DYNAmic seed networks for managing European diVERSITY
Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) is an arena populated by different and composite players. Acknowledging the diversity of the stakeholders involved in the conservation of wild and cultivated biodiversity, DYNAVERSITY will propose a dynamic management and governance aiming at enhancing interactions, complementarities and synergies. DYNAVERSITY will facilitate co-construction between actors (e.g. farmers, gardeners, natural parks, seed craftsmen, community seed banks, researchers, ex situ actors, consumers) and establish new forms of seed networking, socio-environmental knowledge and practices. By creating the Sharing Knowledge and Experience Platform (SKEP), representing stakeholders coming from research, ex situ networks and communities of practice, and taking into account the respect of the singularities of each of the actors, DYNAVERSITY will facilitate exchange and integration of scientific as well as practical knowledge on how to best manage diversity in agriculture and in the entire food chain, restoring evolutionary and adaptation processes. To achieve the above, DYNAVERSITY will integrate Crop Wild Relatives (CWRs) world represented by natural parks to on farm and on garden communities. Specific attention will be paid to map stakeholders, actors and sites and through in depth case study analysis suggesting new sustainable links and partnerships for in situ conservation. DYNAVERSITY will also promote an enabling institutional framework that will allow the creation of new dynamic seed systems. Raising public awareness will be a crucial issue for DYNAVERSITY addressed with specific and targeted communication products adapted to different target groups. DYNAVERSITY will also support seed fairs and Let’ Liberate Diversity communities in order to promote knowledge and seed sharing between stakeholders.
Project website: dynaversity.eu
At ESSRG we have been dealing with the theoretical and also the practical challenges of conserving agrobiodiversity both at national and international levels.
Results at the national level
In Hungary, we have conducted research to reveal the organisational, institutional and economic context of agricultural biodiversity, as well as to explore the existing social fabric and the critical stakeholders behind the preservation of native/local plant varieties.
- Balázs, B. and Aistara, G. (2018). The Emergence, dynamics and agency of social innovation in seed exchange networks. The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. 24, 3 (Oct. 2018). pp. 336-353.
- Pataki–Bodorkós–Balázs–Bela–Kelemen–Mérő (2011): Tájfajták védelmében: részvételi akciókutatás az Őrség-Vendvidéken. In: Pataki–Vári (Editor): Részvétel – akció – kutatás: magyarországi tapasztalatok a részvételi-, akció- és kooperatív kutatásokból. MTA Szociológiai Kutatóintézet, Budapest, pp. 9-27.;
- Bodorkós–Pataki–Mérő (2008): Participatory action research for conserving crop genetic resources: Beans as gendered crops in the Őrség-Vendvidék region, Hungary;
- Bela–Birol–Smale (2006): A pluralistic economics methodology for analysing landrace conservation on farms: a case study of Hungarian home gardens. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 4, pp. 213-323.;
- Bela–Balázs–Pataki (2005): Institutions, stakeholders and the management of plant genetic resources on Hungarian family farms. In: Smale (Editor): Valuing Crop Biodiversity: On-Farm Genetic Resources and Economic Change. CABI, Wallingford, pp. 251–269.;
- Birol–Bela–Smale (2005): The Role of Home Gardens in Promoting Multi-Functional Agriculture in Hungary. Eurochoice, 4, No. 3, pp. 14-21.;
- Birol–Bela–Balázs–Pataki–Gyovai–Smale–Már (2005): Seeds and markets in transition: the private value of agrobiodiversity in Hungarian home gardens. In Nazarea (Editor): Seeds of Resistance. Chapter 26.;
- Balázs–Bela–Pataki (2004): A termesztett növények genetikai sokféleségének megőrzése Magyarországon – Intézményi közgazdaságtani elemzés;
- Bela–Pataki–Smale–Hajdú (2004): Conserving Crop Genetic Resources on Smallholder Farms in Hungary: Institutional Analysis. Műhelytanulmány;
- Már–Gyovai–Bela–Pataki–Holly (2003): Multilevel seed movement across producers, consumers and key market actors; seed marketing, exchange and seed regulatory frame in Hungary. Strengthening the Scientific Basis of In Situ Conservation of Agricultural Biodiversity Workshop on “Seed systems and crop genetic diversity on-farm” 2003, Pucallpa, Peru.
Furthermore, we have also facilitated the formation and operation of stakeholder networks in Hungary via various professional events and civic activities.
- Landscape management, Landraces, Plant genetic conservation – Open Day on Agrobiodiversity in the Parliament (2009);
- Seed-swapping in Szeged – Let’s Liberate Diversity! International conference in Hungary (2011);
- Establishment of Magház – Civil Network for Agricultural Biodiversity (2011);
- Fostering the involvement of Magház in the European civic network for agrobiodiversity – Leonardo da Vinci Programme (2013-2015).
Between 2012 and 2016, we ran a sustainable rural development project in South-Borsod Region NE Hungary, to enhance the agricultural diversity of the area with the active involvement of local communities. During the project we attempted to pursue the following objectives:
- preserving the biological diversity of the area;
- collecting, identifying, multiplying and promoting traditional, local varieties;
- improving agro-ecological land use methods;
- strengthening the social and economic position of local small-scale farmers by supporting them to produce and market local value-added products;
- and inspiring local communities to organise themselves by supporting pilot projects on traditional food processing techniques.
Impacts at the international level
ESSRG was a partner of the research project called TRANSIT, which mapped social innovation initiatives addressing socio-ecological problems on the local and global level. ESSRG developed the cases on Food Sovereignty (La Via Campesina) and seed exchange networks that preserve agrobiodiversity (http://www.transitsocialinnovation.eu/).
The seed exchange network study case looks into social innovation potentials of continental and national level seed organisations. These networks consciously aim at changing social relations linked to agriculture by preserving, recreating, and relearning knowledge about seeds and diversity, creating new practices and ways of organising social networks regarding seed exchange and framing them as a different way of thinking about agricultural systems. We looked at a few intersecting regional hubs of activity: the Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) in North America; the Seed Saver Foundation (SSF) established in Australia; the Let’s Liberate Diversity (LLD) network (and a related but separate international networking effort coordinated by Arche Noah of Austria) within Europe; and Navdanya, led by the prominent Dr. Vandana Shiva, in India; as well as a few examples from Latin America and Africa, where seed-saving and exchange is a vital part of work done by agroecology and organic movements.
Seed exchange networks are socially innovative in that seeds become the intermediaries that change social relations across time and space. Seed exchange has existed as a social practice for thousands of years in different cultures, as a way to maintain genetic diversity and health of crops.
Social Innovation Initiatives in the Critical Turning Points-database
- Magház – Seed House (Hungary)
- Red de Semillas (Spain)
- Arche Noah (Austria)
- ProSpecieRara (Switzerland)
Social Innovation Initiatives studied in-depth
- Balázs, B.; Smith, A.; Aistara, G. and Bela, G. (2016) Transformative social innovation: Transnational Seed Exchange Networks: a summary of the case study report on Transnational Seed Exchange Networks, TRANSIT: EU SSH.2013.32.-1 Grant agreement no: 613169
- Balázs, B., Smith, A., Aistara, G. and Bela, G. (2015) WP 4: case study report: Transnational Seed Exchange Networks, TRANSIT: EU SHH.2013.3.2-1 Grant agreement no: 613169.