Adriana Murguia completed a senior internship documenting forms of seed saving as her senior exit for the Environmental Studies Major and Agroecology Concentration. To support her work, Adriana applied to a series of campus grants, did community outreach, and fundraised her way to Nicaragua. Preparing for her fieldwork, she worked alongside CAN Associate Director Heather Putnam, and UC Santa Cruz Environmental Studies professor Stacy Philpott, collecting background information on household seed storage and collective seed banks and the most common causes of seed loss.
In July and August of 2015, Adriana spent five weeks living in one rural coffee cooperative and traveling to seven others to collect information directly from farmers about their seed saving habits and challenges. The update below is a report on her experience in the field conducting a study in eight cooperatives participating in CAN and the UCA San Ramón’s collaborative Youth Leadership and Food Sovereignty Project.
My interests in seed saving came from my desire to understand why development agencies continually disseminated
technologies like silos, plastic bags, and genetically modified seeds to rural farmers in developing countries. Initially, I expected that farmers experienced seed loss because of suboptimal climate conditions and a lack of adequate storage materials.
However, after processing over 24 interviews with farmers, I found that farmers used a myriad of different materials when saving seed for the next harvest cycle. Bes
ides silos and hermetically sealing plastic bags, I found that farmers sealed their silos with plastic from bicycle wheels and used rice sacks to keep the hermetically sealed plastic bags in good shape for a long time. Farmers also applied experimental treatments, known as curas, to cure seed and conserve seed quality while being stored. These included applications of naturally derived insecticides and fumigants. Farmers primarily using silos to store their grain used chemical fumigants, yet used them at a very minimal level. The main cause of seed loss was damage by grain weevils. Managing these weevils has proven to be a big challenge because the insect lays its larvae inside the seed and so seeds are infected before they are even cured and stored.