiversity management and remove harmful policies.
  • Create space for the participation of farmer organizations and social movements at policy fora at various levels and strengthen and support them on policy matters that are central to their seed, food and livelihood systems (i.e., CBD, CGRFA, ITPGRFA and FAO Committee on Food Security (CFS), International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • Support efforts to raise awareness of policy and decision makers about the key roles of agricultural diversity, in situ and on-farm conservation and community based diversity management.
  • Divert public resources from subsidizing corporate consolidation of the seed industry to supporting and strengthening farmer seed systems.

International/national Agrobiodiversity management and conservation

Support scaling of community seed systems

  • Create a supportive framework for community based diversity management initiatives.
  • Provide support to achieve scale through interaction with various levels of government and other key seed and food security actors.
  • Enhance collaboration and effectiveness among seed and agroecology networks operating regionally and globally.
  • Build links between agrobiodiversity conservation efforts to farmer associations wherever possible.
  • Build capacity of CBOs and farmers’ organizations to participate in global seed policy discussions
  • Support rural women’s participation in seed dialogues as they are central to seed diversity.
  • Build capacity of farmers’ and community based organizations as well as national researchers and extension agents in a broad range of domains.
  • Develop and adopt a special program for the formation and development of agrobiodiversity conservation and seed production at the community level involving specialists, experienced farmers, and scientists–agrarians.
  • Start indigenous agricultural research stations in the United States northern plains region, for training of tribal leadership for food systems.
  • Support tribal agricultural infrastructure.

Advocacy/institutional reform/monitoring (i.e., seed law and FAO)

  • Support advocacy on the impact of seed laws that undermine local seed saving, and on trade, land and investment policies that are eroding community control of the commons, natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity that are crucial to the long-term survival of family farming systems.
  • Monitor intellectual property laws and the limits these impose—whether intentional or not—on farmers’ ability to freely produce and exchange seed.
  • Support the development of seed-related legislation at the international, national and regional levels.
  • Reform FAO regional conferences to include seed dialogues and introduce seed and agroecology issues into the agendas of the Governing Body of the ITPGRFA at ministerial-level regional conferences.
  • Create a required course in agricultural universities teaching the preservation of local seeds.
  • Develop curricula and training courses, for local seed production and secondary school classes devoted to the issues of preservation of a variety of seeds.

International/national Research

Policy and institutional issues

  • Evaluate if current national and international gene banks are accessible to farmers by taking a formal survey of major gene banks to ascertain who is accessing gene banks and for what purposes.
  • Research the current and historic levels of funding for in situ seed storage. This data should be contrasted with the available information on ex situ storage funding.
  • Explore the opportunity for a version of the Civil Society Mechanism for the Seed Treaty.
  • Support the evaluation by farmers of agriculture-related UN agencies and CGIAR centres.
  • Identify policy spaces and priorities, working with farmers, their associations and other CSOs at local, national and regional levels in order to secure official support for farmer seed systems in laws, policies, programs, budgets and projects.
  • Support research on effective policy and legal mechanisms and incentives to support farmers and their organizations to make the best use of agricultural biodiversity and to have their voices and choices recognized and taken into consideration.

Community seed systems

  • Support participatory, transdisciplinary research in which farmers collaborate on equal footing with researchers and in which traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge are combined.
  • Support research on novel ways to make markets work for the custodians of agricultural biodiversity.
  • Support research on direct nutritional benefits of diversified food production, diversified diets, and the enhanced nutritional value of farmers’ varieties and wild and semicultivated foods.
  • Support research on seed-network-building methodologies and strategies.
  • Support research on the functional contribution of seed diversity to agroecosystems properties, including the provision of regulating, supporting, provisioning ecosystem services.
  • Support research on the characterization of genetic resources adapted to local conditions.
  • Support research on low cost seed conservation technologies.

International/national Education and knowledge exchange

Capacity-building and training

  • Strengthen knowledge exchange and networking at the community, regional, national and international level, both farmer-to-farmer and among organizations and institutions via networking and relationship-building to develop a common understanding.
  • Identify “champions” from different organizations at district and provincial levels (university lecturers, researchers, technicians and farmers) and train them on the job as innovation facilitators/brokers. Facilitate a learning cycle with stakeholders.
  • Organize study, and exchange of experience between seed-keeping farmers of different regions through mobile seminars and meetings.
  • Introduce local farmers to the best practices in other countries for creating a network of seed keepers, a gene bank, seed funds, seed storage, etc.
  • Support collaborative partnerships with organic farming, transitional farming and farm coaching work, for community based tribal agriculture.
  • Establish national networks of local seed-saving organizations—autonomous peasant networks led by people whose livelihoods depend on the continued use of peasant seeds.
  • Create national and regional networks and strengthen existing ones. These could be food and agriculture biodiversity management networks, farmers’ seed producer networks, community seed banks, fruit grower networks, networks of vegetable seed savers, farmer bakers, and rural women processors.

Institutional recommendations

  • Establish an Office for Farmer Seed Exchanges within the FAO Secretariat in Rome to record requests and responses to those requests. The office should operate in various languages, have a website disseminate print materials.
  • Reinforce agroecological practices as way to diversify farming systems, improve farmers’ independence and family farms’ capacity to deal with climate and political change.
  • Provide technical support to link farmers with public sector R&D systems.

Research

  • Work with public health institutions to explore the link between nutrition and seed diversity.
  • Create a database for farmers on gene banks’ accessions, pests, diseases, climate conditions and include mapping.
  • Shape research by all participants and use it as a tool towards planning concrete actions.

Local/community Agrobiodiversity management and conservation

  • Support baseline assessments of diversity.
  • Support community based and farmer driven seed systems, including in situ and on-farm seed conservation and use, seed banking, and participatory applied research (PVS and PPB) aimed at the development of a broad and diverse base of adapted plant genetic resources.
  • Create a supportive framework for community based diversity management initiatives.
  • Strengthen farmers’ and community based organizations that work to support community based and farmer driven seed systems (i.e., seed management, breeding techniques, marketing skills, community participation and bottom-up planning and decision making, participatory varietal selection [PVS] and plant breeding [PPB], community seed banking systems, seed storage techniques and appropriate technologies).
  • Support the launch, spreading, networking and deepening of local/regional initiatives and the piloting of new innovations.
  • Support and link local peasant organizations implementing work on agroecology and dynamic management of biodiversity for food and agriculture at the field/landscape level.
  • Research farmer seed strategies and storage by community, climate and crops, situated within the frame of climate change resiliency.
  • Strengthen cultural practices and traditional knowledge that supports the use of diversity in a production.
  • Support adding value at the local level through processing and marketing local varieties in local and regional markets via markets, seed and food fairs, and urban-rural linkages.
  • Organize scientists and seed-growing farmers’ meetings, field days, field schools, trainings, round tables, and the publication of recommendations, brochures, and manuals, etc.
  • Create networks of local farmers engaged in the production of seeds, such as seed keepers’ networks, associations, cooperatives, women’s groups, men’s groups in villages, and the regional and district level.
  • Support smallholder farmers to have greater connectivity to the markets—both to access new technology, credit, insurance, and to market excess production.

LOCAL/LANDSCAPE AND REGIONAL Education / Knowledge Exchange

  • Support the creation of and strengthening of existing national and regional networks of practitioners in the management of biodiversity for food and agriculture, such as farmers’ seed producer networks, fruit grower networks, vegetable seed savers, farmer bakers, and rural women processors.
  • Develop competencies, capabilities and capacities so that great ideas become practical tools to improve local seed systems.
  • Strengthen the brokering capacity in individuals and organizations and link informal and formal seed sectors.
  • Enhance farmers’ access to seeds and information on various cultivars, even in remote villages, by seeding or inputting shops in target villages, seed fairs and mobile seed shops.
  • Create a local value chain and local market by valuing specific varieties as healthy food. Farmers can be encouraged to add these to their existing portfolio, improving family nutrition and income generation.
  • Identify appropriate seed growing farmers involved with local seed preparation so that they can teach that information to other farmers in their community.