Global Seed Savers and BASS Strengthen the Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Global Seed Savers and BASS Strengthen the Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

In a world grappling with climate change, biodiversity loss, and food security concerns, the preservation and exchange of traditional seeds have become increasingly crucial. Recognizing the significance of this mission, the GSS recently held a follow-up meeting with our partner organization, the Benguet Association of Seed Savers (BASS). 

The meeting was a comprehensive endeavor, encompassing the review of BASS’s constitution and by-laws, the election of new officers, the creation of a new strategic plan, and the examination of financial reports. The gathering aimed to reinforce the foundation for sustainable agriculture and advance the joint pursuit of seed conservation.

Help us applaud BASS’ new elected Officers:

President – Annette Sinakay; Vice President – Letty Bisco; Secretary – Agnes Philip; Assistant Secretary – Leona Otas; Treasurer – Agnes Philip; Assistant Treasurer –  Prescila Santiago; Auditor – Jun Bayawa; Assistant Auditor – Conception Sotero; Public Relations Officer – Elizabeth Martin

This follow-up meeting between GSS and BASS marks a significant milestone in our collaborative journey toward preserving traditional seeds and promoting sustainable agriculture. By reviewing BASS’s constitution and by-laws, electing new officers, creating a new strategic plan, and examining financial reports, both organizations have laid a robust foundation for their future endeavors.

With a shared vision, strengthened governance, and a commitment to sustainable practices, Global Seed Savers and BASS are well-positioned to make a profound impact on the conservation of traditional seeds, biodiversity, and the livelihoods of farming communities in the Benguet region and beyond!

Reigniting Partnership: Global Seed Savers and LGU of Bogo Philippines

Reigniting Partnership: Global Seed Savers and LGU of Bogo Philippines

Our GSS team recently celebrated a significant milestone in partnership development and participatory local seed governance. In a momentous event, we reignited our collaboration with the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Bogo, Philippines. This renewed partnership marks a crucial step forward in empowering local communities and safeguarding agricultural biodiversity. 

The LGU of Bogo, located in the northern part of Cebu, Philippines, has long recognized the significance of preserving traditional seeds and supporting sustainable agriculture. In the past, we had collaborated with the LGU to establish community seed banks and promote seed-saving practices. 

October 2020 we had our first call and introduction at the Mayors office and the MAO of Bogo through our partner farmers and Cebu Seed Savers, Mr. & Mrs. Bastonero. This initial conversation focused on food and seed security for Bogo, Philippines. To achieve food and seed security, Mayor Carlo Martinez and Ms. Alicia Lepiten (head of the MAO) first planned for the installation of a Seed Bank/Library. Soon after the planning session, they allocated a room in the City Hall to function as the Seed Bank/Library!

Since then, many visits and follow ups were held with Ms. Alicia and we tackled questions like how we can reconnect, re-engage, and cultivate our relationships. Most importantly, what are the strategies for the establishment of the new Seed Library as we strive towards food and seed sovereignty. 

During this meeting, Ms. Alicia gladly informed us that the Seed Bank/Library is making progress! The Seed Cabinet construction is complete and will be placed temporarily at the MAO office. We also planned for a future technical training for the members of Organic Farmers Federation of Bogo which mean this was an official launch of the Seed Library for Bogo with Mayor Martinez!

Ms. Alicia and Mr. & Mrs. Bastonero expressed their enthusiasm and dedication to working hand in hand to revitalize local seed systems and preserve traditional knowledge. This can be accomplished by participatory local seed governance. 

Participatory local seed governance lies at the core of sustainable agriculture. It involves engaging local farmers, indigenous communities, and stakeholders in decision-making processes regarding seed conservation, cultivation, and distribution. By involving the community in seed-related activities, entities like the LGU of Bogo recognize the importance of preserving local knowledge, promoting biodiversity, and ensuring food security for future generations.

Through participatory local seed governance, farmers are empowered to become custodians of their seed heritage. They are encouraged to save, share, and exchange seeds, fostering resilience in the face of environmental challenges and commercial pressures. Moreover, this approach promotes the conservation of traditional crop varieties, which often possess unique traits adapted to local conditions. Through this collaboration, we aim to preserve seed diversity, empower farmers, and ensure food security. 

We celebrate this recent meeting because it served as a catalyst for reigniting our valuable partnership between us and the LGU of Bogo Philippines – highlighting the importance of participatory local seed governance and partnership building. This meeting was a testament to the shared commitment towards agricultural sustainability and community empowerment. As we seed onward, let us celebrate this renewed partnership and embrace the collective responsibility of safeguarding our agricultural heritage for generations to come!

GSS Team Tours CONFFFED’s Seed Library at Pestales Farm and Strengthens Community Bond!

GSS Team Tours CONFFFED’s Seed Library at Pestales Farm and Strengthens Community Bond!

Our partners at Community of Organic Natural Farmers and Fishermen Federation (CONFFFED) invited the GSSP team (Hal, Efren, Harry, and Sarah) and Edgar “Gagix” Cascabel (Community Organizer of Cebu Province) to participate in their monthly impact meeting! 

As part of the meeting, GSS had the opportunity to explore CONFFFED’s latest venture: a state-of-the-art Seed Library. This meeting brought together 10 members of CONFFFED which consisted of members from the Community of Organic Natural Farmers and Fishermen Federation and other various farm association leaders and members. Of these members were our very own partner farmers from Cebu Seed Savers!  

During this meeting, the GSSP team had the pleasure of introducing themselves to members of CONFFFED!  It was the first time that our Marketing and Communications Manager Sarah and our Program Manager Efren met our partners in person! Along with this milestone introduction, the members of CONFFFED also had the opportunity to meet our new Philippines Executive Director Hal Atienza.

The invitation extended to GSS to join CONFFFED’s monthly meeting underscores the growing recognition of our valuable contributions to the global seed-saving community. CONFFFED’s commitment to promoting environmental development and sustainable farming aligns harmoniously with GSS’s mission of conserving traditional seeds and supporting local farmers. By fostering collaboration among organizations with shared goals, this meeting not only created a platform for the exchange of knowledge and ideas but also strengthened the collective effort to address pressing challenges in the agricultural sector.

A few pivotal conversations held during this meeting included Seed Library planning, announcing the upcoming Action Planning session for Cebu Seed Savers, and reviewing what Seed Sovereignty means to GSS and our partners. 

Hal Atienza applied his expertise and gave a high-level overview of GSSP’s redefined core definition of Seed Sovereignty and its crucial elements. This highlighted the importance of exploring a seed repository for CONFFFED, and would enable CONFFFED members to support the initiative and work towards Seed Sovereignty. 

Our Program Manager Efren shared his wisdom and insight from the farm visit and consultation conducted by farmer Jon which will be applied for the IDOFS Project with the Cebu Seed Savers (CSS) happening later. Efren provided valuable insights and inspiration for GSS’s ongoing efforts to enhance its own seed-saving initiatives.

During this meeting, the GSSP Team also visited CONFFFED’s Seed Library that we collaborated on! This Seed Library is the outcome of our community led initiative and was the next step from our event where we had the signing of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). This cutting-edge seed library represents a significant step forward in seed conservation and access!

CONFFFFED members are thrilled and are looking forward to the future of the installed Seed Library. They are also eager to learn how they can contribute to the Seed Library’s impact for a more seed sovereign and healthy family and communities future! 

With continued collaboration and the nurturing of such relationships, we can make meaningful strides in preserving traditional seeds, fostering biodiversity, and ensuring food security for generations to come.

GSSP Supporter Dr. Ernie Amaranto Hosts Luncheon for BASS Farmers and Friends

GSSP Supporter Dr. Ernie Amaranto Hosts Luncheon for BASS Farmers and Friends

February of this year, Dr. Ernie Amaranto, one of Global Seed Saver’s most loyal supporters, came to Baguio City to visit Farmer Anita’s farm in Tublay, Benguet. During Dr. Amaranto’s visit, himself and our BASS partner farmers gathered together for a luncheon on February 11, 2023 at the Baguio County Club.

The luncheon was attended by more than 40 of our partner farmers and other GSS community members, many of whom are farmers from BASS and Tublay, two were officials from the Benguet Provincial Government, an individual from another NGO, several of our supporters, and our Former Executive Director Karen Hizola also paid a visit.

During the event, Dr. Amaranto, also fondly known in the GSSP community as “Gangster Tatay” as a heartwarming nickname, showed us a plaque for the Preserve Planet Earth which was awarded to the Mead Rotary Club. He attributes this award to the work of Global Seed Savers in the Philippines, which part of was funded by the Rotary District.

Some of the more notable events during the luncheon included a pivotal conversation with Atty. Reuben Paoad (who is the former mayor of Tublay and is currently working at the Benguet Provincial Capitol), Board Member of the Lone District of Benguet, and Chair of the Agriculture Committee. Atty. Paoad talked about how fewer edible plants there are presently in Benguet, and that we must now act to prevent this from getting worse. His words elicited a lot of questions from the audience, but we agreed to have a follow-up conversation to determine how we can collaborate in the future through a project related to food sovereignty.

More than anything, this event was an opportunity to reconnect with our partner farmers and supporters. It was a reminder of the huge work that lies ahead, and a testament of the great deed we can accomplish together as one community dedicated to seed and food sovereignty.  

Being Healthy–What’s Community and Sovereignty Got To Do With It?

Being Healthy–What’s Community and Sovereignty Got To Do With It?

The question was at the heart of the GSS’s invitation to sit on the BINHI community advisory board (CAB) to explore this research question. 

For a long time, like most people, I thought health was solely a personal matter. Being healthy rested mainly on individual choice and a strong resolve, while poor health was often cast as a personal failure. Community meant creating a support system to keep us motivated, such as going to the gym with a friend or doing Meatless Mondays as family. And food sovereignty? It sounded a remote concern when it came to health–how does one begin to approach it?

Needless to say, I was intrigued. Working in community-supported agriculture, we saw how essential it was to unlearn old notions and offer alternative ways of looking at our food to begin the work of change.  

For instance, growing up in a family where diabetes began to afflict most adults in their late 30s and early 40s, we grew up thinking the path to health was paved with self-denial. The list of food don’ts was long. In my mid-30s, I subscribed to a Good Food CSA farm share as a form of “health insurance” on top of an HMO membership. (Full disclosure, I joined this CSA in 2020.

…community-supported agriculture is a solidarity model where consumers agree to share the risks, rewards, and responsibilities of food production with the farmers by subscribing to a season’s harvest.

And something shifted. Yes, eating more organic fruits and vegetables is indisputably good for us, and certainly, my weekly gulay (vegetable) supply contributed to my general well-being. But the change was deeper–and it came from meeting the farmers who grew the food I was eating and encountering a whole new dimension to the idea of community when it came to food and health. 

Briefly, community-supported agriculture is a solidarity model where consumers agree to share the risks, rewards, and responsibilities of food production with the farmers by subscribing to a season’s harvest. Assured of a market under CSA, farmers can grow food in the best possible way, and eaters are guaranteed a weekly basket of organically grown fruits and vegetables.

Such interdependence helps rebuild the relationship between farmers and eaters, and the farm trips I joined had been vital to repairing the connection, which had been severed by industrialized production and global food supply chains as diets modernized, the work behind food became invisible, and individual preferences and convenience became paramount. 


Meeting the farmers and helping with the farmwork on those visits, we saw firsthand the backbreaking labor that our farmers did daily to grow our food. I remember joining a rice planting activity in Capas, Tarlac, and swearing at the end of it never to take any grain of rice for granted ever again. We saw the farmers’ commitment to organic production despite it being labor intensive because they knew that reliance on pesticides would make them sick and trap them in a vicious cycle of debt. They have seen it happen many times to other farmers. We heard them talk about their work with a great sense of stewardship for nature and an awareness of their responsibility to serve safe and nutritious food not just to their families but equally to their customers in the city. Indeed, if food is meant to nourish, then it should not be grown with poison. 

And oh how we looked forward to harvesting fruits and vegetables that we would then cook and eat together! So diverse and full of flavor-–so unlike the giant perfect produce in the supermarket! We learned how much delicious diversity and nutrient density were tied to how the farmers cared for the soil and bred the best traits using organic open-pollinated seeds. These days whenever people say “hindi masarap ang gulay” [vegetables are not delicious] or “walang lasa ang gulay,”[vegetables taste bland] I think, “That’s because you haven’t tasted our farmers’ gulay.”

These days whenever people say “hindi masarap ang gulay” [vegetables are not delicious] or “walang lasa ang gulay,”[vegetables taste bland] I think, “That’s because you haven’t tasted our farmers’ gulay.”

Back in the city-–where individualism and competition are prized pathways to independence, where food is among the dominant signifiers of class differences, where one person’s daily latte budget is equivalent to another person’s daily wage—I was jolted into realizing how my ability to live a healthy life and reach my aspirations of well being do not rest solely on my tenacity or my willpower or my drive to “just do it.” 

In the fields of Capas, Bauko, Tublay, and Nueva Vizcaya, there are farmers who support our wellbeing–and it starts with their ability to support their own. Their diverse, organic farms meant food and nutrition security for their families first and foremost. Partaking of the same harvest through this farmer-eater friendship secures our food and health in the city as well. That other eaters were subscribing to CSA and altering their beliefs and habits around food also showed the necessity of interdependence to support this new way of living beyond oneself and one’s household but for a bigger community, for the whole of society even.

Understanding the intersections of food, health, and community, ushered by recognizing this interdependence, helped prepare me to expand the intersections further into food sovereignty. 

Listening to the various grassroots experiences of the different members of the BINHI community advisory board in their work with small farmers and indigenous peoples, I saw how food sovereignty was essential to a whole-of-society approach and how it is critical in this age of pandemic and climate crisis, which will affect how we can feed our nation in these times of emergency.  

This was a valuable exposure given how, admittedly in the past, I would often relegate the concept of food sovereignty to the sidelines even as I saw the importance of community and mutuality in the work of food justice. 

I thought food and nutrition insecurity needed to be “solved first” before introducing the more complicated concept that is food sovereignty–a way of thinking conditioned by linear, top-down, technocratic approaches to problem-solving. I had failed to realize that the problem of hunger, poverty and nutrition insecurity were closely intertwined with a people or a community’s ability to assert their rights and power over resources such as land, seeds, water, etc., to be able to feed themselves in an ecological, healthy, democratic, and culturally appropriate manner, i.e., food sovereignty.  

Food sovereignty shows the possibility of health for all because it challenges the dominant food system, crudely described above, that entrenches the systemic issues that make hunger, malnutrition, and disease run rampant in our society. 


For instance, the landlessness of the majority of Filipino farmers leaves them no choice but to enter into tenancy arrangements that keep them unable to shift to sustainable farming practices and buried in debt. They become hired laborers and daily wage earners in corporate mega-farms that grow monocrops and are reliant on pesticides to be able to efficiently feed the maws of the industrial food complex and churn out ultra-processed convenience foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt, foods have been stripped not only of nutrients but of the necessary contexts that food should come with so that we can see their value beyond the fleeting dopamine hits that feed food addictions giving rise to chronic lifestyle diseases, obesity, and malnutrition, and leaving our farmers perpetually poor and hungry. 

Food sovereignty shows the possibility of health for all because it challenges the dominant food system, crudely described above, that entrenches the systemic issues that make hunger, malnutrition, and disease run rampant in our society. 

Are we truly healthy if others are not? Is it truly well-being if other people are exploited and the planet is destroyed in the process? 

Hearing about the work of the CAB members showed me how important it is to put food sovereignty in the center of conversations and actions if we want health not just for ourselves but for everyone, and that we should not be daunted by the challenges that the dream of food sovereignty opens up, and that it is the community that keeps us brave, the load easier to carry, and the dream possible. 

GSS Seed School Teacher Training  Goes To Lobo, Batangas, Finds New Partner in MABISA

GSS Seed School Teacher Training  Goes To Lobo, Batangas, Finds New Partner in MABISA

Last July 20-21, 2022, our team went to Lobo, Batangas to hold a seed school with a group called MABISA. Efren, our Philippines Program Manager, Elizabeth, our Benguet Field Coordinator, and Karen, our Philippines Executive Director facilitated the workshop. The workshop was attended by 20+ participants from the Mabilog na Bundok at Sawang Organic Producers Association (MABISA-OPA), and students and teachers from the Batangas State University.

Here are a few photos taken during the workshop: 

Why partner with MABISA Group?

Our connection with MABISA begins with our partnership with ABS-CBN Foundation. Back when Gina Lopez was still the director of ABS-CBN Foundation, they implemented some eco-tourism, and livelihood programs in Tublay (an example of this is the Tublay Organic Farming Practitioners Association or TOFPA, wherein some farmers from the Benguet Association of Seed Savers were also members). From that time on, we have been consistently communicating with ABS-CBN Foundation, and they have indicated their interest in bringing our signature workshop in Lobo, Batangas.

MABISA is a community-led organization which was initially organized by ABS-CBN Foundation. Its members belong to Barangays Mabilog and Sawang in Lobo. They currently run the MABISA Eco Farm where people come and visit to learn about various ways of doing agriculture and experience the farm life up close. 

Why is this partnership important to GSSP?

Our vision as an organization is to create “hunger-free and healthy communities with access to sustainable, farmer-produced seeds and food”. We also hope to establish community seed libraries in as many areas in the Philippines as possible.

Finding new partners who recognize the importance of saving native seeds and growing food in a sustainable way helps us grow our impact in the Philippines. Every new partner we find brings our communities a step closer towards food sovereignty.

Lobo is a good place to start spreading our advocacy in the CALABARZON region. The ABS-CBN Foundation has already done the legwork in organizing and empowering MABISA to become stewards of their land. Through our seed school, we hope to complement and enhance agricultural practices.