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Sisters Keep The Seeds In Your Hands!

Liza Kahtun speaks about the importance of seed huts in Bangladesh

July 28, 2016

By act

PWRDF, in collaboration with the Sorrento Centre, is holding its third food security course titled, Sharing Bread (Three), from July 24 to 30. Each day, staff and participants will blog about the experience. Today’s blog is written by Judi Colp, PWRDF Supporter from the Diocese of Nova Scotia/PEI.

Over the last two years I have followed the blogs from the courses Sharing Bread 1 & 2 when I could and I was really interested in learning exactly what PWRDF does to support our partners.

In my ignorance I simply thought we go into different countries and teach them how to farm or whatever it is they need to learn. I was so wrong!!

Spending the last couple days here at the Sorrento Centre with our PWRDF partners Farida and Liza from UBINIG – Research Centre for Policy Alternatives in Bangladesh has been a real eye opener for me to say the least.

We don’t need to teach them anything. In fact we can learn a lot from them. They have cultivated their lands for generations their way, and our Western ways do not work for them.  The work of UBINIG through the Nayakrishi Andolon farmers’ movement engages about 300,000 households.

Their country was introduced to Genetically Modified seeds years ago. At first, the men thought they were wonderful. But the seeds they bought had to have specific fertilizers that were sold by the seed companies, as well as pesticides. During this time the women and their knowledge of local seeds weren’t needed as much in the field so they stayed home and prepared meals. The husbands would complain that the meals didn’t taste as good (because of the Genetically Modified vegetables) and this led to an increase in domestic violence.

Farida Akhter talking about Nayakrishi Farming methods
Farida Akhter talking about Nayakrishi Farming methods

The women finally convinced the men that the seeds were harming their bodies. When they talked about “bodies” it not only includes the human body but the earth as well. So they fertilized their soil by traditional methods using cow dung and plants. They also started using their local seeds again. Their gardens and fields are thriving! The women have a saying, “Sisters keep the seeds in your hands” and they do.

So how does PWRDF support them? Liza explained to us that PWRDF supported the building of seed huts in farming villages to keep a seed bank that the women look after. In addition, each household keeps and stores its own seeds. Once again it is the woman’s job to look after the seeds. If someone is just starting to farm they can get the seeds they require and like our banks they pay them back with some of the seeds (10%) from their harvested crops. As well if the farmer has some type of seed, for example, rice seeds, and wants to plant eggplants, he or she can just trade seeds.

The seeds are there as well so that if there is a disaster such as a flood and the farmer loses all his or her crops he or she can go to the seed bank and get more.

The country used to have over 15,000 different rice seeds. To date the Nayakrishi Andalon movement has been able to identify and “bank” only 2,899 different types. But they believe as long as someone remembers a certain seed it is not lost, it is when it is not remembered that it is lost. Farida was asked how these memories were stored, on a data base, computer? “No,” she laughs, “in their heads, they share and pass on these memories. It’s everyone’s job to pass on the memories so that the seeds can live on.”
Farida and her people also believe. “The seed is given by God, we are not the owners. It is a sin if someone asks you for a seed and you do not give.”

We have much to learn from our PWRDF partners!!

Closing Prayer

A Prayer of Gratitude for Creation

God of the universe, We thank You for Your many good gifts ­ For the beauty of Creation and its rich and varied fruits, For clean water and fresh air, for food and shelter, animals and plants. Forgive us for the times we have taken the earth’s resources for granted And wasted what You have given us. Transform our hearts and minds So that we would learn to care and share, To touch the earth with gentleness and with love, Respecting all living things. We pray for all those who suffer as a result of our waste, greed and indifference, And we pray that the day would come when everyone has enough food and clean water. Help us to respect the rights of all people and all species And help us to willingly share your gifts Today and always. Amen. ­

Fiona Murdoch, Eco­Congregation Ireland