It is with great pleasure that I come before you as the son of a farmer and a farmer myself. From the youngest age, having been born and having lived and grown in a Saharan climate which is inherently unstable and difficult, I have admired the ingenuity of peasants. They constantly adapt themselves to changes in the climate and to all outside aggressions in order to suit their agricultural practices to reality and feed themselves and their children.
I very quickly decided I wanted to study agronomy and forestry. I was inspired in this by the fact that where I was born and grew up, peasants try to grow on the same land trees, vegetables and grain in order to have production systems that are sustainable and can be controlled in order to prevent the disasters to which we are exposed today.
Having said that, I want now to highlight a bit of the concrete work we have been undertaking with regard to seeds, androgynal seeds and indigenous seeds, which are our entry points.
I have been working for USC Canada for almost 16 years. We discovered in one remote place in Mali that farmers in cases of extreme climatic phenomena are even going to eat the seeds, and they just rely on the seeds found in the market. Sometimes these seeds are coming from very different agro-ecological zones, where the rainfall is better, much better than in Douentza. By growing these seeds, it is a cycle of failure and more failure.
What we did is to try to make a participatory rural appraisal in order to know the situation of the genetic reserve in the place, in order to keep them not on an individual basis, but through what we call community gene banks, and a community gene complex with two components--one that is a gene bank and another that is a seed bank.
Then you can keep all the genetic reserve of a place. This is very important for small-scale farmers. They are 80% of our population, and they have been developing very adequate systems for keeping alive the seeds by keeping them in the storage and bringing them into the farm the next season, linking then ex situ and in situ conservation methods.
This is a risk management system. Why? Because the seeds were kept by individual farmers, but now through the gene banks and seed banks, there is a collective or community control over of these resources, which are very important as the source or the base of any production system. They have been really adapting themselves to external aberrations like the climate, and the seeds are the result of the interactions between human resources, between soil and climate, and they are adapted.
But why is this type of agriculture now losing ground? It's because of global policies, the global market policies, and also the climate change issues, which are deep. The changes have been very complex, very quick, and very deep.
For instance, they can adapt themselves and the seeds according to interannual changes. This year in Mali, instead of starting on the first week of June, the rainy season started after July 15. Then, with traditional farmers knowing that the season will be short, they have grown what are called photoperiodic varieties, which can adjust themselves to the length of the rainy season. This is very important, and today, if the whole world can learn from this, this is very important.
I don't say that these systems are, today, very relevant, because I've said that they have been affected by external aberrations like the negative policies at the global level and the climate change issues, which have been very deep, and also the floods, because they didn't used to manage floods but they used to manage droughts. It means that the context is changing.
What Canada can do in such a process is help agriculture in other places. In helping agriculture, it's important to help members of civil society and also the governments to work together to know the current situation, to know the limits of traditional systems and how to improve them by putting together traditional knowledge, which is based on wisdom, and also modern knowledge.
Modern knowledge is not able to overcome the problems on its own because this type of knowledge has been developed outside reality, out of the climate, in the research stations. But by putting together the two types of knowledge, the problems can be overcome, and I think the whole world can learn these adaptation systems, which have been developed by the farmers throughout generations.