At Development and Peace, we believe that there is room at the table for all. However, 1 billion people are still suffering from hunger – that’s 1 in 8 people of the entire human family.
The majority of the world’s poor people support themselves and their families by farming. On small lots, they grow grains, vegetables and fruit, and raise small animals, in order to feed themselves and their families. These small family farmers sell the surplus in order to send their children to school, get medical care, and improve their living conditions.
Small family farmers are the stewards of our seeds
Our food system is based on thousands of years of knowledge and innovation by farmers and peasants. They are local experts who work to ensure that the seeds they plant have everything they need to thrive. The local crop varieties that they have nurtured are affordable, often nutritionally superior, and better adapted to challenging growing conditions. These farmers’ seeds are the heritage and future of the small family farmers and peasants who use them to feed their families, their communities, and the world.
Women farmers are the key to fighting hunger
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), if women gained equal access to land, training, and other agricultural necessities., they could increase yields by 20-30%, which would eliminate hunger for 100-150 million people.
What happened to our seeds?
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 75% of biodiversity has been lost because of the profound transformation of world food production. The corporate agriculture industry has begun to replace the immense diversity of farmers’ seeds with industrial varieties, which is creating highly homogeneous crops.
Global resistance to the privatization of seeds
Many of Development and Peace’s partner organizations are helping family farmers to protect their right to save and use seeds to feed their families and communities, and maintain the planet’s rich biodiversity.
A nationwide farmers’ strike broke out in 2013 in Colombia when Law 970 made it illegal for peasant farmers to save their seeds.This law was a condition for the signing of a free-trade agreement between the United States and Colombia, and paved the way for multinational seed companies to have a monopoly on certain seeds. It also granted the Colombian Institute of Agriculture the right to seize and destroy peasant seeds. The months of demonstrations paid off and there is now a moratorium on the proposed law. Partners such as the Antioquia Peasant Association (ACA) are supporting Colombian peasants in learning about their rights, helping them to mobilize to resist laws that criminalize their work, and asking for legislative changes that will support them in producing 70% of the country’s food supply.
The planting of genetically-modified (GM) soybeans by multinational corporations is widespread in Brazil, especially in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The Landless Workers Movement (MST) has been working for years to defend the rights of peasants by denouncing GM crops and the corporate-control of agriculture, and by promoting organic seeds. As part of this work, the MST created Bionatur in 1997. This organic seed cooperative has 156 member families, and is now the largest agro-ecological seed producer in Latin America.
Following the 2010 earthquake, agricultural giant Monsanto offered to donate seeds to help re-launch agricultural activities in the country. Unfortunately, this donation would have pushed farmers into a cycle of dependence on the company and threatened the country’s native seeds. Development and Peace’s partner the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) organized a march of 10,000 people to protest this menace to small family farming.
Zambians have long resisted the introduction of genetically-modified seeds into their country. In 2002, Development and Peace partner the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) and other local organizations successfully convinced the Zambian
government to prohibit the entry of GM maize into the country. The ban holds to this day despite increasing pressure from the international community to lift it.