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On Saturday 28th February 2015 I facilitated a workshop on ‘Seed Sovereignty’ as part of Feed Avalon’s Seed Saving Course. I’d done the workshop twice before – once for the Growing resilience course and another for participants at a Glastonbury Seed Swap. Each time it has been adapted and tweaked. Below is an overview. Feel free to use and share. Let me know how it goes so we can improve this resource.
With enough notice and a donation for our time, Carol and I from Feed Avalon are always interested in running seed saving courses or stand alone workshops.
Seed Sovereignty Workshop, 1hr
Overall aims of the session: To introduce the concept of ‘seed sovereignty’; how our seeds are under threat and positive action we can take
Intended learning outcomes:
At the end of the session the learner will be able to:
- Understand the concept of ‘seed sovereignty’
- Identify a number of threats to seed sovereignty
- Describe three actions one can take to support seed sovereignty
Resources / Room Layout:
- Seated circle with easel & flipchart paper
- Flipchart paper
- Post it notes
- Projector & screen if showing DVD
Differentiation: How will you meet the needs of individual learners?
- Ask if anyone needs any support
- Incorporate visual into session
- Supply handouts at end of session
- Ask for participant feedback
- Observe the group to see there is mutual respect
- Engage everyone
1. Introduce yourself & aims of the workshop. If time ask everyone to do a go round and share what they would like to get out of the session. If time is short then do a go round of names.
2. Ask learners to talk to person next to them, “What do seeds mean to you?” After 2 minutes do a group ‘popcorn’ and capture people’s input onto a mindmap on flipchart paper. Hopefully a large number of themes will emerge – survival, biodiversity, autonomy, resilience, spirituality etc
3. Ask a confident reader to read the poem below. Afterwards emphasise how for many communities, seeds really do constitute survival or ‘sovereignty’. The poem is from the Seed Freedom Report (334 pages).
The Seed Keeper
Burn our land
burn our dreams
pour acid onto our songs cover with saw dust
the blood of our massacred people muffle with your technology the screams of all that is free, wild and indigenous. Destroy.
our grass and soil
raze to the ground
every farm and every village our ancestors had built every tree, every home every book, every law
and all the equity and harmony.
Flatten with your bombs every valley; erase with your edicts our past
our literature; our metaphor Denude the forests
and the earth
till no insect,
can find a place to hide.
Do that and more.
I do not fear your tyranny
I do not despair ever
for I guard one seed
a little live seed
That I shall safeguard
and plant again.
4. Divide the group into two smaller groups. Give them the cards about corporate and food producer interests around seeds. Ask them to allocate them into two columns – small scale food producers, and corporations. When they have done this ask them to give feedback to the group. With each point go into more detail with background political knowledge. Also draw on the existing knowledge from the room.
Download the cards here (you will need to print & cut them up into 2 or more sets depending on your group size).
5. This then leads into a ‘chalk and talk’ talk about key legislation, ask for any input from learners. To refresh your own knowledge, I’d recommend reading some of the downloads in the resources section. You can also see some of the key points in a mindmap I’ve made here. I intend to write it up on the computer soon, apologies for the handwriting! It may be worth creating a flipchart already with some key laws on it to remind yourself.
6. The next part of the workshop is about encouraging people to think about action. I normally have a flipchart paper and ask, ‘How can we defend and create our own seed sovereignty?’ Depending on the size of the group, people can talk in pairs or smaller groups. They then feedback into the larger group.
7. This is an opportunity to also talk about resistance that has been taking place already. Introduce groups, days of action and other resources. Ask people to contribute resources they know.
8. Finish with a final go round where everyone says their next step.
Please note if you have more than one hour I would highly recommend showing one of the short films below.
Seed Sovereignty Resources
There are hundreds of resources online, these are the ones I have found most useful:
- Update on the Seed Regulations – important to read this before doing the workshop. ASEED December 2014.
- Towards Food Sovereignty – ASEED (pdf, 28 pages)
- Ecologist Article about the new South West Seed Saver’s Cooperative (online article)
- You Reap What You Sow Monopolizing the seed industry – ASEED, 2010 (pdf 13 pages)
- Resilient Seed – On the seed industry, EU seed laws and the engagement for seed-sovereigntySeed Sovereignty publication, 2011 (pdf, 24 pages)
- Seeds, Sovereignty, and the Vía Campesina: Plants, Property, and the Promise of Open Source Biology – Academic paper by Jack Kloppenburg, 2008
- Seed Freedom Report (334 pages) – covers absolutely everything if you want indepth knowledge! You can also dip in & out – lots of case studies and links.
- Seeds of Freedom Film – from the Gaia Foundation and African Biodiversity Network
- Seeds of Sovereignty Film – follow up to the above. Also highly recommended.
Other Seed Saving Resources
- Feed Avalon’s Seed Saving Presentation – written by Carol Stone from Feed Avalon
- Seed Saving Top Tips – also produced by Carol Stone from Feed Avalon
- Seed Saving 101, 4 page pdf by Lisa Almarode
See the original page here and audio file here: http://animalvoices.ca/2015/02/17/dont-be-afraid-to-turn-your-pain-into-power-permaculture-design-and-empty-cages-with-nicole-vosper/
“Don’t be afraid to turn your pain into power”: Permaculture Design and Empty Cages with Nicole Vosper
If you’ve envisioned a world where animals are no longer raised to be killed and eaten as food, you may have also wondered about finding alternative means of producing real food to feed the world. Nicole Vosper brings her experience with liberation permaculture and agroecology as a potential solution. These practices incorporate an ethic of care and respect for all beings into systems that can feed people in an environmentally friendly way. Her approach differs from the mainstream focus on welfarist changes to farming that still treat non-human animals as resources that can be exploited and consumed, and instead bases her designs with the inherent ethic that all beings deserve freedom, and that we can grow food in a sustainable way without hurting wild or domesticated animals alike, including ways to integrate permaculture with farm sanctuaries.
Nicole’s work is largely inspired by principles of green anarchism and anarchist pedagogy. She claims that: “we have so much to learn and unlearn,” and in the interview, she elaborates on how that connects with activism and radical community organizing. Her views also reflect work she does with prison abolition and self-care, getting to the root of issues in our communities in ways that will precipitate real and effective social change.
The session was described as:
Prison Abolition & Permaculture
How can we re-design our ‘criminal justice’ system? How does the prison system harm our communities and what role does permaculture play in designing and building alternatives? Ex-prisoner, Nicole Vosper, will introduce the prison industrial complex before participants collectively explore if permaculture has a role to play and how in reducing harm in our society.
What went well?
The workshop was really well attended. There was a lot of existing knowledge in the room, with some people having worked in healthcare relating to prisons, for example. This contributed greatly to group conversations and thinking around if permaculture can play a role in moving society away from prisons. There was definite consensus that prisons are harmful and that permaculture has an important role in supporting communities meet their own needs without the state from the grassroots up.
I normally introduce the ideas of prison abolition over a two hour session. This allows everyone to participate more fully, give more thought to the complexities and un/learn some of ideas of what abolition means as a long term goal and way of organising now. Therefore the biggest challenge was simply only having an hour together to connect some of the dots!
However, overall I was really pleased with how the workshop went. I think its a good move for a movement that is working for social justice and ecological regeneration.
For anyone more interested in the politics & practice of prison abolition visit: www.prisonabolition.org
Here are the slides from my presentation at the National Permaculture Diploma Gathering 2014.
Inside a spare hotel room, on one of the most northern places on earth, something magical is happening. Plants are growing, worms are composting waste, and people are feeling re-connected to food in a world of mining and monetary extraction.
Meet Benjamin Vidmar, Director of Polar Permaculture Solutions. Benjamin has been working on creating a permaculture system in Svalbard, part of a group of Islands in the Arctic Ocean. A maze of bureaucracy and complexity, with contested land use and a transient population, are some of the challenges he is facing.
Benjamin’s passion for food runs deep, going to culinary school aged 19, then traveling his way round the world by cheffing on ships.
“For a long time, I felt like I had been practicing permaculture, but I didn’t know it was called permaculture,” says Benjamin.
In August 2013, Benjamin finally signed up for a permaculture design course, with Whole Systems Design in Vermont. Soon enough he was hooked, enrolling in the International Diploma of Permaculture Design in September 2013 with Gaia University.
Since beginning his diploma, Benjamin has been focused on developing closed-loop systems on the Island. Its ecology is fascinating. Home to 3,000 polar bears, for 3.5 months of the year there is 24 hour daylight. For 3.5 months there is total darkness.
The busy season between February and May consists of people visiting and playing with dog sleds and snow mobiles. In June and July cruise ships visit the Island. There is a town, school and shopping centre, which everyone goes to. Imported vegetables are in plastic and there is no fresh food.
Everything here is flushed down drains. Nothing can stay here. All the rubbish needs to be shipped back down to Norway and then sent by trucks to Sweden. There is so much energy and resources tied up in simply dealing with our waste. — Benjamin Vidmar
Benjamin is experimenting with some of the ways to close the loops and save energy and resources. His experiments started with simple coffee grinds, and growing mushrooms on them in a spare hotel room. Having imported hydroponic resources to grow fresh salad, Benjamin, once again challenging the logic of it all, decided to try to make his own compost instead. Now he has wormeries eating the food scraps from the hotel, and slowly but surely, he is creating a medium to make the production more sustainable.
“It’s like living on the moon,” says Benjamin. “We don’t have anything growing; no trees, only rock and snow. Grass and flowers grow in the summertime but you always feel like something is missing. You get depressed and you miss what other people take for granted.
Everyone makes so much money but people are still not happy. People walk around like zombies in this tax free place. The only things that are cheap are the bad things — alcohol, cigarettes and so forth. Good food is very expensive. I’ve asked myself, “Why are we not happy here? I think its because we’re out of touch with Nature.”
Benjamin describes that moment of joy when kids come and see his worms, feeling and re-establishing a connection to the earth.
Learning about permaculture has helped me to focus my energy. Now I observe more and watch and wait before making decisions. Before I would just want to dive into everything so quickly. I can see now that everything is patterns and it can take time to put things in the right place.
Benjamin wants to convene a Permaculture Design course on the island and his long term plans are to develop a Permaculture Research Centre, that could experiment with how to make the island, and other similar places, more sustainable.
I’ve been here six years and fallen in love with it. Its such a magical place. Everything is extreme, there is no in-between. It makes you appreciate life.
For more about Benjamin’s work visit: http://www.lyr-svalbard.com.
Not many 20 year olds would be embracing permaculture, traveling the world and taking action to gain the skills they need for people care and ecological restoration. Laura Kaestele from Germany is an inspiring exception to the rule.
At 16 Laura moved into an intentional community, supporting it to grow from an idea into an established community, where she would develop a deep awareness of community life and what it means to be human.
My story is in parallel with humanity in general; growing up from being a teenager, not seeing the bigger picture, to being more responsible and caring.
As a teenager, permaculture was in the background of Laura’s life, as different courses were held at the community where she lived. She caught glimpses while she was still busy attending school. Finally she participated in a course and never looked back.
We are so tied to competition, consumerism, capitalism and oppressions. Learning about permaculture enables us to shift our mindsets. For me permaculture is not just a concept, but a lived reality in everything.
Like many school leavers, Laura took a ‘Gap year’. Except she’s still in the gap, and unlikely to set foot in conventional education again. She said she didn’t like the system, it felt neither comfortable nor appropriate, and she craved something more, that linked her passions for design, nature and community.
In 2012, Laura found Gaia University, an alternative institution focused on integrative ecosocial design. It sees design as the primary tool for accelerating social change and personal growth. Learning is self-determined by the learner or “Associate”, who completes a series of ‘output packets’ documenting their real world projects, reflections, design decisions and more. The whole model is based on an action learning pedagogy.
Gaia University has really inspired, empowered and challenged my passion for learning. There is so much freedom to really go for it, but just enough structure supporting me to be more creative, productive and impactful.
Laura has enjoyed being part of a global community interested in similar work. Documenting and harvesting her learning has been a new approach to grasp, yet she is thrilled about the quantity, depth and transformative power of what she learnt so far.
My current pathway is centred on building a right livelihood around what I’m doing and continuing to creatively explore my life purpose. How can I live my gifts and share them with the world in every moment?
Exploring these questions propelled Laura to visit permaculture communities around the planet. This summer she returned from Thailand, where she has been working with permaculture projects, collaboratively designing land-based systems and developing natural building skills.
Laura participated in the 2nd Thai Permaculture Convergence, where she observed the abundant edge between Thai communities and their traditional knowledge, with foreigners like herself. Laura also visited Cambodia, Italy and Portugal. She has also played an active role with the organisation, Be the Change, that aims to support young people to respond to the crises of our time.
Laura is now focused on developing her social permaculture skills, exploring tools like the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Meaningful Conversations, cultural mentoring, facilitation and group decision-making methodologies.
For people of any age exploring their life purpose, the permaculture principle of ‘observe and interact’, may be one of the most useful. In her travels abroad, and land and community-based experiences at home, Laura is learning how she can best interact with the world to make a difference.
Whatever the future holds for Laura, it is likely she will be a leader in the field, making permaculture second nature to the next generation.
For more information about Laura’s work visit her portfolio.