In Palestine agriculture is inextricably linked to the culture, history and identity shared by the Palestinian people. The connection Palestinian have with their land and identity is constantly under threat not only from external forces such as the imminent threat of climate change but the ever expanding urbanization encroaching upon the agricultural landscape of Palestine. In addition, farmers are forced to adopt more modern farming techniques as well as specific crop varieties against traditional indigenous seed or crop varieties.
To preserve the agricultural integrity of the crops planted in Palestinian farms, Vivien Sansur founded the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library in 2014. Vivien found inspiration to preserve indigenous seeds in her work with farmers all over the world including the U.S. Guatemala, Honduras, Italy and especially Palestine, she explains, “Throughout my work and travels I realized that the indigenous knowledge behind the importance of seeds that hold the DNA and culture of a people’s ability to survive was disappearing.” As a result, upon Vivien’s return to Palestine, she started a seed library composed of the various indigenous Palestinian seeds she had collected during her work with Palestinian farmers.
Vivien’s efforts were meet with an outpouring of support and enthusiasm from local communities and Palestinian farmers who are passionate about the history behind their seeds. Thus, the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library was formed, to collect indigenous seed varieties and preserve the Palestinian culture and celebrate the stories associated with each seed. Vivien explains the purpose of The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library and how every seed is important, “I collect various indigenous species of seeds to preserve Palestinian agricultural biodiversity, because these seeds hold the D.N.A, culture and stories of generations of Palestinians which we can’t afford to lose.”
The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library works to collect endangered seeds and the stories associated with them, to preserve both the agricultural value of seeds native to the region as well as to preserve the cultural significance associated with them. Vivien relates how the Seed Library is more than just collecting seeds, but also raises awareness about critical issues affecting not only farmers but the growth and sustainable development of all Palestinian communities, she explains, “The Heirloom Seed Library not only brings forth questions but raises awareness that highlights the importance of biodiversity to our health, soil, nutritional value of our crops as well as to the preservation of our cultural and historical roots.”
Finally, Vivien expresses her hope that The Palestine Heirloom Seed Library will start conversations that brings Palestinian communities together to appreciate the value of Palestinian agriculture, she explains, “We are planting seeds not only literally but metaphorically, to challenge unhealthy food trends that are upsetting our connection to the land to determine what we eat, grow and how it’s done!”
Vivien Sansur has since participated in MENACatalyst’s Santiago Pitch Challenge, to meet with business leaders from the Palestinian diaspora in Chile.
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