Of bigger pictures and tightrope walking…

Hello dear friends! It’s been over a week since I returned from the Regional Civil Society Organisations (CSO) meeting: Promoting Seed and Food sovereignty in Harare, Zimbabwe put together by the African Center for Biodiversity (ACB).

Promoting Seed and Food sovereignty meeting

My mind was racing from all the information I got over the 3 day program but my body was somewhat lagging from fatigue. To add to that- I forgot my purse in the hotel safe. Thanks to Cresta Lodge Harare, our hostess Nosizi of PELUM Zimbabwe, ZAAB coordinator Frances and her friends Mic and Talitha I got my purse back in my hands safe and sound! Allow me to let you all know na yamikila maningi. Zikomo. Be blessed! 

Interacting at the meeting

So a little rested from all that: where to start? Long post alert but an important one so do kindly bare with me! Day 2 of the meeting was very interesting! It’s like we didn’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. The aim of it was to engage at a policy level on what seed laws would look like for Africa. Africa as it stands is a goldmine for landrace varieties (seed which have not yet been selected and marketed by seed companies, nor developed by plant breeders).

The African Center for Biodiversity stand up for farmer-saved seeds, agrobiodiversity

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) was center stage on this day. In past interactions with CSO’s, ARIPO have come off as non engaging and non inclusive. They where charged with deliberately shutting CSO’s out of a number meetings to adopt draft Regulations intended to implement the the Arusha PVP Protocol. The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) in their July 2015 and as well as April 2017 press releases felt that “the Arusha Protocol is part of the broader thrust in Africa to ensure regionally seamless and expedited trade in commercially bred seed varieties for the benefit, mainly, of the foreign seed industry.”

An inter-governmental organization (IGO) that facilitates cooperation among member states in intellectual property matters
The African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO)

In the meeting, the ARIPO stated that the drive to register seed is just for the sake of record. It begs the question- why go through the trouble of changing entire regional and national laws? You have to wonder what’s the big picture here? In reading this we ask that you look at the lowly farmer who trustingly shares his seed and details of which have been passed down to him from generations to those that have the backing of IP laws as facilitated by organsiations the like of ARIPO and SADC.

Protecting Farmer Led Seed Systems
Seeds carry in them stories far down you can’t even begin to trace

They say “the system” will be there to facilitate the movement of good varieties across regions. Under this system:

  • Can farmers rights really be protected?
  • What will the information on plant varieties be used for? Who will access it?
  • Seed systems are very complex and we’re trying to simplify our systems to fit into rigid systems. Is it just fitting us into the Multinationals systems? Shouldn’t we instead have a process that allows plasticity and adaptation of the environment?

We feel that these Multinational seed companies- Monsanto, Syngenta, Pannar Seed, Seedco and DuPont; the only 5 to have registered their seed varieties and who have also acquired stakes in a lot of African Seed Companies would be well set to lay claim to seed varieties as their private possessions and to prevent others from using these varieties without the payment of royalties.

There’s a mad rush to register seed varieties

While it was an honour that they graciously accepted the invite to the meeting (in CSO speak that’s being open to interaction and a very, very good sign)- ARIPO course denied shutting CSO’s out of the process stating that resources are sometimes limited and Countries are represented at the meetings by their Government officials who should be the channel for any concerns or inputs into the process. Just wow! Personally to me- this having been the first time I was actually directly interacting with the organisation, I felt their demeanor “tactfully passive aggressive.” It was hard to get any firm commitment or statement from them. Every statement was well thought through- neatly wrapped. You can imagine what tightrope CSO’s are walking to fight for a place at the table in the drafting of Plant Variety Protection laws. There are issues to be addressed at farmer level. The 1st being that Farmer Seed Systems are not recognized. The process to address these issues should be transparent and “actually inclusive.”

Look, many of us lay African’s do not understand what the possible implications of these laws would be. It could change the entire landscape of Africa’s food systems. To protect their property, owners of seed varieties deemed intellectual property can put in place bio-inhibitors that would ensure that anyone using their seed would have to run back to them for help (fertilizers, new seed, pesticides etc.) and farmers who can not afford this will be cut out. India, where similar laws have been implemented, has seen a rise in farmer suicides that have been attributed to several socio-economic factors that have enabled an environment vulnerable to distress in the agricultural belts.

A mouthful I know- but it conversations that need to be had no matter how uncomfortable. Imagine what loops we might be setting ourselves up to go through if we give off power to foreign entities with regards to the diversity of our food. How will it effect our health? Our ecology?

As CSO’s we are committed to continuing the battle to safeguard our seed and food sovereignty- to saving our food systems, improve our nutrition and health and to saving our planet. We’re all connected in this perfect circle called life. Be awake.

Seed should be free

I hope reading this has you thinking about yourself and the future of our Planet today. Be in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook. Your thoughts mean everything to me. Spark a conversation with your family; friends; colleagues and even the stranger on the bus. Please let me know even if you haven’t thought about anything…tell me about ‘nothing!’ Let’s inspire changes for a better life!

As always- I wish you love and light.

Yours in health- naturally


I’ve got trust issues!

What’s new and good and lovely friends? This week I’m out in Harare for an African Center for Biodiversity meeting “campaigning for seed and food sovereignty in Africa” hosted by Pelum Zimbabwe at the lovely Cresta Lodge. I arrived and immediately began to recenter myself in preparation for the event. And boy I’m I grateful I did!

It was a packed first day. The meeting began with the screening of a short film focused on seed that set stage for the discussions. Over the last few years we have seen a rush by large corporations to enter the African seed markets. Seed in most cultures around the world has a sacred place in people’s lives. Seed is more than just food. We have planted, cultivated, nurtured, harvested, eaten, celebrated and exchanged it- it has been this way for millennia.

In Africa, growing food was a spiritual task undertaken by families to nourish their beings. A deep connection to the land that allowed this was key. Small-scale producers contribute a substantial share of the world’s food (the exact percentage is debatable and has somehow become a factoid of 70% of the Worlds food.

Biotech Companies continue to use their technologies (gene cutting, gene sequencing etc.) to research, build, produce and market their hybrid creations as the solution to World hunger. Farmer led systems have for centuries used natural selection as the basis for propagating the good seed we revere to this day- passing them down from generation to generation. Farmer led systems have kept this knowledge and continue to safeguard it through seed sharing.

Most of the corporations that have acquired African Seed companies through acquisitions and mergers have a history of being re-branded from chemical weapon manufacturers in World War II  to Biotech/ Agro-chemical producers post the war selling fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides in this day.  Africa’s vast under-exploited natural resources and labor make it a fertile ground for agribusiness.

See- it is against this background that I’m not ashamed to say I got trust issues. Civil Society Organisations at this meeting are questioning the motives behind seed laws and drives to register Africa’s diverse crops. We believe that Farmer led systems are under threat by Seed laws driven by big agro. What level of engagement do Small holder farmers have at national, regional and continental level when it comes to policies and programs such as crop variety registration?

The Southern African Center for Development (SADC) is one such regional body pushing for crop variety registration as a way to foster trade between member Countries. So far SADC have on record only 5 entities that have managed to meet registration requirements. They are Monsanto, Syngenta, Pannar Seed, Seedco and DuPont. They say the records are for information only and will not be accessed by anyone. So what- the records will sit there and look pretty? Still, how can we be assured this database of crop varieties inherited freely from our forefathers will not be open to use by the biotech industry who can easily get characteristics of crops- snip here and there and register a new variety as their own property?

Is there any real political will for these regional policies seeing as that most local and national are geared to supporting increased production and subtly point to big agro producers? SADC say that they’re not imposing their registration but anyone who wants to trade in seed must subscribe to it. Isn’t that discriminatory and cutting the larger part of our unregistered small scale farmers out of the game? If we have to create a visual of this- why with only 10% of the market registered should the rights of 90% in agriculture be cut off? Who is the real driver of these laws? What does it mean for our Country?

We enter day 2 of the discussions. We speak intellectual property rights and later we attend a seed festival! I’m very excited. I will take plenty of pics and keep twitting away! My Twitter handle is Missevij and you can find me here on Facebook.

I continue to do this work and to blog to envoke public interest; getting all of you awakened and present in this very real battle to save our food systems, improve our nutrition and health and to saving our planet. We’re all connected in this perfect circle called life. Be awake.

Have you thought about yourself and the future of our Planet today? Please let me know even if you haven’t thought about anything…tell me about ‘nothing!’ Let’s spark conversations that inspire changes for a better life!

As always- I wish you love and light.

Yours in health- naturally


Complicated Complicated

This is my rant about nothing and everything blog entry. I just want the world uncomplicated again. It puzzles me why despite knowing the ill effects of modern day agriculture practices- we still go for them. Higher yields, cheaper food and great profits they tell us but is this really? What is cheap about killing off fungi and other microbiome living in our soils? So what if we lose the bees? What’s the cost of treating multitudes with complicated diseases that we knew nothing of at such large scale only a couple of decades ago? What is the real cost of loss of biodiversity and nutrient depleted soils? Of food insecurity? Of a dead earth? Why is it when the plain hard truth of our actions is staring us in the face, do we continue to sugar coat it; butter it up, with extra sprinkles even just for good measure?

I attended the Zambia Alliance against Hunger and Malnutrition Indaba last year. I had an awesome time sitting among so many like minded individuals. My mentor and comrade in arms Rolf Shenton asked me as we chatted in line at tea break, “Why don’t you blog?” I looked at him and shyly said…”but I do.” “Where?” he quizzed. “Off my website Othentik Naturals….” I quipped under my breath, eyes darting around avoiding contact. “Hmmm…” I think he said. I don’t remember. My minded drifted as I continued to explain myself.

“Hmmm…”I thought later- not amused at the realization that I clearly I don’t write enough. “My life is complicated,” I say to myself. “Work, school, raising 3 kids and insomniac to add blogging to my routine,” I vent under my breath wide awake to the busyness that is life.

I lie! Not about being awoken though. I am truly wide awake. I’m firm in knowing myself and my strengths. I’m not curled up in a corner distraught and helpless. I’ve had the chance early, to experience the lows of life. How in a split moment everything that you know can be turned upside down. And so I know that it’s never the end. That it’s a crazy cycle this life. “Karma,” the ancients called it. We come to the earth part of a grand circle- where every single little thing is important and perfectly in place.

I made a worm cast 2 Sundays ago. I made it with my new friend Prince- an Ecologist. I’m squirmish. I couldn’t hold the worms without screeching like the girl I am. I let them slither in the palm of my hand. It was hard but I was determined. I’m studying soil and was so pleased walking out the kitchen door of my parents’ home to see 4 super healthy Earthworms on the ground. I felt small despite how gigantic I must have looked stooping down to scoop them at the thought of the great role these little warriors play living in soils- decomposing dead plants and animals for living plants, bacteria and fungi to feed on. That I was saving them from the heat and into my compost heap made me feel all super hero. I was accomplished.

They had me think how they show up every day- writing their ‘blogs’ in attempt to get at least one human convert to change their destructive ways. They do so in spite of the daily threat on their homes: the chemical droplets of “not rain” that we unleash upon the plants that give them cover; the trees that we cut down and the fields that we burn off. And you’d have the audacity to say your life is hard? C’mon! We all have to change our tone!

I did when I faced death. I knew that the world was larger than me. That I did not just come here to look pretty and walk nice. That like the lowly Earthworm I was duty bound- to the Planet Earth and all who live on it. That I had no issues so big I could afford to do nothing but cry. If everyone before us took a chill pill, and played around with all sorts of fancy mixes of dangerous stuff and called them ‘nothing’: if they poured them into the rivers where fish lived and splashed on the leaves just to see if anyone would complain about the effects of their ‘nothing.’ If they hunted for pleasure and killed off more animals than they had need of; burnt forests; killed everything in sight without a care- where would we be?

“Where will we be a couple of years from now?” It’s Karma I told you, that will come back to haunt us in retrospect if we don’t stop letting powers that be promote Eco unfriendly practices without consequence to their actions. We live on this Planet guided by Universal laws that require us to observe our environment and assess how we can preserve our natural resources as opposed to destroying them. We owe it to our own, our children’s’ and our Planet’s.

Albeit a little beaten down and worse of all battling writers block today- I share with the world my ‘worm work.’ Hehehe! I hope it will play a small part in getting all of you awakened- present in this very real battle to save our food systems, improve our nutrition and health and to saving our planet. We’re all connected in this perfect circle called life. Be awake.

Have you thought about yourself and the future of our Planet today? Please let me know even if you haven’t thought about anything…tell me about ‘nothing!’ Let’s spark conversations that inspire changes for a better life!

I wish you love and light.

Yours in health- naturally


And it all starts back at one

I fell in love with Nutrition as far back as when I was a little girl- my parents and brothers can attest how I was a known fussy eater at 4! I change little! I admit I went body image conscious a tad bit too early but my inner me knew what it wanted and demanded it!

In January 2016, I decided to get back to my roots and began studying as a Holistic Health Coach with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and rekindled an old passion whilst birthing a new one. It had me wonder how so many forget to ask questions about what it is they do and why on a daily basis with regards their food source, the content of their meals, their nutritional value as well as the effects of all this on their well being. We have a Health/ Nutrition epidemic that no one seems to talk about that is at the root of the widespread increase in Cancers, Malnutrition, Obesity and various Auto-immune diseases that have seen an unprecedented increase in occurrence the last few decades. News of death from such disease was rare 30 years ago. We now have a small number of Physicians struggling to treat a larger number of Patients. What has changed? Our lifestyles definitely.

I’ll tell you now that I’ve struggled writing this blog because I’m overwhelmed at the number of topics I need to touch on to get the message across. I’d initially sought to concentrate on building a coaching practice but realized I’d been called to a bigger task as a health, food and nutrition activist. That I’m meant to have you learn to ask:

  • What is this food?
  • Where was it grown?
  • How was it grown?
  • Is it Organic? Or
  • Was it treated with pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormones? And
  • If it was, how will I know?
Dangers pesticides field sign
The fields are not good to enter unprotected but the food is good enough to eat?

My blog aims to bring these questions to everyone’s mind. As personal custodians to human life; we’re asked to nurture our being- an instinct that has been so dulled over the years, that we give our power over to Media Marketers to tell us what to eat and when. I’ll give you one known fact- humans are the only known mammal to continue to feed off milk supplies that a baby cow weans off of to give it the nutrients and energy required for its growth the first couple of weeks of its life. Can you picture a full grown bull still feeding off its mother? What are the effects of this continual consumption of milk? Kept on a large scale mainly on Commercial Farms- Dairy cows require constant stimulation by use of hormones to produce- does your instinct tell you this is safe? Is the grain we force-feed our animals as a cheap source of food natural to their diet? What are the effects of grain on our animals? On ourselves for that matter? Who regulates what we eat? Who checks how it’s grown? How is this information shared with our general public? Is our food labeling detailed enough to allow us make better informed decisions?

With each post, I will look to expound a topic and bring you to discuss how we can take a more active role in our lives when it comes to food and nutrition. I will highlight the players in the game and look to showcase the work of many in the field. Looking at the Ministry of Agriculture website- I was amazed by the vast information out there but saddened at the same time by how little is public knowledge. I know we can work together to change that- to the benefit of a healthier and thereby more prosperous Zambia and indeed World!

Yours in health- naturally,