For many indigenous communities, including the Mayan families we work with in Guatemala, seeds play an important role in traditional life and ceremony. Sadly, over the years, thousands of seed varieties have disappeared.
WE LEARNED THAT WHEN WE LOOSE A UNIQUE SEED VARIETY, WE LOOSE A CEREMONY, WE LOOSE A STORY, WE LOOSE A PART OF HISTORY.
We learned this lesson in Guatemala, but it is critical for anyone who wants to grow their own food anywhere.
The reason these seeds are disappearing is complex, but our fight to save them began in 12 small gardens in Guatemala. In 2004, we helped Qachuu Aloom start a community seed bank in Rabinal that collects local seed varieties that face the threat of extinction. Farmers who are just getting started can take out seeds for their fields on loan at the beginning of the season and return them upon harvest.
Seed banks are great for supporting community farmers, but eventually a true commitment to seed saving may lead to even more seed than is needed to keep the seed bank alive. Famers can work together to sell their seed outside their community. Since 2008, Qachuu Aloom has been buying seed from farmers, which it sells to other farmers and large aid organizations around Guatemala, encouraging them to use native varieties that are well adapted and culturally accepted in local diets. Profits from selling seed are recycled into other programs to directly support the communities who provide the seed.
Qachuu Aloom members have participated in hundreds of seed fairs and conferences, which open the doors to new markets, provide opportunities to create alliances with other community groups, and help educate the public about the importance of preserving native seed varieties. For many of the members, these experiences are incredibly empowering—they get to travel around their country and abroad sharing their stories and successes.
The photo above shows the wide variety of seeds and other products that Qachuu Aloom farmers are able to produce and sell at these fairs. Here, they were selling lettuce, plantain, onion, celery, artichoke, 4 varieties of amaranth, and a variety of indigenous plants and herbs. Many of these varieties were at risk of being lost just a few years ago, but through hard work and dedication, we can now share them with people around Guatemala, and even abroad.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING SOME OF THESE SEED VARIETIES, PLEASE VISIT EPIC SEEDS.