UNLOCKED CASE STUDY: A Latin American revolution for Food Sovereignty

Image taken from Grupo Semillas


Seeds are the origin of life and 70% of the food we eat around the world.​ Different kinds of seeds can be grouped into three main categories. There are ​native seeds​ (which are original from the place they are sawn), ​creole seeds​ (which are from elsewhere but have naturally adapted to a specific territory), and ​genetically modified seeds​, which are modified in laboratories around the world and chemically intervened aiming to increase productivity, reduce harvest times, and make them repellent of insects and plagues.

Image taken from Grupo Semilla

Overall Description

Seeds are the origin of life. They are responsible for feeding the ​7.8 million people that live on the planet​ right now and represent the origin of ​70%​ of the food around the world. With each migration, seeds have traveled the world, spreading and adapting to different climates, terrains, and environments. ​Not every “traditional” species from a specific region or country originated there​. For example, tomatoes are an Andean species. Only until the Spanish violent conquest of America were they taken to Europe, being today one of the main ingredients in Spanish and Italian cuisine.

Image taken from Grupo Semilla
Image taken from Grupo Semilla
Image taken from Grupo Semilla
Image taken from Goethe Institut Chile
Image taken from Grupo Semilla
Image taken from ArgenPapa

Main features or highlights

  • Regional movement:​ L​atin America is a region of the world where ​the traditional connection to the land, its agriculture, and rurality still prevails in certain sectors of society. ​As a consequence of this connection to rurality, peasants’ associations are usually strong. Indeed, they do not only exist in their specific territories but tend to connect, ​working as a unified region to solve together the problems that affect them.
  • Women:​ ​Seed guardians are usually women because of the relationship that both of them have with life ​and how they both represent the origin of it. This does not mean that men cannot be seed guardians. However, this is the tradition that is usually followed.
  • Different ways of preserving the seeds:​ Each group of guardians has​ different ways of preserving the seeds depending on the climate, humidity, and especially the local culture. ​Many keep them in refrigerators, others underground in glass jars, others in cupboards, and finally, there are others such as the seed guardians of Putumayo, Colombia, ​who keep them “underground.”
  • Creole and native seeds:​ The difference among these two seeds is that the​ native seeds are original from the specific territory,​ while the​ creole seeds have their origin elsewhere and have been naturally adapted​ with time to the context.
  • Law has been changing:​ Thanks to the activism and strength of seed guardians and other groups that support them, countries like Colombia ​currently have laws that protect the right to save and select native and creole seeds.​ This is a big change compared to the laws issued in this same country in the last decade.
  • Vandana Shiva: ​Vandana Shiva is an ​Indian activist who fights for food sovereignty and for the rights of those who work the land.​ She has been a strong ally in the process of reclaiming seed sovereignty in Latin America and all around the world, and she has closely accompanied the groups of seed keepers and their cause.
  • Seed “economic systems”:​ There is a​ whole economic system within the seeds guardians groups.​ Seeds are not necessarily sold, and although some do sell them, it is not the most common practice.
  • ○ Seed Guardian: ​Seed producers, who preserve, recover, select, and research about seeds to bring the best of each species while preserving agrobiodiversity.
  • ○ “Semillista” (in Spanish) or Seed grower: ​They are the future Seed guardians which are in a learning process and a transition from conventional agriculture to agroecology.
  • ○ Friends with the seed: ​People who support the movement economically or by working in different activities needed to achieve the Guardians’ goals.

Why is this revolutionary?

Image taken from Kaos en la red
  • ○ First, the fact of ​having the autonomy to conserve, reproduce, and share seeds represent the possibility of every human being on the planet to grow their food through the seeds that they are provided with.
  • ○ Second, by seeking the protection of native and creole seeds, ​agro-biodiversity is being protected​. Diversity is the key to the protection of all species since in the case of a catastrophe or plague within a context characterized by the homogenization of seeds, all of them would be condemned to suffer it. Diversity means that if some seeds suffer damage, the others might survive given the difference in their particular characteristics.

Concrete Examples

  1. Interview with Isabel Guevara, Seed Guardian in Bogotá, Colombia
Image taken from Grupo Semilla



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Nelis Global

Nelis Global

NELIS(Next Leaders’ Initiative for Sustainability)is a local2global platform of and for young sustainability leaders