Climate, Seed and Knowledge
Climate, Seed and Knowledge (CSK) is an area of work developed by partners of the African Biodiversity Network, with support from Gaia, over the course of the past decade. CSK recognises that climate change resilience can be increased when the role of indigenous seed and indigenous knowledge is recognised, celebrated, revived and enhanced.
Local seed varieties have been a vital part of the rituals and traditions of indigenous communities for centuries. For these communities, seed is sacred. Seed holds within it the life of the crops, which regenerate each year, to create abundance. They represent health, vitality and security, and are used in traditional rites of passage, from birth to marriage ceremonies, coming of age and death. For example, for the Venda community of South Africa, the millet seed is especially sacred, is associated with sacred sites, and is the symbol of life for the whole community.
Keeping our seed is a collective responsibility. Seed is our wealth. It is neither mine, not hers...It is ours.Ethiopian Farmer
Local and indigenous farmers have been breeding their own highly diverse and nutritious varieties of seed for centuries. Diversity is one of the most critical aspects of resilience. If a particular variety is affected by a shock in the climate, the remaining varieties of seeds and crops will ensure that the farmer still reaps a yield that year. As part of the CSK programme, farmers are supported to revive their traditional diversity, to multiply and exchange them. By so doing they also exchange their rich indigenous knowledge associated with these seeds, and this is how it gets passed onto future generations. Click here to read about the story of CELUCT and their seed saving work with farmers in Zimbabwe.
Reviving & Protecting Indigenous Seed & Knowledge
There are bad consequences to the new seed. You have to buy it and then once you've bought it you cant store it because it goes rotten. And so you have to buy it again. It does not have a long life. It is not resilient. But we chose it because it because we thought it seemed attractive... not knowing that we were digging our own grave.Chief Vhutanda, Venda, South Africa.
Indigenous knowledge has evolved with seeds; the two are inextricably linked. Sharing this knowledge through seed exchanges and community based research helps the whole community to regain confidence in their own traditional understandings and farming practices. This confidence has often been shattered by external forces pushing modern "superior" agricultural methods involving fertilisers, pesticides and 'new' seeds which must be purchased. Though many communities were initially lured by promises of better yields, they have witnessed first hand that these were false promises. As the farmers say, the new seeds are weak and will only grow if given chemicals which then destroy the soils and make them dry and thirsty. So the costs of chemical agriculture are manifold.
By working with communities over a period of time, their rich indigenous knowledge is given a new lease of life as people realise how much they know and its importance. By working with both men and women, Elders and youth, a process of remembering customary roles and practices unfolds, and oral traditions are given space once more. The vital role which women play i household food security is restored, together with their rich knowledge. Ongoing community dialogues are a vital part of the Climate, Seed & Knowledge programme and enable the whole community to participate. Through involving the younger generation in this process, the continuation of this knowledge is assured.
Enhancing Productivity and Resilience through Diversity
The complimentary roles of men and women as custodians of different seeds and crops in safeguarding household food security, is recognised again. The vital importance of seed sovereignty and autonomy is learnt through the painful lessons of becoming dependent on expensive foreign seed and chemical inputs. The vitality which comes with indigenous seed and knowledge, their nutritional value and their profound symbolic meaning, embodied in the associated cultural rituals, is woven back into people's hearts and minds and stomachs.