Seeds, Just Seeds
It was November 30, 2006, and all hell had fallen on a small village near a volcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Homes were buried under feet of volcanic mud in the aftermath of one of the most devastating Typhoons in recent history.
At least a thousand people were dead, but we may never know how many actually perished. Many were encased under thick tons of mud, never to be found again. Nearly all hope that life would return to some semblance of normalcy was fading quickly.
At that time, SharedEmergency was publishing post-disaster pleas for help from victims of mother nature. When Typhoon Durian ravaged the Bicol Region of the island nation, few outsiders knew of the extreme tragedy. Those who heard about the powerful killer storm wondered what they could do, and how. Many of us felt utterly helpless… The question was, “What could we do to help?”
Then it came…a brief e-mail dated January 25, 2007. It was a short but telling message from a determined survivor…named Arnulfo. His plea, “Volcanic debris were washed down by heavy rains burying thousands of houses, killing thousands and hundreds missing. Affecting school building, roads, bridges, and agricultural lands. Bicol Region is an agricultural land, a lot of people lost their livelihood. It will be good if we supplement seedlings to plant like rice and vegetable seedlings.”
Arnulfo did not want money. He did not want clothing. He did not want canned food. He, and his community (what was not buried) just wanted seeds. Only seeds. A simple plea for a constructive start to rebuild.
Something so basic as the means to grow new crops and initiate agricultural recovery is a compelling concept, but not a new one. Many non-governmental organizations through the years have worked to restore crops in the days following human made and natural disasters to enable self-sufficiency and rejuvinate local economies. Governments have seeded such efforts as well. See 1998 Japanese study about the need for seed production in war affected areas in Bosnia and Herzegovnia.
The importance of seeds as a tool for relief cannot be understated. As global warming produces drought and farm lands are threatened with rising sea levels, ensuring biodiversity through the protection of plant and crop growth is crucial. Saving plants, through efforts like the Millennium Seed Bank (see TED video above), is crucial for the future, and for all those like Arnulfo (and maybe you and I, one day) affected by present day disasters.
Next time a disaster strikes…think seeds.