Tag Archives: landraces

Landraces in Brazil: context and Instituto Socioambiental’s actions

The Brazilian context is characterised by a massive and widespread presence of commercial seeds, the only source of most farmers; exceptions are small decapitalised farmers 1, who keep the seeds from harvest to harvest, buying only a small part – or not buying – on the market. However, there are numerous initiatives to strengthen the use of traditional seeds(landraces).

At the regulatory level, the 2003 “seed law recognised traditional seeds; this same law and the implementing regulations exempt from the register of cultivars, thus favouring their use and authorising their exchange and marketing; the scope of marketing was further expanded in August 2012. By contrast, the 1997 “cultivar law”, which guarantees the ownership of varieties, can be used against the same small farmers who use traditional seeds 2. Finally, the absence of specific rules for regulating access to biodiversity and the fair sharing of benefits puts at risk the spread of traditional seeds and the information associated with them.

The Socioambiental Institute has been working for many years on biodiversity and protecting the knowledge of traditional communities and production systems 3. In this context, in the last five years, two initiatives directly linked to traditional seeds have been developed and consolidated:

  • the first one, connected to forest seeds, led to the structuring of the Rede de Sementes do Xingú, in the Amazon 4;
  • the second one, directly linked to agricultural seeds, is in the Vale do Ribeira (state of S. Paulo).

This one took the form of a Fair of exchange of seeds and traditional seedlings of the Afro-descendants (maroons) villages of the Vale do Ribeira, whose first edition was in 2008 5; the 2012 edition was the fifth. More than 15 quilombola farmer villages and almost 100 farmers are involved in the seed exchange; in 2009, seeds of 78 species were present at the fair, and nearly 200 different varieties were recognised by farmers. This initiative was further consolidated with the participation of the farmers of the Vale do Ribeira at the I Traditional Seed Exchange Fair of the State of S. Paolo. The realisation of the fairs has raised the interest of local farmers for the cultivation, particularly of food products; particular challenges locally represent the survival of the local food production system and a participatory improvement of the traditional seeds traded.

  1. This category represents 39% of household production units; the gross production value of these farmers represents 4% of total production, but this indicator does not include products used for self-subsistence or marketed in a completely informal way (see: Carlos Guanziroli et al., Agricultura familiar e reforma agrária no século XXI, Garamond, Rio de Janeiro 2001).
  2. The “law of seeds” is Lei n. 10.711 of 05/08/2003; the decree that expands marketing possibilities is Decree no. 7.794 of 20/08/2012. The “law of cultivars” is Lei n. 9.456 of 25/04/1997. For an in-depth analysis of Brazilian legislation on seeds, biodiversity and fair sharing of benefits and rights of farmers, see Juliana Santilli, Agrobiodiversidade e 

    direitos dos Agricultores, Peirópolis, São Paulo 2009

  3. The Socioambiental Institute (ISA) aims to “defend social, collective and widespread goods and rights related to the environment, cultural heritage, human and peoples’ rights”. For more information, see www.socioambiental.org.
  4. The Rede de Sementes do Xingú “aims: to carry out a continuous process of formation of seed collectors at the sources of the Xingú river, to make available the seeds of the regional flora in the quantity and with the quality required by the market; to form a platform for the exchange and marketing of seeds; to enhance the native forest and its diverse cultural uses, to create income for family farmers and indigenous communities, and to serve as a channel of communication between seed collectors, nurseries, rural owners and other stakeholders” (see www.sementesdoxingu.org.br).
  5. The fair’s first editions were implemented within the 8596/MAIS/BRA project, carried out by MAÌS and RE.TE, in partnership with the Socioambiental Institute, co-funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Landraces fair boosts quilombola peasants union

Translated from the news appeared on the Instituto Socioambiental website.

A woman from Ivaporunduva showing her landraces and seedlings. Eldorado, October the 23, 2010. Photo by Glenn Makuta.
A woman from Ivaporunduva showing her landraces and seedlings. Eldorado, October the 23, 2010. Photo by Glenn Makuta.

The Feira de Troca de Sementes e Mudas Tradicionais [Fair of Landraces Exchange] presented this year more than 100 etnovarieties of landraces and traditional seedlings. A generous offer of rice, beans, cassava, and farmyard chicken – all-natural inputs – allowed six cooks, also from the villages, to prepare a delicious collective lunch.

The Fair, in its 3rd edition, counted new supporters, as of the Núcleo Oikos, as well as long-standing ones, such as the Norwegian Church Aid, while grew the engagement of the Instituto de Terras do Estado de São Paulo [Land Institute of S. Paulo State] and of the municipality of Eldorado and Itaóca. The local business supported with little sums the event too, and that it is very important, showing the involvement of the local society.

The renown the Fair is obtaining in wider circles was proved by the participation of other quilombola (afro-descendant) of the region (Peropava village, in Registro), craftswomens’ groups (Feito a Mão, from Apiaí), urban farmer (Ana do Mel and her family, from Embu-Guaçu), rural trade unions (of Cajatí), governmental bodies, as Ministério da Agricultura [Agriculture Ministry], Sabesp (in charge of the water), Cetesb (environment licensing) and Incra (land policy), among others. A group from S. Paulo, interested in knowing more about quilombola villages participated too, and after the Fair they followed, going to the Ivaporunduva e São Pedro villages, and spending there their weekend.

The landraces call to mind the roça (cropping) issue, which stays at the crossroad of other issues, such as communities organization, the quilombola cultural system, biodiversity conservation, income generation, food security, involvement of the young generations and cropping normative framework. These issues were debated during a round of talks, held after the lunch, that involved quilombola villages representatives and invited visitors. […]

New challenges follow the work of those who are involved with roça (cropping), preparing a new fair. The fair, in the words of Ms Zulmira, from Porto Velho, more than bringing food, brings much union: “For each fair, the sales grow and the relationship strengthen”, she said.

The fair was covered by the Globo Rural.