On 19-20 February 2013, Shumei International and Navdanya officially launched the SEED FREEDOM, GARDENS OF HOPE campaign in Japan through a series of special symposiums entitled “Seed, Soil and Food for the Future.” Keynote speakers, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya, and Dr. Elaine Ingham, Chief Scientist of Rodale Institute were joined by Japanese farmers, Mr. Seiji Sugeno, President of Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network and Mr. Mamoru Azuhata, a Shumei Natural Agriculture farmer from Fukushima.

SEED FREEDOM was started by Navdanya as a global movement to raise awareness on the current precarious state of the world’s seed supply and its consequent threat to food security. SEED FREEDOM provides a platform for citizens to take action to protect seed diversity and promote farmer’s rights to save, breed, and exchange seed freely.In honor of SEED FREEDOM, the symposiums explored the innate power of natural seeds and soil to produce adequate healthy food locally. The speakers discussed solutions to regain food and seed sovereignty and build community resiliency based on agroecological practices and a deep respect for nature.

In Dr. Ingham’s presentation, she emphasized the fact that healthy soil has all the nutrients to enable plants and crops to grow naturally without harmful chemical inputs. In addition, she noted the importance of allowing the natural microbiology in the soil to flourish, such as certain fungi, which build soil structure, suppress diseases and pests, and decompose toxins enabling seeds to grow stress free. She said, “If we harvest our seeds and treat them with toxic chemicals, if we fumigate, if we use fungicides, we kill that life. And so when we put that seed back into the soil, our seed is already stressed, it’s already under attack by diseases and pests, parasites, problem organisms.” Dr. Ingham referenced important studies and examples of the use of fungi to address toxins and radiation in soil, which could be applied to Fukushima farmlands.

Mr. Seiji Sugeno discussed the significant role of sustainable farming in community rebuilding and land rejuvenation in Fukushima following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

Mr. Mamoru Azuhata also shared about the positive impact of working in harmony with the land through Natural Agriculture in Fukushima.Mr. Seiji Sugeno Mr. Mamoru Azuhata Audience members also had the opportunity to raise questions to the speakers and many asked what they could do to contribute to ensuring healthy seed, soil and food for the future.

vandana-psEach presenter provided suggestions based on their experience and Dr. Shiva concluded by inviting the audience to join the SEED FREEDOM, GARDENS OF HOPE campaign. Dr. Vandana Shiva explained, “… we believe good farming is like gardening, with all the diversity, with all the love, with all the compassion, with all of the intimacy of knowing how your soil is, how your plants are… because you’re then part of that soil family, you’re part of that biodiversity family.”Dr. Shiva highlighted the importance of building seed sanctuaries, one of the simplest action steps that people can take to support SEED FREEDOM. “Every garden, every farm should be a seed sanctuary. It could be just your little pot in your balcony, even that should be a sanctuary for an open-pollinated seed that can give rise to seed in the future.”Dr. Vandana Shiva

The events were organized by Shumei International and Navdanya with support from the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network, Slow Food Fukushima and Shumei Natural Agriculture Network.

View photo gallery from the event here.