Terms and Definitions


Agro-ecology, Biodiversity: From a biological perspective, agro-ecological systems optimize the diversity of species and genetic resources in different ways. For example, agroforestry systems organize crops, shrubs, livestock and trees of different heights and shapes at different levels or strata, increasing vertical diversity. Intercropping combines complementary species to increase spatial diversity. Crop rotations, often including legumes, increase temporal diversity. Crop–livestock systems rely on the diversity of local breeds adapted to specific environments. In the aquatic world, traditional fish polyculture farming, Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) or rotational crop-fish systems follow the same principles to maximizing diversity.

Increasing biodiversity contributes to a range of production, socio-economic, nutrition and environmental benefits. By planning and managing diversity, agro-ecological approaches enhance the provisioning of ecosystem services, including pollination and soil health, upon which agricultural production depends. Diversification can increase productivity and resource-use efficiency by optimizing biomass and water harvesting.” Source


Climate Resilience“Climate resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to climate. Improving climate resilience involves assessing how climate change will create new, or alter current, climate-related risks, and taking steps to better cope with these risks.” Source.

Climate resilience is crucial for seed saving. Many seed banks have been created to ensure resilience from any climate disruptions and preserve all the genetic strains of plants we currently have. The largest seed bank in the world is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. In agriculture stakeholders aim to produce nutritious, climate resilience, and sustainable food to ensure food-security and diversity in the face of climate change. Source.


Farmer Trainers: Farmer trainers are growing in popularity globally in development projects. Farmers trainers are smallholder farmers who train other farmers in various agricultural practices developed for local use. Farmers trainers often face difficulties in access to proper training materials to teach on a wider scale. Source

“Farmer trainers are volunteers who are selected on the basis of their interest in developing and disseminating new innovations in their communities.” Source.


Food Sovereignty: Food sovereignty is the right of all people to healthy and culturally-appropriate food. Food sovereignty accounts for the desires and opinions of the farmers and consumers for production. Food sovereignty can also include freedom of information about how food is produced and if agricultural methods are GMO-free, ecologically sound, and sustainable. Food sovereignty is seed sovereignty because it allows for genetically diverse seeds to continue growing and circulating whereas large seed selling corporations dominate allowing only one type of seed to circulate. Food sovereignty includes people’s ability to access and choose food produced to personal preference including sustainable, organic, or GMO-free food. 

“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally-appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” Source.

Coined by La Via Campesina in 1996, food sovereignty is defined as: “The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”  Source.

Small-Holder Farmers: Smallholder farmers are often family farmers with less than 1-10 hectares of land. Smallholder farmers face the most challenges with seed sovereignty because they are often forced to pay for genetically modified seeds and pesticides due to globalization. Smallholder farmers are most affected by seed giants. New movements have sprung up globally to address issues smallholder farmers have regarding their sovereignty in farming and ability to farm without interference from larger corporations.  

“Smallholders are small-scale farmers, pastoralists, forest keepers, who manage areas varying from less than one hectare to 10 hectares. Smallholders are characterized by family-focused motives such as favoring the stability of the farm household system, using mainly family labour for production and using part of the produce for family consumption.” Source.


Importance of Seeds


Seed Security: By saving your seeds, you control your seed and therefore your food supply— you aren’t depending on seed stores or catalogs for difficult to find seed. Hundreds of excellent plant varieties have been discontinued as big corporations have consolidated the seed industry and focused on more profitable varieties. Half of the vegetables grown today have no commercial sources — you have to get them through seed trades.4

Regional Adaptation: Most commercially available seed has been selected because it performs fairly well across the entire country if given synthetic fertilizers. But when you save seed from your own best performing plants, on your land and in your own ecosystem, you gradually develop varieties better adapted to your own soil, climate and growing conditions.
Consistent Quality: Large seed suppliers rarely “rogue” the fields to pull out inferior or off-type plants, so the open-pollinated (OP) seeds they sell have inferior specimens in the mix. You can select your own seed for uniformity and quality. You can control the gene pool for optimal germination, ripening time, flavor, storage, disease resistance and color. After a few seasons, more and more of your plants will have all of your personally selected traits.

Preserving Your Heritage and Biodiversity:Today multinational corporations select seed varieties according to their own financial interests; they control 82 percent of the world’s seed market, which includes 75 percent of the vegetable seed market. Source.