Why

We cultivate diversity

Diversity is an essential component to ensure resilience of biological systems, as it enables adaptation to change. In agriculture, resilience is essential to cope with the effects of climate change. 

However, modern food and farming systems revolve around a vision of efficiency that implies uniformity and specialised production in monocultures at the expense of diversity and therefore of adaptability and sustainability over time. 

Loss of diversity has had a number of consequences:

  • local knowledge of heritage and farmers varieties has been lost; farmers have less choice and are more dependent on the seed industry;
  • uniform fields and landscapes cannot support functional biodiversity, such as pollinators;
  • pollution and ecosystem imbalance;
  • greater distance between producer and consumer.

A hundred or so years of modernisation have also resulted in seed, the very source of agricultural life, ending up worse off:

  • Simplified, uniform food systems have meant that some 80% of crop varieties cultivated worldwide has disappeared. At the present moment, only 9 of the over 6000 species mankind has cultivated in our history account for 67% of global food production, and those nine crops too come in just a basic choice of varieties. As an example, only four varieties of rice make up for 65% of the global cultivated area, and for potatoes that is as much as 75%.
  • Thanks to concentration in both seed and agrochemical production markets, over 60% of the seed and associated agricultural inputs sales is now in the hand of only 4 multinational corporations.

We cultivate diversity

Here’s what we do

Rete Semi Rurali was born as a hub for food system biodiversity, with the goal of supporting and facilitating connections, sharing of information and exchanging of experiences among those committed to diversity, from seed to plate.

Cultivating diversity is then our mission, and we carry it out in the awareness that:

  1. There is no one strategy that can achieve agrobiodiversity; the variety of food systems, developed by different peoples in different lands to meet the needs of the local communities can only be conserved with diversified strategies.
  2. What is worth conserving depends on who is consulted, how much is conserved depends on how many care. The more people are involved, the more voices heard, the better the understanding and greater the capacity for conservation.
  3. Diversity can only be conserved in everyday practice. The value of diversity lies in its usefulness; only with use can we keep it alive and conserve its value over time.
  4. Agrobiodiversity can only be kept alive on farm and there is no agrobiodiversity without farmers. Like dialects and local culture, agrobiodiversity is an integral part of the communities and circumstances that created it, and cannot survive for long without those communities and outside those circumstances. Biodiversity provides farmers and communities with choices to meet their specific needs. Saving one’s own seed is an act of self-preservation.
  5. Diversity is forever needed, therefore we must continue to cultivate it. Since extinction is forever,  conservation must also be forever. No technology can relieve us of our responsibility to conserve agrobiodiversity for our families, our communities and future generations. We must continue to use different strategies, involve as many people as possible, ensure that diversity is effectively used, to keep communities, and the agrobiodiversity they nurture, alive and thriving.
Research in Action

Research in Action

Research in Action

Sustainable, diverse agriculture is only possible if agricultural research takes place in the fields (decentralisation) and involves a greater number of stakeholders (participation). We call this research in action and believe it’s the future. Far from enough resources are currently devoted to breeding for genetic diversity and low impact farming. According to FAO, that could be as low as one third of total investment in agricultural research.
Community seed banks

Community Seed Banks

Community Seed Banks

Agrobiodiverse food systems require that seed is accessible to farmers, growers and gardeners. In that context, community seed banks become an essential resource, whether formally or informally organised. RSR advocates for the creation and establishment of community seed banks. We also have our own! We built and ad-hoc structure in our Scandicci headquarters where we identify, select, store and make available resilient, biodiverse seed varieties.
Sowing the Seeds of Change

Sowing the Seeds of Change

Sowing the Seeds of Change

If we want more resilient food systems, we need to enable the desired change at all levels: policy, legislation, the economy and society all need to support a better system. We are active in advocacy at the local, regional, national and European level.

Communities

Communities

Communities

Seeds belong to the communities that cultivate them to grow their own food. RSR works to facilitate and support the development of connections between all those people that, in all their diversity, are engaged in building new communities around seeds.

Only by collaborating with others involved in the production, governance and consumption of food will we manage to enable the agroecological transition to a more agrobiodiverse system. That is why most of our work is carried out within multi-actor projects.

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