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RWA Seed Audit Report: A Journey into Rural Women’s Seed Savers

In a quest to illuminate the silent yet profound role of rural women in preserving our agricultural heritage, the Rural Women’s Assembly embarked on an extraordinary journey spanning seven countries: Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This expedition, spanning from 2020 to 2021, was no ordinary survey. It was a Participatory Action Research (PAR) process, driven by the very members of the RWA, aiming to delve into the depths of traditional and farmers’ seeds nestled within the hands of rural women farmers.

The report we unveil today encapsulates the essence of this remarkable odyssey, encapsulating the seeds held dear by over 600 seed savers. These women, often overlooked in conventional narratives, stand as the vanguards of our agricultural biodiversity, guardians of local knowledge, and custodians of our food systems.

Our journey was not merely a statistical exercise; it was an exploration into the intricate tapestry of rural life, guided by a Feminist Participatory Action Research (FPAR) approach. Every step was taken with reverence for the voices and experiences of our members, ensuring a non-extractive methodology that respects their agency and dignity.

Rooted in our mission to defend the commons since our inception in 2009, the Rural Women Assembly has undertaken the first phase of a monumental seed audit, conceived during a transformative feminist school held in Lusaka, Zambia, in 2018. This audit, spanning nearly 20 months, is not just an inventory of seeds; it is a testament to the resilience, wisdom, and unwavering commitment of rural women in safeguarding our agricultural heritage.

The genesis of our endeavor lies in the realization sparked during the feminist school, where a food audit illuminated a stark reality: despite being the backbone of local food production, many small-scale producers, including our esteemed members, rely heavily on imported food for their own sustenance.

As we embark on this journey of discovery and advocacy, we invite you to join us in celebrating the unsung heroes of agriculture – the seed savers, the food producers, the rural women who breathe life into our local food systems. Through this report, we endeavor to shine a spotlight on their invaluable contributions, ensuring that their voices resonate far and wide, shaping a future where their knowledge, resilience, and leadership are cherished and honored.

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