Wonderful Reconnections and Meetings in Cebu and Now onto the FAO in New Delhi, India.

Wonderful Reconnections and Meetings in Cebu and Now onto the FAO in New Delhi, India.

I arrived safely to New Delhi early this morning after a wonderful first five days in the Philippines in Cebu. I really hit the ground running when I arrived last Saturday and despite some unfortunate changes to our plans (due to illness of a colleague) my time in Cebu while short, was oh so sweet and productive! First stop was the Saturday and Sunday Cebu Farmers Markets. What a joy to connect in person with the entire CAFEi Team (our partner NGO) and many of our dedicated Cebu partner farmers! We shared laughs, stories of their on-going recovery from Typhoon Odette, and some talks of future plans! More to come on this all!

A warm welcome on Saturday at the Cebu Farmers Market

We also had a wonderful planning meeting with CAFEi on Monday. Teresa and her team have a bold vision for Cebu food and seed sovereignty, and we continue to be honored to collaborate with them on these cross-cutting issues. Collaboration in this work is not easy, it takes deep time and care to foster healthy working and personal relationships amongst partners, and I am so grateful that we have found a partner that is equally committed to these values and work ethic, as all at CAFEi are. It was particularly special to get such wonderful quality 1-1 time with Teresa. She is a dear friend and sounding board as a fellow organizational founder/leader and I will always treasure how the universe opened the door for more of this space during my short stay in Cebu! All roads lead to more GSS Team members to charge our vision for Cebu forward!

Planning meeting with Team CAFEi and GSS

I also traveled north on the island to Arapal to visit GSS team member Harry at our seed production site. It was very special to get 1-1 time with Harry also and discuss his plans and visions for the future with local seed production and more. I had shared with the team before I left the US that having quality 1-1 time with each team member during this trip was a key priority for me and I am so happy to have kicked this off with Harry in Arapal.

I loved seeing our seed production site in action and am very excited for our yearend report about the planting cycles and which crops did best! Larger dedicated spaces for these types of seed trials are an essential step in responding to the climate realities our partner farmers face. Not only growing seeds but studying and learning what seeds survive these changes will supply the food of the future for our partner communities and indeed the world! Thank you for leading these efforts at Arapal Harry and more seed production sites in new regions of the country to come soon!

Now, on to the FAO 9th Session of the Governing Body for the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (say that 10 times fast 😉 here in New Delhi, India! Wow, what an incredible opportunity this is going to be for us this next week. Not only to reconnect in person with our mentor and dear friend Bill McDorman who connected us to this all. Bill and I have already spent the day talking for hours about our work the importance of our presence here and more, but to be an active participant in this complex international gathering that sets the policy and practices that govern our food and seed systems is truly amazing! The official session begins in a few days and walking into the main hall as they were setting up earlier today gave me chills!

The main hall for the sessions

Our world is an ever-growing complex place and now more than ever we must be able to come together to collectively solve the greatest challenges of our time. What could be more important to undertake and change for the better than the ability for ALL communities to grow, protect, and preserve their diverse food and seed systems that feed and sustain us all. That is what this treaty and the many parallel treaties and declarations of the United Nations are meant to be protecting and Global Seed Savers is humbled and honored to get to be in the room for these deliberations and play a hand in shaping their future. Most importantly as the theme for the session states, “Celebrating the Guardians of Crop Diversity.” For us, these guardians are our dedicated partner farmers at GSS and the millions of others around the globe. Ensuring their rights and perspective remain core to these treaties continued evolution will be a tremendous responsibility and honor. I am also thrilled to share that we have been accepted to host a side event on Thursday to share more about our work. This will be a wonderful opportunity for our model and efforts across the Philippines to be highlighted and to hopefully build pathways to deeper collaborations in the future.

These very beliefs and understanding of the humanity that connects us all, is what Eleanor Roosevelt brought to her visionary idea and key leadership role in the forming of the United Nations in 1945 (the FAO is agriculture arm of the UN). A deep belief that by coming together across our geographic borders, our differences in culture, identities, and belief systems we can build a better world that is committed to shared values of justice and peace. Time and time again, we have seen in our work that seeds are an essential bridge to breaking down these barriers. Nothing more fundamentally connects us all than food and the cultural connections and stories food resonates and facilitates and seeds are small, but oh so powerful common thread to this all!

Looking forward to sharing more updates and reflections as the Governing Body Sessions begins in the coming days!

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!

Ingat/Amping!

Sherry