The struggle for freedom and food sovereignty: a letter of solidarity to the farmers of Syria

On the 14-17th of August 2014 a gathering of 15 peasants and activists from Syria took place in Lebanon.  They  work together in the “15th Garden” to maintain  production of vegetables even during the conflict. Some had a very difficult journey to the seminar and many were not  even able to come due to the difficult situation in Syria. In the workshop there were also people from two refugee camps in Lebanon.

Given that due to the intense national conflict people in Syria  are starving, the seeds that reach them through this network mean a great deal  to them. In the places where seeds have been sent , they have already been growing food. Seeds are one of the most basic needs to produce food and are not accessible in many areas in Syria.

The seeds that are sent  are  used to  re-produce and  sustain production. There is still a lack of seeds and further support will be needed in the near future.

Through the work of  the  “15thGarden” peasants get access to seeds, and in urban areas and camps people are taught how to use and reproduce seeds. Through this project they are setting up places for seed re-production as well as distribution and sharing networks. The  people who are already experienced and skilled in seed reproduction and farming methods in general share their knowledge with other people in other places.

In a regions where the situation is very difficult, people have harvested big amounts during recent months. Women in a certain city have developed a strategy of using every corner in the city, cracks in side walks and in backyards of houses and so on to plant They cannot create a central community garden as it would be a target for the shelling. Their whole town has become a collection of many, tiny gardens. In another place people have initiated a garden, with the seeds provided by   the “15th .garden”. In certain areas in Syria under siege the production and free distribution of the harvest  lead to a direct drop of very high food  prices faced by the  hungry people  due to the war. This is an example of the positive impact activist-led  farming initiatives can have for their region. One of the goals of the project  is to build a stronger network to distribute and share seeds.

The “15th Garden” is an important and unique network where community gardeners, peasants and farmers from Syria and abroad meet. Among the participants we find farmers and city gardeners, refugees who have fled, but carry the soil and the spirit of Syria under their feet where they are determined to produce food in the places where they live. The “15thGarden” works on sustainable seed exchange and building the knowledge to reproduce sustainable and free seeds and all other methods of farming that people need to support life and guarantee some measure of  self determination.