For centuries, campesinas, or Latin American peasant women, have been playing an important role in selecting, storing, and ensuring the preservation of seeds, handing down their knowledge from generation to generation.
But today, their traditional expertise is at risk due to changing climate patterns and extreme weather events, as well as the expansion of the use of transgenic seeds and intensive agriculture methods. All of these factors have serious implications for local farmers’ livelihoods and biodiversity.
In response to this situation, La Via Campesina (LVC) along with other organizations have launched Seeds: Heritage of the People for the Good of Humanity, a global campaign aimed at reinforcing and defending the survival of traditional and indigenous seeds, as well as guaranteeing peoples’ political, cultural and food sovereignty in the face of growing corporate power.
The campaign was launched during a forum organized at the World Food Summit in 2002, following the submission of the campaign proposal by the Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones del Campo (CLOC, Latin American Coordination of Countryside Organizations). The project’s mission is to engage society, particularly women farmers, in food system transformation, relying on their traditional peasant practices and knowledge about seeds and agriculture that requires no validation from the scientific community.
Based on its own unique set of circumstances, each country determines its own form of participation in the campaign, which includes seeds exchanges, biodiversity fairs, and local markets. Decision-making power remains in the hands of LVC, peasant, and indigenous organizations.
“The key to food sovereignty is in the seed – everything begins there,” Francisca Rodriguez, Chilean peasant activist, said in an interview with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). “We cannot be sovereign peoples if we don’t have our own seeds,” she added.
Rodriguez emphasizes the need to move toward a more equitable food system that recognizes peasants’ rights to grow, access, and provide healthy and culturally adequate food. In the face of new agricultural reform, she is calling on authorities at the regional and national level to take steps to ensure that rural women have access to information and productive resources, including land, water, and seeds, so that their traditional seed preservation methods can respond to the outstanding challenges.
Rodriguez declares, “Food sovereignty goes beyond merely preserving the seed or securing food; it is our rights that are at stake, it is peasant survival.”