April 2015 marked the 20-year anniversary of Peliti, a seed conservation group in Greece. Peliti has grown into a network of 18 seed saving groups and 200 farms in Greece and currently reaches nearly 17,000 members online. Peliti, joined by seed savers and activists from around the world, celebrated this achievement in Mesohori, Greece at the Peliti 20th Anniversary Worldwide Meeting For the Freedom of Seeds, Food, and Earth.
Peliti was officially founded in 1995, after its founder, Panagiotis Sainatoudis, spent several years travelling around Greece to collect endangered seeds. After five years, he had collected more seeds than he could plant and decided to host a seed swap among 40 Greek farmers and seed savers. This was the beginning of Peliti.
Since this first seed swap, Peliti has hosted an annual Panhellenic Seed Exchange that has steadily grown over the years. The success of Peliti’s seed exchange and conservation work has inspired the creation of seed conservation projects in the region and throughout the world. Sainatoudis, Peliti’s founder, has been recognized as a guardian of Mediterranean biodiversity by Biodiversity International and the Mayor of Rome.
This year, nearly 5,000 people from 20 countries joined Peliti to celebrate agricultural diversity and exchange seeds. In additional to the annual seed exchange, this year’s event was opened with the First Annual Global Meeting for the Commons, a meeting co-organized by Navdanya, Peliti, and Seed Freedom International. Several prominent figures in the seed movement attended the event, including Hugo Blanco of Peru, Dr. Vandana Shiva of India, and representatives from the seed conservation organizations Arche Noah and Kokopelli. The event also featured workshops and sessions about seed saving, seed laws, and other related topics.
A special highlight of the event was the inauguration and dedication of the newly built Peliti Seed House, a seed bank that was funded solely from donations by supporters all over the world. The Seed House will further enable Peliti to fulfill its mission of conserving agricultural biodiversity in Greece and the Mediterranean region.
Peliti members plan to carry the excitement of the festival into their everyday lives to spread awareness about seed issues and biodiversity. According to Elena Gogos, Peliti member and co-organizer of the event, “the excitement of the festival with all its preparations and its meetings and music being over, the farmers and seed-keepers of Peliti are now busy with their gardens and farms, and its spokespeople are busy giving talks and workshops on the importance of saving seeds for resilience, autonomy, and biodiversity.”