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Efforts towards free seeds in Colombia

For three years now, the Longo Maï cooperatives have been working together with the network ’Guardianes de Semillas de Vida’ (Guardians of the seeds of life) in Colombia. In the letter below, Alba tells us about the activities of the network and the difficult circumstances there.

I am writing to you from Colombia to keep you up-to-date with the situation here. In the recent times, we had to deal with an increased number of difficult situations related to the peace agreements between the government and the FARC. Right now, pressure comes from all sides. Many advocates of human rights and environmental activists were killed. Many others are threatened or arrested. The areas abandoned by the FARC have been occupied by other armed groups. Everywhere, we feel fear and insecurity.

We aim at maintaining and multiplying seeds from old regional varieties. For us, this is an important step to build peace in our land. Even though our work can sometimes seem unimportant, it has also influenced social and political movements working towards peace. We know that we are going into difficult times and that the political climate is changing. We also have to face the flood (which was certainly not a ‘natural catastrophe’ as some said) in the city of Mocoa-Narino. The images of the disaster went all around the world. Some of our members are in this area and we did our best to provide first help. Now, we are mostly sending seeds to the farmers there.

Our work never stops, so we are, of course, always busy with maintaining old varieties of seeds (especially corn), protecting water and soil, working with children who will inherit our seeds, giving training on seed production, ecological farming, etc.

The emphasis lies on increasing the seed production and the storage capacity in the distribution centre in Pasto. We have also increased the amount of corn varieties tested against GMO contamination. Thus we could advance 300 kg of seeds and give away 60 kg.

At the national level, we are part of the network for free seeds in Colombia. In that frame, we work together to establish an observation centre to monitor the potential contamination of indigenous corn varieties from GMO’s. We also keep our eyes on the seed laws in order to make sure our seeds remain free in the future.

In Naino, we are also busy with the preparation of a referendum to proclaim the municipality of San Lorenzo ‘GMO-free’. Therefore we are collecting signatures, organizing public meetings and giving interviews to local radio and TV stations. The same is happening is the Cauca to make sure that the local indigenous council government takes this declaration into account in the Plan de Vida (plan of life) they adopt every six years.

We could do with help (donations, publicity and pressure on the government) with all those activities.

Alba Marleny Portillo Calvache

Red de Guardianes de Semillas de Vida

This article has been published before in ‘Nieuws uit Longo maï 124‘.