In collaboration with Cebu Seed Savers, the GSSP Team recently organized an action planning session in Cebu City. This event brought together twenty-one dedicated farmers who are passionate about seed conservation and sustainable agriculture. The highlight of the gathering was the collective agreement among the Cebu Seed Savers to establish a governance structure, defining the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of the officers. This participatory discussion on seed tasking and production showcased the commitment of these farmers towards preserving seed diversity and empowering their community.
The action planning session took place at AA BBQ Ramos Ranudo St., Cebu City which provided a conducive environment for collaboration and meaningful discussions. The venue buzzed with anticipation as the Cebu Seed Savers, guided by the GSSP Team, came together to strategize and shape the future of their seed-saving initiatives.
Through thoughtful discussions and shared insights, the farmers collectively defined the roles of key positions such as the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and other necessary roles. This governance structure aims to provide clarity, accountability, and smooth coordination within the Cebu Seed Savers, ensuring the continuity and growth of their seed-saving efforts.
Join us in congratulating the newly elected officials for Cebu Seed Savers!
President : Reinario Cabico
Vice President: Melodina Esconde
Secretary: Judina Oberres
Treasurer: Alejandro Camilo Sr.
Auditor: Praxedes Embalzado
PRO/ Information Officer
1.South Cebu – Adelwisa Pacana
2.North Cebu- Rosaflor Estenzo
Another crucial aspect of the action planning session was the participatory discussion on seed tasking and production. The farmers shared their experiences, challenges, and successes in seed-saving practices. We identified the need for a Monitoring and Evaluation Session, CSS identified seeds that they are able to grow and harvest, and broke down our strategies for the next stages of establishing a new Seed Library. By fostering an open dialogue, the participants were able to exchange valuable knowledge, techniques, and best practices.
During this discussion, the farmers collectively explored strategies to enhance seed production, improve seed quality, and expand their seed-saving network. The GSSP team facilitated the brainstorming session, offering guidance and technical expertise where needed. The active engagement and collaboration of the farmers ensured that their voices were heard, and their contributions were incorporated into the action plan.
By providing a platform for collective decision-making, knowledge sharing, and skill-building, this event not only strengthens the Cebu Seed Savers but also encourages a sense of ownership and empowerment among the participants.
Moving forward, the established governance structure will serve as a roadmap for effective leadership and organizational growth. The farmers, armed with newfound clarity and purpose, will continue their vital work in preserving seed diversity, contributing to food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture in the region.
With empowered farmers at the control, the Cebu Seed Savers are poised to make a significant impact on their local community and beyond, inspiring others to join the journey of seed conservation and sustainable agriculture.
See more photos taken during this community action planning session!
Our new Philippines Executive Director, Hal Atienza has jumped right into community building alongside Efren Cabbigat, GSSP Program Manager, and Harry Paulino, Cebu Seed Production Coordinator.
Our partners from CAFEi ( Cafei Executive Director Teresa Ruelas and Cafei Lead Trainer and Programs Rina Mabalhin) and our GSS team traveled to CAFEi’s office in Guadalupe, Cebu City to hold a critical community conversation about seed sovereignty and establishing more community seed libraries throughout Cebu Province.
One of GSS’ priorities for this year is to facilitate more focus group discussions with our partners. To enable us to learn and build together the next steps and visions for our collective work in building food and seed sovereignty. Focus group discussions like these allow us to hear feedback, challenges, and lessons learned from individuals who are seed saving and managing Seed Libraries. Every community members’ experiences are important. Some individuals have their own seed repositories and some want to learn more about how they could support existing future seed libraries.
At GSS we value farmer led conversations. Farmers help direct and lead our programs, and focus group discussions make space for emerging conversation topics like guidelines of how they want to set up seed libraries, type of seeds they want to be available at seed libraries, seed library storage techniques, and more!
We are so glad that our new Philippines Executive Director, Hal, was able to join the rest of our GSSP Program Team and guide this significant community conversation with our partners at CAFEI and other key stakeholders.
See more photos taken during this community conversation
Harry Paulino (GSSP Cebu Seed Production Coordinator), two of our Cebu Seed Savers partner farmers, Reinario Cabico and Dito Jancinal, and 20 other participants joined together at Alhibe Farm, Carmen Cebu, Philippines for a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) from February 2-11, 2023. This course was facilitated by Bert Peeters, former President of Philippine Permaculture Association (PPA) and Joel Lee of Car-Car, Cebu, who is also one of the first permaculturists in the Philippines. The PDC was a collaboration between PPA and Alhibe Farm.
During the 10-day activity, participants learned permaculture principles. They also learned a variety of fundamental practices in permaculture, for example, applying permaculture practices from scratch, and creating permaculture designs in different terrains. The participants also had a first-hand experience of bamboo modeling of structures as part of the design exercises. They also learned how to use nature as inspiration for the permaculture design process, as well as discover how to apply the Permaculture Assessment Approach.
We are thrilled that our staff and Cebu partner farmers got the opportunity to learn more about permaculture farm design and apply these practices within their own farm!
Here are two of the most important quotes and reflections shared by Harry:
1. Plan, Plan, Plan, and Plant.
2. Permaculture for me serves as the backbone of regenerative, sustainable agriculture tools and systems. It is beyond systems thinking, farm designing, implementation, etc. It requires a conscious daily activity of reflecting about how our actions affect nature and ecosystems. It is about re-aligning and re-designing our choices and lifestyle so that they are harmony with what nature generously gives and provides to us.
As permaculture systems are inherently about developing sustainable and self-sufficient agricultural eco-systems. Our hope is that by learning permaculture, our farmers will gain a deeper appreciation for the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. We also hope that by learning to design spaces according to nature’s patterns, our farmers will be able to develop farms that are resilient to climate change and disasters.
We believe that permaculture practices will help us achieve our vision of “hunger-free and healthy communities with access to sustainable, farmer-produced seeds and food”. We also believe that the path towards food sovereignty must include farming practices that work coincide with the earth in the most sustainable and holistic way.
See more photos taken during the Permaculture Design Course
It has been a very busy and productive two weeks here in the Philippines. Wow hard to believe it has already been two weeks! It was wonderful to arrive and stay with my dear friend and our Philippines Board President Padma and her family. They have a beautiful oasis of an old family home right off of Taft and ESDA in the heart of Metro Manila. For any of you that have been to the Philippines you know that this is a jam packed, dense, loud, crowded area of what I affectionately call “The Big Smoke” (Metro Manila). So it was a breath of fresh air after a long journey to stay in their lovely ancestral home with high ceilings, friendly faces, and comforting delicious Filipino Food for one night.
The next day we had a leisurely drive North to Baguio City, and as we started to crest up the mountainside the air began to change and the cool pine tree breeze and familiar energy of Baguio City greeted us. While the city is ever increasing in traffic and noise it is always wonderful to return to the mountains and my second home here in the North. The following day Padma launched her book “Green Entanglements: Nature Conservation and Indigenous Peoples Rights in Indonesia and the Philippines.” A beautiful culmination of her PhD and time spent living, learning, and listening to indigenous communities about the many entanglements our modern world can present for nature conservation and IP communities. It was a wonderful book launch to honor Padma’s hard work and turned into a fantastic reunion of many Baguio City friends gathering to celebrate Padma and reconnect.
Global Seed Savers Team with Padma and Jenny at the book launch.
With our friends of Denver SilverHand that also run a coffee farm in Baguio.
2nd Philippine Permaculture Association Convergence
The next morning we rose early joined by our partner farmers Ma’am Ester and Ma’am Letty and headed back south to Los Banos (2 hours south of Manila, so 8 hours from Baguio) to attend the 2nd Convergence of the Philippines Permaculture Association (PPA). PPA has become a fantastic partner in our work incorporating seed saving into their design courses and helping support our farmers’ participation in their trainings. The convergence was a beautiful gathering of like-minded souls from all over the Philippines each doing their part to build a more sustainable future. It was wonderful to reconnect with many of our partners including our dear friends and seed sisters at Kai Farms Karla and Amena. We held a Seed School there last year and are looking forward to hosting another Seed School with them inearly 2019 and helping develop a community seed library in Silang, Cavite.
BASS Farmers Maam Ester and Maam Letty at the PPA Convergence
GSS with our Seed Sister Karla Delgado of Kai Farms
Karen, our dynamic Country Manager led a fantastic breakout session all about seed saving and the importance of our growing work. She beautifully described how seed saving paired with permaculture principles will lead to the most food and climate- resilient communities. There is indeed a growing awareness around the Philippines of the importance of saving seeds and ensuring all communities have access to their own locally produced non-chemically treated seeds. We are thrilled to be spreading this message and skill set with more partners and helping Filipino communities return to this sustainable and historic practice. It is becoming more clear as we share our work with a broader community, that there is a massive need to increase the local seed stock available to farmers and gardeners throughout the Philippines. Each time we share about our work more and more people wake up and realize the critically important role they play in this process. We are excited to see where all of the wonderful connections made at the PPA Convergence take us and thankful for the opportunity to have shared about our mission and advocacy with this wonderful community of farmers, earth healers, and friends!
Workshop participant during the Seed ID Activity
Karen teaching about seeds
Growing Collaborations in Cebu
After a quick one-night stay in Manila last Sunday, Karen and I flew to Cebu City on Monday morning to meet with our partners, the Cebu Farmers Market and their recently formed NGO, CAFÉ-I – Communities for Alternative Food Eco-Systems Initiative. We held two Seed Schools in Cebu this year and with their vibrant organic market happening three days a week in Cebu City we have been excited to explore a more long-term relationship and creation of a seed saving hub in Cebu. Cebu City is also where Karen grew up and her parents live. They were kind enough to host us while we were there and it was wonderful to spend some time with her family.
With our partners in Cebu Teresa and Bingbing of Cebu Farmers Market and CAFE-I!
Many of our dynamic partners around the Philippines are led by strong duos of women and Cebu is a perfect example of this! Ate Bingbing is a Slow Food Advocate and has helped establish and manage the small Seed Library they started earlier this year after our first Seed School. Ate Teresa is a tireless community organizer who years ago had the vision to create access to healthy organic food in Cebu which is what formed the vibrant Cebu Farmers Market. They partner with farmers to sell locally produced healthy organic produce and products three days a week in Cebu City. Teresa is also very active in the Anti-Golden Rice Advocacy (GMO) Movement and extremely passionate about our collective work.
On Tuesday morning we met at their beautiful office space set up on a hillside with three small rooms and a beautiful deck for outdoor meeting space and a garden. Since holding our two Seed Schools in Cebu earlier this year, it has become clear there is a growing movement for organic farming on the island and desire to launch a seed saving program. We had a great planning session to prepare for our meeting with the farmers on Thursday. We also enjoyed a wonderful lunch with two of the leaders at the Cebu Farmers Market, Tita Jeidy and Kuya (older brother) Dito. They both have amazing personal stories of overcoming health challenges through growing their passion for organic farming and access to healthy and sustainable food.
Kuya Dito is a graduate of our earlier Seed Schools and a passionate seed saver, proven by the fact that within moments of our time together he pulled out seeds from his pack! A number of years ago a coconut tree fell on his back leaving his legs slightly paralyzed. He now walks with two canes and leg braces. However, this nearly life-devastating experience helped him become more passionate about organic farming. Despite his physical limitations he continues to work hard to produce a wide diversity of organic crops and help restore many local varieties of fruit. His farm is known for passion fruit production and he was kind enough to give me a bag of delicious passion fruit before we left. The humble kindness and generosity of the farmers we work with never ceases to amaze me!
On Thursday a group of 30 farmers gathered at the CAFÉ-I Office to learn more about launching a Cebu Seed Savers Group. Karen and I spent the morning sharing more about our work, the model we have created in Benguet Province, and the importance of communities returning to saving their own seeds and operating seed libraries. The participants ranged from landowners who are passionate about organic farming, smallholder farmer co-ops, young farmers as well. The average age of farmers in the Philippines is 57, so a key to ensuring a food secure future for the Philippines is encouraging and training the next generation of farmers.
During the second half of the meeting all participants located on a map where their farms are and shared more about the types of crops they are currently growing, and what seeds they would like to be producing. It was wonderful see the spread of these dedicated farms across the island of Cebu. Cebu City is the oldest City in the Philippines and used to be the capitol of the Country. Cebu is a southern hub of the country and we are strategically very excited to be expanding our work to this region to form a Cebu Seed Savers Group. All of the participants are excited to join in this effort and they will be meeting again in early January to make further plans. Karen will also be traveling to Cebu in February to conduct another Seed School and a Seed School Teacher Training Course to ensure those that wish to teach seed saving in their communities have the skills and knowledge to do this.
While we are still finalizing our plans for how the Cebu Seed Savers Group will be organized and managed, we are thrilled to see our work grow to this important Southern Regional Hub of the Philippines. We are grateful for our growing collaborations and so thankful to be building this movement with Cebu Farmers Market, CAFÉ-I, and all of their participating farmers!