With the COVID-19 pandemic intensifying the importance of food sovereignty and security throughout Indian Country, we recognized an urgent opportunity to support food security in our communities. Access to ethically sourced, organic seeds is one the most vital factors for food sovereignty and the foundation for sustainable, healthy agriculture. Beginning in March, we pulled together seeds, packets and willing hands, and in this endeavor of mutual aid, created the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network Seed Drive. During the course of the seed drive, we sent over 10,000 packets of seeds to 731 Indigenous families & organizations from 237 tribal nations across North America. We are launching this fundraiser to support the second phase of our seed drive- the creation of an Indigenous seed growers network, rooted in a comprehensive regional seed cooperative exchange model, to help support access and kinship networks for sharing Indigenous seeds. We are working with a collective in the Upper Midwest to provide support towards the building of a cooperative regional seed hub that will assist in the scaling up of seed availability for this intertribal region.
From our sustained work in Indigenous communities in regards to seed sovereignty, we know that the need for seed is larger than the seed being grown and shared within tribal communities. In our listening sessions, we have uncovered a huge need for scaled-up seed production to support the seed needs in our indigenous communities. Seed requests for those keeping traditional indigenous seed tripled this spring for all of our community partners. People were turned away at seed giveaways because supplies ran short. Garden centers and online seed companies were sold out of seed due to increased demand for seed overall because of food insecurity and uncertainty. From the research we have done, it is clear that there will be severe seed shortages on the horizon.
Tribal communities are in great need of culturally significant varieties of seed to be regenerated and their crop yields multiplied, in order for them to be more widely distributed into the communities. Each community we work with has a small handful of people who have made a lifetime of commitment to stewarding culturally important seeds. But they are often doing this in a volunteer capacity, without any economic support, and often maintain other work to support their families.
Your contribution will fund these Indigenous farmers in cultivating and producing varieties of Indigenous seeds which will be distributed to Indigenous communities throughout North America in a second Indigenous Seedkeepers Network Seed Drive, during this coming fall and winter. Within this network, the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance will also be sharing our Seed Sovereignty Assessment toolkit, providing training and support to the partners involved in the process of creating Seed Censuses and Seed Sovereignty Maps for their community, to further strengthen these vital efforts towards food sovereignty.
Our Indigenous ancestors had vibrant regional and intertribal trade networks for seed and other necessities. Having a regional hub like the one we strive to create with this initiative strengthens the overall seed security of a region, and is an investment that must be made to strengthen regional and local food security and sovereignty in the times ahead.