African farming communities are reviving their traditional seed diversity and taking back control over their food systems.
Wonderfully directed by Jess Phillimore and with its breath-taking cinematography and background music, Seeds of Sovereignty is an inspiring film that provides an essential blueprint for those looking to revive traditional, diverse seed and farming systems throughout the world.
With its vivid images of Africa, it makes for compelling viewing and should be required watching for those interested in the sad demise - and ultimate revival - of traditional farming cultures.
Beautifully narrated by Theo Sowa - an independent adviser working on a wide range of international and social development issues - the message is one of hope as it reminds us of the importance of the seed in everyday life. Early in the film, Sowa says:
"Spurred on by a lost generation of farmers who have been sold a false dream, seen their soils perish, their costs rocket and their nutrition suffer, these communities have called time on an imported ideology.
"Alongside local NGOs, they're pulling their farmland back from the brink and re-paving their way to an ecologically same, socially just and nutritious way of farming with the resilience of diverse crops and adoption of the original indigenous seed varieties."
Africa is a continent steeped in agricultural traditions and rituals. The film gives voice to global experts and activists as well as a number of individuals within indigenous African farming communities who are reviving their traditional seed diversity and taking back control over their food systems and, in doing so, highlights why the seed is a symbol of hope, renewal and, above all, life.
Within this, the seed is an integral symbol of life and treated with great reverence. Tolesa Alemayehu, a traditional farmer in Ethiopia says:
"As a farmer, seeds are my tool. Having different types of seeds makes my life better in the home. Seed is the source of our food. It's the source of our cash. It's the source of our cultural celebration."
Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, Spain points out that because of the seed we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful diversity of food on our table.
Liz Hosken, director of the Gaia Foundation UK adds: "Seeds, in fact, for most of human history, except in this recent period, have been understood as a symbol of life and therefore have been embedded in the cultural and spiritual practices of communities around the planet."
The film highlights the importance of learning from the elders and reconnecting them with the younger generations so that the significance of the seed is not lost. Mphathelen Makaululo, Mupo Foundation, Venda, South Africa says: "We have to revive our seed and to revive the seed is to sit with the elders to share their stories."
Added to this, the role of women as "the custodian of the seed" is also a focus of the film. As Sowa says:
"Sadly across Africa, the role of women has systematically been undermined through the colonial process and even more so with the arrival of cash crops which were actively marketed to men. Working closely with women, and particularly the elders, is of utmost importance to allow their knowledge on seed to come forward and their confidence to grow with it."
The objective of the film is to restore seed and food sovereignty in Africa. Let's hope that the more people who see it, will in some way enable this to be achieved.
Sharon Garfinkel works for the Resurgence Trust.
Seeds of Sovereignty is co-produced by the Gaia Foundation and the African Biodiversity Network, in collaboration with GRAIN and MELCA Ethiopia. Duration is just under 40 minutes and it can be viewed online on seedsoffreedom.info.