Report on GSS Activities, Some Highlights

Report on GSS Activities, Some Highlights

Quarter 1 of 2022 has barely ended, but Global Seed Savers’ work is already in full swing. It’s as if we were all making up for the 2020 and 2021.

Last March 15, 2022, we conducted the Food Sovereignty Launching in Tublay, Benguet. As part of the campaign, we have also conducted two more workshops: Climate Smart Agriculture in Cebu and a training on Underutilized Legumes in the Cordillera. Aside from these two activities, we also celebrated Earth Day last April 22, 2022 with several farmers from Tublay by giving a short lecture on seed saving.[This article is focused on the first two activities mentioned above. For an update regarding our Earth Day 2022 Celebration read, Reflecting on our Earth Day Celebrations].

Highlights from the Climate Smart Agriculture Workshop

The Climate Smart Agriculture Workshop was conducted last March 23 to 25, 2022 at the Arapal Nature Farms in Cebu. It was facilitated by Farmer Jon Sarmiento from Mindoro, and attended by our partners at CAFEi and the Cebu Seed Savers.

Of the many important topics that was discussed by Farmer Jon, one that had a great impact was the importance of prioritizing food security for the families. He says that food should be locally produced and processed.

That food is essential to societies is no longer debatable. But the pandemic has taught us that disruptions in food supply can happen. Can you imagine how a community that is solely reliant on food imports and has no capacity to produce its own food fared during the pandemic?

But Farmer Jon’s discussion of food security did not just refer to the abundance of food. He also discussed the importance of nutrition security, which enabled him to discuss the many intricacies of food production. He discussed the importance of adhering to Intensified Diversified Organic Farming Systems (IDOFS) and Permaculture and stresses need to adhere to the values and principles that respect the interdependence of nature and human societies.

Beyond the skills of conducting Farm Vulnerability Assessments, and planning for disaster-proof farms, Farmer Jon has also sought to introduce to attendees a new philosophy of farming which offers a good balance between protecting the traditional practices, and promoting innovation.

Here are a few photos from the workshop:

Highlights from the Seminar on Underutilized Food Legume Species and Development of Specialty Legume-Based Food

This workshop was held last April 8, 2022 in partnership with the Benguet State Education Higher Education Regional Research Center (BSU-HERRC).

Here are some of the highlights of that lecture:

  • Dr. Belinda Tad-awan opened the seminar with a discussion of her research on some of the most underutilized food legumes that can be found in Benguet and the Mountain Province. Some of the species mentioned included cowpea, lima bean, pigeon pea, and rice bean.
  • Hector Gayomba went next to discuss his experiment on various organic seed treatments.
  • Mr. Gayomba’s study found that the most effective seed protectants we can use during seed storage are pulverized madre de cacao leaves and pine wood ash. Meanwhile, the most effective organic materials are coconut juice and extracts from horsetail plant, sunflower, malunggay, papaya, and garlic.
  • The seminar closed with a lecture on processing legumes in order to produce various food products.

Here are some photos from the seminar:

These two events have once again, rediscover the reality that there are many ways to achieve food sovereignty in the Philippines. These have also reminded us of our unique role in helping farmers access important information that can help them improve their practice.

Reflecting on our Earth Day Celebrations

Reflecting on our Earth Day Celebrations

Why are we celebrating Earth day? I have always thought of it as a corporate gimmick which was geared towards getting more people to spend. But my research into the origins of Earth Day has led me to several insights.

The first celebration of Earth Day was in the 1970s, which was attended by 40,000 to 60,000 people. From the beginning, Earth day was designed to raise awareness about persistent  environmental issues which plagues the planet. Environmental activism was still in its beginning stages and the Earth day helped propel climate consciousness forward. [1]https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/earth-day/

Efren giving introduction on the importance of seed saving.

The Earth Day was so powerful that just a year after, the US passed important policies such as The Clean Air Act, The Water Quality Improvement Act, The Endangered Species Act, The Toxic Substances Control Act, and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.[2]https://www.colorado.edu/ecenter/2021/04/15/history-and-importance-earth-day

Since then, Earth Day has become a day for reflection on how our actions serve to protect or harm our planet. It also serves as a reminder for the significance of protecting the health of the planet, and a day for asking ourselves what we can do to help ensure continuity of life on earth.

Many people credit Earth day as a vital turning point: from a society whose main goal was to extract resources from the Earth, we have now reached a point of awakening to our common destiny as citizens of this planet.

But even as environmental consciousness is spreading around the world, to this day, the degradation of our natural resources continue. We are now in the midst of a climate crisis. In fact, in its February 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that some impacts of global warming is no longer reversible. [3]https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-60525591

According to the study, “Over 40% of the world’s population are highly vulnerable to climate and that…places where people live and work may cease to exist, that ecosystems and species that we’ve all grown up with and that are central to our cultures and inform our languages may disappear”.

Despite these bleak predictions, however, Dr. Helen Adams, the report’s lead author from King’s College, London says, “things are bad, but actually, the future depends on us, not the climate”.

Karen discusses the impact of GMOs on our health.

If we are to turn things around for our planet, and for our societies, we must be ready to take drastic action.

But what exactly does it mean?

The theme for this year’s Earth day is  “Invest in our Planet”.[4]https://www.earthday.org/ It proposes two solutions:

  • net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century to keep the global temperature below 1.5°C, and
  • the use of regenerative agriculture

How can these be translated to the Philippine context? As an agricultural country, the second solution may be most applicable for us, and in this, we are happy to say that conversations are already underway. [5]https://mb.com.ph/2022/02/09/regenerative-agriculture-practices-a-key-to-sustainability/, … Continue reading

But the way forward is still wrought with many challenges. The struggle for the transformation of the Philippines’ agricultural landscape is real.

For one, thousands of farmers in the country still refuse to transition to organic farming despite knowing the environmental and health impact of chemical agriculture. Our very own government is also pushing for GMO products, despite massive resistance among farmers, the most recent of which is the Golden Rice.[6]https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Agriculture/Philippines-stirs-controversy-with-genetically-modified-rice, … Continue reading

A 2014 study published by the American Marketing Association shows that belief systems, not profit, is the main reason why chemical farmers continue with their practice. The study found that “[M]aking that change [from chemical to organic] feels like switching belief systems”.[7]https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141111092825.htm

Manang Elizabeth discussing the wet and dry methods of seed saving. 

This discovery now points to the reality that the problem is now ideological. This makes the work of Global Seed Savers (GSS) and other environmental organizations both easy and difficult.

On the one hand, the “battle” is difficult because we will be going against deeply entrenched belief systems and decades of destructive habits.

On the other hand, it is also easy because we now know what we are up against. Now we need to come up with new ways of inspiring farms to adopt changes in their practice which are both sustainable and profitable.

And because the challenge is now ideological, it will require from us a lot of conversations with partner farmers in order to find the balance between their dreams for the future, and the need to restore our ailing planet.

We realize now the importance of going about our work in a holistic way. In the same way that we must ensure that regionally-adapted seeds are accessible to farmers, we must also pay attention to the health of the soil, water, and air. [This is the reason why we are now engaged with food sovereignty and the conversation about climate smart agriculture, read Report on GSS Activities, Some Highlights].

This Earth Day has led us back to a space of gratitude, for this planet, and for our friends and allies who continue to protect our living planet. Our work is just beginning, but we are ready.

Food Sovereignty Launching

Food Sovereignty Launching

March 15, 2022. This is the day we officially launched  the food sovereignty campaign through the support of our partners from the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS). But for me, who has been with Global Seed Savers Philippines (GSSP) for less than a year, this was an important day for a different reason. It was the first time I personally met the farmers whom I’ve only seen in photos. It was also the first time I came to Tublay, and the first time I experienced first-hand the work of GSSP. I was both excited and anxious, but also, determined to observe and learn the ways of the community.

The activities were pretty simple, with the blessing of the soil and seed as major highlights. We had planned for a ritual to express our gratitude to the land and the seeds that enable our farmers to continue producing food for our communities. And of course, there was a lot of music, dancing, and food! Here are some photos and videos from the event: 

This, however, was not a simple celebration. It was also a coming together of two communities, both devastated by typhoons in the recent past, one that has recovered, the other, still in the process of recovering. A major objective of the activity was to bridge the connection between the farmers of Tublay and the farmers of Cebu. As you may already know, Cebu has recently been devastated by Typhoon Odette. But this is not the first time that farmers in the Philippines have had to rebuild their farms (and lives) after a typhoon. In previous years, it was the farmers of Benguet who needed help. Farmers from Cebu readily sent their seed stocks to help re-enliven the farms of Benguet. Now it is the Benguet farmers’ turn to help Cebu rise up from the devastation of Odette.

Through this event, the farmers of Benguet sent their compatriots from the South, prayers of strength, healing, and nourishment so that they may overcome their current challenges. In one part of the program, Karen, our Philippines Executive Director, asked all attendees to stand and touch the seeds and the soil which was going to be sent to Cebu. She said, this was so we could share our “microbes and microorganisms” to our partner farmers in Cebu.[1]Perhaps in future posts, we will have the opportunity to discuss the microbiome and its connection to agriculture. For now, we hope you read this resource to better understand the value of this … Continue reading This held a lot of meaning for me.

And though simple the entire event was, it led me to a lot of realizations and lessons. For one, it helped me realize how the land, and agriculture in general, represent the interconnectedness of Filipinos. Agriculture and all the traditions and knowledge systems built around it are what makes our communities thrive.

Another realization I had during the activity was this: farmers recovered from the climate disruptions they have experienced in recent years because they have not forgotten the spirit of bayanihan.

“This spirit is indeed the heart and soul of our work at Global Seed Savers! Seeds, seed saving, building a community committed to sustainably feeding itself and resisting the ever growing stronger corporate and chemical take over of our food system, is only possible when done together…in community….with a true spirit of bayanihan!”

 

 

— Sherry Manning, Nourish Celebrates Bayanihan Spirit

As I say these words, I realize that there are so many ideas, concepts, and insights here that would need time and space to unpack. Perhaps, in future articles, we  would be able to expound on these ideas as they appear in the Philippine context. For now, however, I want to center on this one idea: There is so much to be done in terms of food sovereignty in the Philippines, but our communities already have the foundations to make it happen. Our communities have all the elements to make food sovereignty a reality in the country. It is only a matter of utilizing the knowledge we already have, and remembering the power they hold. As I leave Tublay, a single thought echoes in my mind: “The heart of the Filipino is in the right place”. As our world is currently in turmoil, I realize just how valuable this is. Though many of us are caught up in feelings of turmoil and hopelessness, the community and the lessons of the past ensures that our hearts will continue to beat together, in search of a better future.