Words of Ceferina Guerrero, one of the founders of Conamuri, a native of Repatriación in the department of Coaguazú, Paraguay, speaking on a panel called "Our Seeds Make Us Free" during the “Heñói Jey Paraguay” fair, 3 and 4 August 2018 in Asunción, Paraguay.
I live in Repatriación [Department of Coaguazú, Paraguay], where 60 percent of the district is being taken over by soy growers. I live in a community of 150 homes. Two years ago, my daughter, who is an agronomist, did a study of native seeds and found that our community grows 74 different varieties. But now we're not sure what will happen because people are selling and leasing their lands. Men and women who are unable to work are forced to sell or lease their lands in order to survive.
The women exchange seeds; we get together and see what we can share. What they do not have I give them, and they give me what I do not have. My house has become a model for Conamuri in the district of Repatriación. People even come to visit from Europe and the United States. Students want to learn about how I live, how I survive here. Many students cry for me because they say I am very poor. They see me as a kind of beggar, but that is not how I see myself. I'm proud of my house, my peasant farm, and the huge variety of seeds that I use to feed myself.
But recently I heard this very intelligent man, Miguel Lovera, talking about how our seeds are going to be privatised, and I wonder what will become of us. What will we pass on to the future? How will we preserve the native and local seeds of Paraguay? Conamuri has a house in Repatriación called "Semilla Róga" which collects all the different seed varieties so that we can share them among the country's different departments. A few weeks ago we held a seed fair: we give and receive, give and receive. There is no buying or selling; we only exchange what we have for what we do not have. We have to protect our seeds in order to eat.
Seeds are extracted from the earth and are returned to us in packages and cans with a brand printed on the label. They are returned to us as poison. At home, I have a garden and my children help me with it. We don't apply any chemicals to the plants or to the soil. We use only a mixture of medicinal plants and it is very effective. The students who come from other regions and countries admire this. To this day, we continue working like this. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? We have to try to leave our children a little piece of land and some native seeds.
As it turns out, we have a wealth of native seeds, of many different colors and varieties. And it is us, the peasants, who make this possible, who grow healthy food to feed people in the cities. While many others may choose to use chemicals, we do not. It's only by being active in the different organisations that exist in our country that we are able to keep poison out of our food.
It's so important to be active in an organisation. I have been involved in peasant organisations for 27 years. A lot of you here are people that I regularly see at these kinds of meetings. Hopefully we will see each other in the following year to continue exchanging seeds and ideas among men, women and youth. Because our country is being sold off piece by piece. We are not as united as we need to be to prevent this from happening.
Our country is in danger. The poor have almost nothing left. We have to be aware of the threats and protect what we are building. We have to train ourselves in how to save and manage seeds, and how to conserve them so they will last until it is time to plant them. This is what Conamuri is doing in different departments with women working in committees. That is why I am very happy to have been invited here by my colleagues. The indigenous women of Conamuri have learned a lot from us and we have also learned so much from them about how they care for their territories, culture and food. In this way we learn many things together.
Source (in Spanish): Biodiversidad en América Latina y el Caribe