I’ve been reading through the latest group of project proposals submitted to Winds of Peace for the next funding cycle. And while each project contains its own character and nuances, there are oftentimes repetitive themes that emerge from the 30 or so proposals that we consider each year. That’s not too surprising, given the relatively small size of the country and the fundamental nature of many of the issues there. One such theme which has evolved over recent years has to do with preservation of native seed in Nicaragua, a practice of identifying, cultivating, planting and sharing agricultural seed which is indigenous to the country, well-suited to the climate, genetically untouched, available and capable of harvest for re-planting. It’s not a unique idea; Decorah, Iowa is home to Seed Savers Exchange, whose mission and philosophies are remarkably similar to the rural Nicaraguans.
The native seed preservation is just one of many similar initiatives which focus upon “hanging on” to something that is perceived as natural, healthy, essential, important both past and present, environment and economy. Albeit slowly, some cultures around the world have awakened to preservation of vanishing plant and animal species, forests, clean rivers and lakes, archaeological and architectural treasures, even our atmosphere. This yearning for retention of certain elements of our world is not born of nostalgia, but of the growing awareness that the diversity which they represent is worth saving, or that some things in our past really were better than their modern counterparts. For the rural farmers in Nicaragua, native seed is not simply a preference, but a need.
In our own country we take great pride in the return of the bald eagle from the brink of extinction. We worry about the demise of the polar bear habitat. We cheer at the birth of each new Panda bear, we stop major construction plans in deference to rare turtles or plants. It’s as if we are slowly awakening to the awesome variety of life on earth and even if we don’t completely comprehend why it’s crucial to preserve such diversity, we somehow inherently know that it’s important.
It’s an encouraging movement. If only our country would have viewed the Native American populations in the same way, or that world governments would come to see their Indigenous populations as precious as native seeds….