Thursday, May 10, 2018

Tuscon's seed library fosters food sovereignty in a desert

Rivera, Destiny 

Kapoor, M. L. (2017, September 22). Tuscon’s seed library fosters food sovereignty in a desert. High Country News. Retrieved from -tucsons-seed-library-fosters-food-sovereignty-in-a-desert

This article examines the role that seed libraries can play in refugee communities and many other marginalized communities.  A substantial percentage of refugees come from lands and cultures in which growing food is a part of their daily life and ritual. This practice of self-sufficiency is not only a means to lower living expenses, but is often a value deeply embedded within the culture and hearts of the people. Perhaps refugees were land-tenders or farmers. Then they come to a new country, subjected to new cultural codes, and an American society that can be so disconnected from the land. They have a deep relationship and reliance on the land and being able to grow food on their own. They are accustomed to food sovereignty. When they are deprived of access to land, this can often contribute to feelings of alienation and isolation. Seed libraries, thus, allow individuals to “retain a sense of cultural heritage and identity”.  Another community and population that could be deeply impacted by the presence of seed libraries within the public library are indigenous populations. Ethnobiologist and co-founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, Gary Nabhan, says that

“[he was] told by members of local tribes that traditional food crops were in danger of disappearing — and that tribal members’ health could benefit from their return. Today, Native Seeds/SEARCH safeguards some 1,900 accessions of domesticated crops and wild relatives, related to the agricultural practices of more than 50 indigenous groups, as well as Hispanic communities and Anglo settlers. Tribal communities in the region have free access to seeds. Native Seeds/SEARCH also teaches workshops where students learn to use, save and share local food plants”.
Native Seeds/SEARCH collaborated with the Pima County Public Library to establish a seed bank that has been able to touch the lives of many and transform the cultural values of a community. Native Seeds/SEARCH is a “globally known regional seed saving organization that specializes in conserving and sharing desert-adapted landraces”. Nabhan also goes on to say,
“Sometimes the heirloom vegetable movement gets rarified, that it’s only for the gourmet. But it’s really an indigenous and immigrant movement. It’s in the households of the poor who can’t afford high water bills, whose kids need diverse nutrition” (Kapoor 2017).
In addition, this article presents the role of technology in seed library procedures. Kapoor states that “aspiring gardeners can look up varieties electronically, put seeds on reserve and check out 10 packs at a time”. The accessibility of seeds by digital means is a truly powerful testament of our times, merging old traditions with new.

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