Sowing seeds and hope for the future, a glimpse into the Colombian Rurality

In the series of articles by our Youth Newsroom reporters, María Fernanda Fuentes Diaz from Colombia takes us to rural Colombia.

The Colombian countryside is a place of promises and motivation. In these lands, seeds that adults, the elderly and past generations have planted are just beginning to germinate. Today, different ideas, projects and dreams are hardly flourishing for the benefit of the countryside; dreams that yearn for the end of the armed conflict in their territories, better living conditions and greater opportunities for their people. The Red Guardianes de Semillas “Sembrando para el futuro” (Network Guardians of seeds  "Sowing for the future”) is a great example of this. They are a group of young people, in the state of Nariño, that are working to recover seeds and crops at risk of extinction.

©Grupo Semillas
Seed exchange

Seeds are one of the sacred components of Colombian peasant culture, as well as of the sovereignty and food autonomy of the people. That is why, since the origin of agriculture, seeds have transited freely with farmers, without regulations that restrict their production, conservation, use, exchange and marketing. However, currently, something as essential as sedes are at risk in countries like Colombia, because  few corporations control most of the seed’s production system in the world.      protected by laws that restrict their free use and circulation, especially when it comes to those native seeds, which have not been fully domesticated.

Based on the above, the conservation techniques implemented by the Youth Network, such as the creation of seed banks and their exchange among farmers, are not only fundamental to protect the seeds of important food crops and the knowledge and customs associated with its uses, but are also fundamental in food security at the local level. Since the Guardians of Seeds (as the members of the Network call themselves), from their different experiences of life and knowledge contribute to a joint task: to cultivate as many seeds as they can, being aware that their work must be framed in a "healthy" agriculture, far from those "sick" seeds, as they call those seeds, which can not be produced without an increasing dose of agrochemicals, which in addition to generate commercial dependence on the producers, generate repercussions in the environment and even in human health.

The dependence of some commercial seeds on chemical compounds to resist certain environmental conditions and pests, limits their genetic capacity to adapt to external factors, which are becoming increasingly irregular due to climate change. Hence, experts consider that the answer to adapt to Climate Change and food security lies in those seeds which have not been genetically modified or which have been modified to a lesser degree. Additionally, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), it is estimated that 75% of the world's agricultural diversity was lost in the 20th century, and warns that the genetic diversity discovered and undiscovered is necessary to combat the risk of food insecurity originated in the conditions of Climate Change.

©Movimiento Ambientalista Colombiano

In this context, it is necessary to understand the reality of agrifood systems. We need to know how these systems are working today because with our consumption habits we are contributing to the loss of agrobiodiversity. The variety of products we are consuming has become limited. We are frequently consuming products that grow in certain conditions.

Food diversity

This means if the weather changes or shifts, we no longer have food security. The more we diversify the type of products our family basket depends on, the more opportunities we have to preserve food from different weather conditions. Which in turn minimizes the risk of not having enough food. Hence the importance of knowing and replicating the native seed rescue campaigns, the Guardians meetings, seed exchanges and the construction of seed banks. Because these are activities that expand food diversity for local communities, and improve access, availability and quality of food, even if we think about a future with different weather conditions.                            

The Youth Guardians have received the seeds and knowledge for their upbringing from their ancestors in order to multiply and share them with other guardians and people from their community or other regions. They have been doing it since 2002 when they formally constituted the Network. With the purpose of not only sowing seeds, but also hope and future. Colombia owes the millions of young people who still persist in the countryside. Colombia has to create strategies that guarantee dignified living conditions for young people and children to want to stay in rural areas. Since they are the ones that guard the food security of the future: without them, there will be no food in Colombia in the future, not as we know it today.

María Fernanda Fuentes Diaz