Reflection on the Seed School Teachers’ Training in Cebu

Reflection on the Seed School Teachers’ Training in Cebu

I am Elizabeth Martin. I am a seed saver and organic practitioner based here in Tawang, La Trinidad, Benguet. I am also the Field Coordinator of Global Seed Savers Philippines (GSSP).

Last August 24-26, 2022, my companions from BASS and I went to Cebu to attend a seminar on Seed School Teacher’s Training (SSTT).

 There were seven of us who attended the SSTT – three (3) were from the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS) and four (4) from the Cebu Seed Savers (CSS). The SSTT was held at the office of the Communities for Alternative Food Ecosystem (CAFEi) in Guadalupe, Cebu.

This is the second SSTT conducted by GSSP. The first one was held in Batangas some time ago. The goal of the training was to prepare us to become future seed school trainers.

Prior to the SSTT, I attended the seed savers training as a participant. The topics during the seed school were focused on seed saving. It included a discussion on the history of seed saving, why we should save seeds, as well as the skills needed to preserve seeds. Meanwhile, the SSTT was focused on self-awareness and communication skills. The SSTT also included a short course on seed saving.

During SSTT, I learned to appreciate myself better. I have also learned how I can better appreciate seeds and other people in my daily life. The training made me realize that by being aware of myself, I can deal better with others because like a seed, each one of us is unique.

I have also realized that in this life, everything comes in phases. Learning should not only be confined inside the four walls of the school. Learning can also come through our daily experiences. I have learned that these lessons can be used to create a more peaceful and enjoyable tomorrow.

Departures, Reflections, and the Familiar Yet Unknown Ahead

Departures, Reflections, and the Familiar Yet Unknown Ahead

As many of you know, I leave very early tomorrow morning (Friday) at 1:30am PST for 6 weeks of work travel in the Philippines and India. I am en-route at the Seattle Airport right now, phew… here I go!!  Preparing for this trip has been filled with many emotions as I have not been to the Philippines since December 2019. The world has changed so much in this seemingly short period of time and so much has expanded, deepened, and grown for the entire Global Seed Savers Community and me, during these challenging and beautiful years for our world.  

For me, the foundation of our work at Global Seed Savers has always been about deep personal relationships. These relationships began to germinate and take root when I sat at this very Seattle airport, 16 years ago preparing to leave for another big unknown, my Peace Corps service in the Philippines. This experience living, learning, and working side by side the Cosalan Family at ENCA Farm, and immersing myself in the culture and realities of the Philippines for 2.5 years was incredibly transformative and will always be my origin story of our evolving work and my love of the Philippines.

These last two years have opened space for lots of reflection for me personally and for us as an evolving organization. This process has not always been easy, most good things are not, it has been so challenging to watch the suffering across the world, it has been difficult to feel isolated and physically cut off from each other, and it has also been two of the largest years of growth and deepening our commitment to our mission at Global Seed Savers in our history!  

In the last two years we have: more than doubled our revenue year over year, enabling us to grow our team from 3 staff to a team of 7, and despite the many challenges our farmers and community partners continue to face, there is one thing that has remained consistent, our deep commitment to our simple but frankly very profound mission. Restoring communities’ abilities to grow their own food and preserve cultural traditions and values through saving their own seeds. Often in our sector, people want to talk about innovation and doing the “next big thing.” However, we are Global Seed Savers have always been deeply rooted in the firm belief that our work is about restoring a tradition and practice that has always worked. We are helping communities and even more so, they are helping us, remember our interconnectedness through the simple act of saving a seed and replanting them time and time again.  

I can share our impact numbers and metrics and you can visit our website to see these and learn more, but more than that, our work is about slow, steady change for communities. It is about restoring relationships to the land, to the seed, to culture, to each other. It is about remembering our interconnectedness! And for me, this is what this trip is also going to be about. Reconnecting to a land, people and place that I love!

This will also be the first time we are all gathering in person as a team! While Zoom has certainty made our global work not require travel, you really cannot replace the in person and I am so looking forward to our four day staff retreat next month and time face to face with the dedicated and wonderful people that make GSS tick and operate on the ground! We are not just colleagues, but we really are a family that genuinely cares for each other.

This trip will also be about a big new adventure and opportunity for growth for Global Seed Savers. Thanks to our mentor and dear friend Bill McDorman, we have been accepted to attend the FAO 9th Governing Body Session on the Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi, India in mid-September. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this exciting FAO gathering and learn, contribute, and ensure that the voices of the true heroes in agriculture are represented, our dedicated partner farmers. At this critical moment in history there has never been a more important time to advocate for the restoration of local food and seed systems. We will also be spending three days at Navdanya, Vandana Shiva’s farm in outside of Dehradun.  

My wonderful colleague and dear friend Karen often says, “When you hold a seed, you are holding the past, present and future.”  This is a fitting statement for all I am feeling as I begin this journey. Just like the seeds our farmers grow, I am holding all of these things’ memories of my past trips and times in the Philippines, the current realities facing our world and our work, and also holding immense gratitude and hope for all that will unfold during these next 6 weeks.

Thank you for being part of our ever-growing community and Global Seed Savers and thank you for being a strong support to me!

Next update from the ground in Cebu!



Save The Date For the 12th Nourish Celebration!

Save The Date For the 12th Nourish Celebration!

We are excited to be returning to an in person Nourish in Denver and also include our virtual community with this Hybrid 12th Annual Nourish Celebration.

Please Save the Date and more details soon to follow!

Friday, December 2nd 6-8pm Denver Time
Saturday, December 3rd 8-10am Philippines Time

To get updates regarding Nourish, subscribe to our 
events calendar.
Team GSS is Heading to New Delhi, India for the FAO 9th Governing Body Session for the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources

Team GSS is Heading to New Delhi, India for the FAO 9th Governing Body Session for the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources

Thanks to our mentor and strong advocate, Bill McDorman (formerly with the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, now at Cornville Seeds) we have been accepted to attend the Food and Agriculture Organization, 9th Governing Body Session on the Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi, India in mid-September.


Our Executive Directors, Sherry Manning and Karen Lee Hizola, and Bill McDorman, will be attending as observers. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to advocate for our small-holder partner farmers and network with the delegations and participants from around the world.
To get updates regarding this visit, make sure to subscribe to our social media accounts.
We are thrilled to have the opportunity to participate in this exciting FAO gathering and learn, contribute, and ensure that the voices of the true heros in agriculture are represented, our dedicated partner farmers. At this critical moment in history there has never been a more important time to advocate for the restoration of local food and seed systems.
Sherry Manning

US Executive Director, Global Seed Savers

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.

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.

    These two events have once again, allowed us to 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]

    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]

    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]

    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] 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], … 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], … 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]

    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.