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Preserving seeds against multinationals

Preserving seeds against multinationals

By Chus Álvarez Jiménez

Pun Pun's restaurant in Chiang Mai is bustling with people. It seems that Sundays are a good day to meet friends and friends and leave the responsibility of feeding in the hands of other people. While the conversation continues its rhythm between the tables, the women who work in the restaurant enter and leave the kitchen to take from the garden what they need. And it's quite surprising, because blue flowers like the ones next to the tomato bush are now on my plate.

Seeing where the food you eat comes from is completely anecdotal. Knowing who produces them and how they do it, an impossible mission. This ignorance would not be a major problem if we could ensure that what we eat does not harm our health or the environment. However, this is not the case when the products we consume come from industrial agriculture whose modus operandi is monoculture.

Crop diversity

This model breaks diversity, which is the basic principle of any healthy ecosystem, and causes the impoverishment of soils and their consequent deforestation. To alleviate the effects of this impoverishment, which weakens plants and makes them more vulnerable to pests, the massive use of fertilizers with its consequences for human health, climate change, contamination of aquifers and disappearance is necessary. of bees.

Monoculture also favors the concentration of land control and puts the food security of thousands of people around the world at risk, who are forced to plant a single product to dedicate it to sale instead of growing a greater variety that they can consume . The benefit of these crops, depending on the climate, the intensive use of pesticides and the financial system, is beyond the control of those who produce them.

We assume that industrial agriculture is responsible for global food, however, both the United Nations Environment Program, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, FAO [1] and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food of the United Nations, estimates that peasant agriculture produces up to 80% of the food in non-industrialized countries. And an even more revealing fact, peasant farms are more productive than large farms, a rarity demonstrated decades ago and called “the productivity paradox” [2].

Variety makes us stronger

Faced with industrial agriculture, there are initiatives that aim to show that there is another way of doing things. This other way seeks to produce healthier food and reduce the negative impact on the environment. "Planting various things helps plants grow, makes them stronger and is better for people because they can feed themselves from their own garden," says Jon Jandai, one of the founders of Pun Pun.

When Peggy Reents and Jon purchased the 25 hectares of land in Mae Taeng province in northern Thailand 13 years ago on which they built the Pun Pun farm, they knew the job was not going to be easy. The land had been cleared to dedicate it to the monoculture of corn, a model that impoverished and eroded the soil so much that in a few years it became infertile land. After this, the owner kept the land clear by cutting and burning the vegetation regularly. Peggy and Jon encountered hard, clay soil that did not make it easy for them, but they had the experience and knowledge that years of working with farmers and other organic farming networks had provided them.

Peggy has been involved in the development of several community projects, mainly related to alternative agriculture and construction with natural materials. For his part, Jon grew up on a farm and has been involved in the agricultural world his entire life. Furthermore, it is recognized in Thailand as a driver of the natural building movement. When they founded Pun Pun together, their objectives were very clear and they are the same that guide their work today; create and maintain a seed bank, grow products in the simplest, most natural and sustainable way possible and work with the community to multiply this practice.


Seeds of diversity and simplicity

The seed bank is a key piece that aims to return control of the crops to the people who work them and promote food security. Jon considers that, “if we have control over the seeds, we have control over the food and that makes us freer”.

The bank not only intends to maintain and increase the quantity of seeds, but also spreads among those who cultivate the land, the idea of ​​their accumulation as a way to diversify production and, therefore, food.

To grow these seeds, they mix traditional organic practice with more modern methods of sustainable agriculture. They make the most of the products available to them, converting natural waste into compost and achieving a naturally fertile soil. They find a use for everything that passes through their hands, trying to produce less waste or give it a new use.

They build buildings with materials such as earth, bamboo and corn plants with the conviction that everyone has the ability to build their own home. "In a way, learning to grow our own food and build our own house is a kind of relearning, since these were human capacities that we have lost on the way to development," says Jon.

In Pun Pun everything is experimental, everything teaches and everything is learned. Since they started the project, they have developed a joint learning process in which everyone shares what they know and they test what works and what doesn't.

A model that inspires

On their farm they grow rice, have fruit trees, herbs and vegetables, fish ponds and laying hens that allow them to feed themselves practically self-sufficiently. Pun Pun offers a model of sustainability that in Peggy's words “we do not intend to tell anyone how to do things or how to live their life, this is a personal project that we share with all the people who are interested”, she explains to this magazine. And he adds: “The only way to create a movement is to create a model in which the result of our work can be seen. Talking and talking without putting what we say into practice gives us very little credibility "

His leitmotif is simplicity; They look for the easiest way to do things, with the least possible resources and always choosing those that are most accessible so that anyone can learn, access the necessary means and replicate their practices.

Baan Mae Jok, the town where they settled, has witnessed the work done to become what Pun Pun means today. In fact, this work has inspired similar projects in the area such as Maejo Baandin, an initiative launched by Thongbai Leknamnarong based on the knowledge and skills acquired with Peggy and Jon.

Eat rice, kin kon

Thailand is probably the best known country in Southeast Asia, ranking 11th among the most visited countries in the world. Rice is the main protagonist of the diet of its more than 68 million inhabitants. So much so, that the Thai term for eating is kin kao, which literally means eating rice. This and that Thailand is currently the second largest rice exporter in the world according to the report published in July by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) [3], make this crop the most important in the country.

At the same time it can be said that organic farming is not a recent phenomenon in Thailand, communities have practiced traditional agriculture for hundreds of years and have been enriching these practices through local knowledge in sustainable agriculture. During the Thaksin Shinawatra government from 2001 to 2006, organic agriculture became an important political issue for agricultural development and was placed on the national agenda with the aim of promoting food safety and domestic export.

Notes
[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
[2] Hungry for Land: Indigenous and peasant peoples feed the world with less than a quarter of the world's agricultural land. GRAIN, 2014.
[3] Monitoring the rice market

Ecologists in Action


Video: Exploring the Arctics Global Seed Vault (May 2021).