Dear Friends and Colleagues
A mere four plant species (potatoes, rice, maize and wheat) and three animal species (cattle, swine and chickens) provide more than half of our food supply. Hundreds of thousands of farmers’ heterogeneous plant varieties and landscapes that existed for generations in farmers’ fields until the beginning of the twentieth century have been substituted by a small number of modern and highly uniform commercial varieties. Rural-urban migration, population growth, the consolidation of the seed industry, and the global focus on increasing agricultural productivity are threatening the viability of thousands of seed varieties.
The Global Alliance for the Future of Food has released a compendium by experts from around the world to weigh in on a future that protects and improves resilient community-based and farmer-managed seed systems. The compendium makes an urgent case for protecting agricultural biodiversity, which is critical to global food and nutrition security, smallholder prosperity and resilient local economies.
Some of the common threads across the compendium are: robust seed systems are central to sustainable food systems that are renewable, resilient, equitable, diverse, healthy, and interconnected; seeds are sacred and hold value and meaning beyond markets; women and indigenous peoples play a central role in agricultural biodiversity; community-based seed systems are a strategy for restoring, maintaining and rehabilitating agricultural biodiversity; and new partnership models that bridge traditional divides between diverse geographical contexts, and formal and informal, private and public sector approaches to agricultural biodiversity conservation are needed.
Key recommendations are: (1) to develop a coordinated advocacy strategy in support of community-based seed systems; (2) to provide greater resources and support to community-based seed systems; and (3) to strengthen the central role women and indigenous farmers play in agricultural biodiversity.
With best wishes,
Future of Food: Seeds of Resilience
Global Alliance for the Future of Food
1. Diverse and robust local seed systems arecentral 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. Indigenous, local, and traditional knowledge and practices are central to resilient 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. Farmers’ organizations, especially those led by smallholders, women and Indigenous 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.