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Story by Vanderlei Franck | Project Advisor | Heifer Brazil
Photos by Sarah Testard

The Heifer Brazil and Argentina program works in partnership with the Small Farmers Movement (MPA) through the OESTEBIO cooperative in valuing, conserving and multiplying native seeds. This organization believes that farmers should have their own seeds because without them there is no autonomy and without autonomy there aren’t possibilities for food sovereignty.

The project supported by Heifer helps more than 1,200 families. The first group, called "Keepers," consists of 150 families who are tasked with maintaining and multiplying the native seeds on a larger scale. These seeds are passed on to another group of 1,050 families, called "Multipliers," who have the responsibility to reproduce the native seeds on a larger scale.

All production is processed and commercialized by OESTEBIO. In the harvest of 2011 this cooperative distributed 2,500 tons of bean seeds and 1,400 tons of corn seeds, benefiting 52,148 families of small farmers in 14 states.

The native seeds are no longer distributed just in Brazil. In April 2012, farmers from 15 countries in Latin America and Europe attended the MPA’s 5th National Festival of Seeds Creole in Anchieta, Santa Catarina, which attracted more than 30,000 people. Among them was a delegation of French farmers.

In addition to exchanging knowledge and practices during the visit to Brazil, the French delegation returned home with some native species of bean seeds, corn and rice. These were planted in the northwest of France (Loire-Atlantic) by the farm family of Christian and Patricia Testard, who develop agroecological production.

The germination and the development of these seeds in France shows that native seeds have a high power of adaptation in different types of climates and soil and reveals the deep knowledge in the management of seeds in different countries.

Maria Kaze, responsible for MPA’s international relations, said, "Seeing the native seeds of small farmers who are part of MPA being cultivated by French farmers reaffirms the small farmer role nowadays."

There is currently a great risk of losing many varieties of native seeds due to the increased availability of imported seeds, which could lead to the reduction of biodiversity and farmers' dependence on these native seeds, weakening the conditions of production and the lives of these small farmers. Therefore, this project developed in partnership with Heifer has strategic importance to environmental conservation and food production.

Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.