A special article by Renata Reck;
My blog that was posted on the plight of humanity’s seeds, was written in anticipation of Friday the 13th, as we entered into the 21st Session of the United Framework Convention on Climate Changes.
That fateful Friday evening I was invited to Alliance Française in Mbabane, Swaziland. Oblivious to the terrorism unfolding in France, we warmly gathered on a sweltering El Nino evening, in co-operation and cultural action of the French embassy in Mozambique and Swaziland fora pre-COP 21 conference titled ‘The Road to Paris: Climate Change Solutions for Swaziland’.
Nicola Bellomo, the Ambassador of the European Union in Swaziland after the welcoming note of Sophie Jaquel of the French Embassy in Mozambique and Swaziland, gave the opening speech. It pleased me much that he light-heartedly broke protocol and welcomed the youth first, saying it was after all for their benefit that the conference was being held. Perhaps by slip of tongue or by typo error of his secretary, he then emphasized proudly how the “EU was the first country to introduce pledges to reduce 40 % of its emissions.” Firstly, I was amazed how no one flinched as he spoke of the ‘country’ of EU. Secondly, I asked myself if only 40 % was such a wonderful pledge to be proud of, even if it was the first group of united countries to say it will lower its carbon emissions?
In the lecture room Mike Doyle from the United World College of Waterford Kamhlaba gave his own very complex rendition of humanity’s collision course. He spoke the state of VUCCA, meaning we are in times that are volatile, uncertain, complex, chaotic and ambiguous. As he painted the dismal portrait of our planet, emphasizing that we have no planet B to run to, I waited patiently on the edge of my seat in the airconditionless room for the subject of seeds to come up. His speech softened its edges as he proudly presented my former high school as striving to be the centre of green excellence. Waterford will be installing a bio-digester, a wind turbine, 20 solar geysers, 80 geyser timers, 100 LED lights and the next phase of education would be to disconnect and offer practical education on sustainability.
The importance of the freedom of seeds on our planet never came up under any of the speakers topics. Tasmia Young from the Eco-Store offered some more Swaziland aligned commercial eco-solutions, and Ncamiso Mhlanga of the UNDP explained well what El Nino means to us on this corner of Africa. When Dr.Irma Allen of the Swaziland Local Government Project gave her presentation I felt as hot under the collar, listless and tired as she said she was, going back year after year to the Climate Change Policy Direction gatherings with the same old group since 1992 and feeling very little progress from the proceedings. Dr. Allen as too Mr. Emmanuel Dlamini of the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs both focused on the poverty of Swaziland as the main hindrance towards gaining any progress in facing the world climate change issues. After Mr Dlamini opened the floor to questions, I found a moment to offer my two cents on the subject.
The time on the podium was limited, and the evening drew to a close, this is what I would have liked to have taken a bit more time to expand on.
All healthy food and farming systems are dependent upon the protection of the natural world. This should be the priority for all governments and communities. No trade or corporate rules should supersede this. Industrialized factory farms for beef, pork, and chicken are notorious for tragic conditions with disastrous ecological and public health consequences. The distance that food travels to a plate is an abysmal trade mechanism that destroys the quality of food as well as the environment. Climate-cidepractices should end now in the Kingdom of Swaziland. Knowledge of the rich heritage of Africa’s ancient foods and medicines needs revival for our survival.
It is imperative that the protection of the indigenous knowledge of Swaziland s biological diversity and the inherited knowledge of its food should be protected. No global trade or intellectual property rights should be allowed that require that local conform to any standards on these matters but their own. Food is the most basic of human needs and sustainable agriculture must be based on food first policies. Small seed companies as well as entire national seed collections are being bought up by comparatively moderate prices by agro-chemical multi-nationals. The transformation of a common resource into a commodity changes the nature of the seed and nature itself. Peasants are robbed of their means of livelihood and technology becomes an instrument of poverty and underdevelopment displacing huge numbers of farmers.
Industrial agro fuels are non-sustainable and spread genetically modified organisms by stealth. Agro fuel,also referred to as bio fuel,plantations aggravate the problem of climate change by destroying indigenous forests with GMO soy, corn, canola and sugar cane. Research reveals that ethanol and other agro fuels actually have higher emissions than fossil fuels. Prices of traditional crops that have been converted to use for fuels have resulted in the increase of food prices. By 2006 around 60 percent of total rapseed oil produced in the EU was used for making bio-diesel. While centralized agro-fuel schemes are clearly not the way to respond to climate change, research does show that decentralized small scale on-farm production of bio- energy can lead to a net energy gain without causing ecological harm or food insecurity.
While multinational corporations have spread mono cultures and transgenic seeds, citizens’ movements around the globe are working with responsible governments and are showing ways to protect seed diversity. Intelligent governments ban GMO foods. More and more movements are emerging that are re-knitting the historic relationships among food farming and community values. The Slow Food Movement, for example with 80 000 members in in 45 countries is now successfully reviving threatened seed varieties and generating renewed appreciation of local and regional food varieties.
Taking time off to serve home-grown watermelon to a new batch of California university graduates landed in Swaziland, last night, I almost flew face first in shock at what their retort was when requested them to save the seeds. “We don’t get seeded watermelon in the States anymore,” miss alumni said. “I hate watermelon with seeds. I don’t know what everybody’s problem is with GMO, I think GMO corn tastes so much better.” Around her, her colleagues nodded in unison as I shuddered. Upon enquiry of their mission here, the group boasted that they are from US health establishment that seeks to help Swaziland be the first SADC country to eradicate malaria. My friend retorted that malaria eradication is all but complete in Swaziland and likened their intervention to be the same as the USA’s involvement at the end of World War II, claiming victory of the war as their false entitlement.
A new partnership needs to be fortified between science and traditional knowledge, building up both knowledge systems and enhancing our capacity to respond to climate change. Save, share and plant your seeds through your own food and medicine lore with others.The current climate changesare the ultimate test of our collective intelligence as humanity. Ubuntu.