Hand to hand and generation to generation
So that we do not lose tomorrow what we have today
February 22–23, 2019
Panagiotis Sainatoudis, Peliti Founder – Peliti Seed Festival (Greece)
Hello, gia sas.
My name is Panagiotis Sainatoudis and I come from Greece. Firstly I would like to say thanks to Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance and Mr. Bill McDorman for the invitation, then to John Caccia who came to Peliti Seed Festival last year and we worked together for Peliti and the Olympic Seed Festival in two thousand eighteen (2018) and now I’ m here to share my story. Thanks to the Institute of American Indian Arts that host the 2nd Mountain West Seed Summit!
I would also like to say thanks to my wife Sofia, we created together the first cell of Peliti, in 2002. The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance invited her as well but it was difficult for her to be here and she sent us the book “little hazelnut Leptokarakis and the Little Fairy” and of course all the Peliti People who support me.
Before I begin my presentation I would like to start with a small ceremony.
I thank the North where I come from
I thank the West for the invitation
I thank the East for the courage it gave me
I thank the South for the help it gave me for this trip
So in 1991 (nineteen ninety one) a friend of mine John Diamadopoulos who had come from Costa Rica told me to buy a packet of seeds he had bought from a seed bank from Latin America, but it was difficult for him to use it. He asked 5.000 (five thousand) drachmas (15 fifteen Euros) but still it was difficult for me to find the money although in the end I did it, because I was curious. When I opened the packet a new world appeared to me. There were different kinds of seeds from around the world.
There were roots, many kinds of seeds and corn seeds but the most impressive thing was that they were colorful.
Although the indigenous people who used to cultivate them have disappeared, the corn seeds survived.
From this packet I started to work with the heirloom seeds. I organized the first group in Greece and the goal was to save the traditional seeds. In 1991, I was 21 years old.
In 1992 I was delivering the invitations for my brother’s wedding in my home village and in the backyard of a house I met an old woman who was drying small black corns. I asked her what she was doing with it and she answered that she cultivates it for her grand children to make “patlakia” which means pop corn. So I asked her if she could give me some black corn seeds and she said, of course. After that I came up with the idea to ask people to give me some of the local seeds they cultivated. After I had visited the whole village I was holding different kinds of local seeds.
This black corn was the corn that changed my life and the lives of thousands of people. Today I bring a corn as a gift to indigenous communities as a gift of this change that has happened to me. I also bring some soil from Peliti Land in Greece.
In 1995 I was living in Dassoto in northern Greece, a small village near the borders with Bulgaria. I realized that my mission was to work with a local varieties. So I started travelling on foot and hitch hiking to every part of Greece I had information there were local varieties.
So I started Peliti (in the spring of 1995), the full name is Alternative Community of Peliti and its goals are the collection and conservation of the local seeds, the exchange of goods with no money and create an alternative community.
Pelit in the Pontian dialect (spoken from the Greek people in the Black sea) means oak tree. In Dassoto there is an oak tree which is a meeting point for the inhabitants. So I too wanted to create a meeting point for people beyond discriminations that separate them, following a childhood vision of mine.
Peliti’s logo is a tree that you can see its roots, its trunk and branches and was inspired by the cosmic tree of the Indian people in Brazil. When I started Peliti I was 26 (twenty six) years old and now I’ m 50 (fifty).
In October of 1995 in Athens in an Organic Agricultural Festival I made the first public distribution of traditional seeds in Greece.
In five years time (1995-1999) I managed to collect more than 1.200 (one thousand two hundred) different kinds of local varieties.
Greece is one of the most important countries in the world.
Do you know what else except for civilization, democracy, theater, astronomy, science, Greece has offered to humanity?
Well, Greece has offered seeds, lettuce, cabbage, olive, wheat, etc.
It possesses the 17th (seventeenth) place in the world regarding biodiversity. From the 12.000 (twelve thousand) species of plants that there are in Europe we meet 6.000 (Six thousand) of them in Greece.
In the area of Rodopi mountain range, the headquarters of Peliti, which wasn’t covered by ice 10.000 (ten thousand) years ago, a natural ark was created. This is the reason why we can see all the kinds of flora in a range of 100 (one hundred) kilometers.
In 1999 (nineteen ninety nine) I had collected all the seeds I could on foot, 1.200 (one thousand two hundred) varieties. All these seeds were being destroyed because the conservation conditions were not appropriate.
So I thought I could invite some farmer friends and give them some of those seeds. That was the beginning of the First Seed Festival in Greece and in Europe as well. Probably in the world too but I’ m not sure, perhaps you could tell me. Some of these seeds from this first Seed Festival are now in the market, in the farms, in the gardens etc. Totally all these years we have saved more than 5.000 five thousand varieties and gave them away to more than 200.000 (two hundred thousand) people. Every year we support more than 20.000 (twenty thousand) families.
In the meeting with the farmers we discussed about seeds, we ate together we listened and danced to music, had fun and everything was free. With this feeling we continue the Peliti Seed Festival all these years. And now that more than 5.000 people come to the Peliti Seed Festival we offer the seeds, the food, the speeches, the music, e.t.c. Regarding the food we offer, we collect two tons from donations. We offer more than 30.000 (thirty thousand) packets of seed.
This first seed exchange meeting was continued the next year.
In 2012 and 2013 we organized along with the Peliti Seed Festival the International Days of Seeds.
In 2013 (two thousand thirteen) the organization seed saver of Australia (www.seedsavers.net)characterized the Peliti Seed Festival as the Largest Seed Exchange in the World.
The year 2014 was the starting point for the International Solidarity Caravan for Seeds.
In 2015 (two thousand fifteen) during the celebration for the 20 years of the Community of Peliti (1995-2015) (nineteen ninety five to two thousand fifteen) the 1st World Meeting for Common Goods took place.
In 2016 the theme was: seeds, immigrants, refugees, solidarity.
Since 2017 (two thousand seventeen) we have been organizing the Olympic Seed Festival, under the support of the municipality of Paranesti, the Environmental Education Center of Paranesti, Navdanya, Seed Freedom Movement, Kokopelli, the Theological School of Halki, etc.
The Olympic Seed Festival was a proposal of Peliti in Hague in the People Assembly and it is an opportunity to bring people together and strengthen the positive thinking and actions for seeds, earth, food etc. We overcome the differences that separate us, find the common points that unite us and we all together make a better tomorrow.
The festival has inspired thousands of people worldwide, encouraging them to organize corresponding celebrations in Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Cyprus and other countries.
Every year, thousands of people (in 2018 we had more than 6000 visitors) not only from Greece but also people from all over the world participated in the festival.
Very important people have come to Peliti Seed Festival, for example, Dr. Vandana Shiva (2013 & 2015) from India, Julie Hawkins (2010) from Australia, Andriw Brouk (2010) from Australia, Michel & Jude Fantom, (2013) from Australia, Ruchi Shroff (2014, 2015, 2016) from India, Blanche Magarinos-Rey (2013, 2015, 2016) from France, Nelson Jacomel Junior (2015) from Brazil, Saidi Singo (2015) from Tanzania, Manlio Masucci (2014, 2016) from Italy, Hugo Blanco (2015) from Peru, Jody Koperiski (2015) from Canada, Tapsoba Ali De Goamma Burkina Faso (2017), Shannon McCabe(2017) U. S.A, Ananda Guillet (2018) from Kokopelli France, John Caccia (2018), U.S.A. Alan Adesse (2018) from U.S.A., Rachael Kennedyand from U.S.A and many others.
I would like to invite you to come to Peliti & Olympic Seed Festival 2019 from 1-4 of May 2019. If it is not easy for you, you can send us a video message.
The seeds are a gift from the gods so we give them for free as a gift.
The olive and the wheat according to Greek mythology was given from the gods. This is the reason why we give the seeds for free.
So Peliti now has 13 (thirteen) local Peliti Teams, who organize local seed festivals, collaborate with schools, create school gardens, and give support to both professional and amateur farmers. Peliti’s Seed Festival affected all the Seed Festivals that took place in Greece. Today in Greece more than 40 (forty) seed festivals take place every year. Of these, about half are organized by the Peliti Local Teams.
We also have some Theme Peliti Teams who work for the change of the law for the seeds. We have another music group which spreads the message of free traditional seeds to the whole world.
There is also a local Peliti Group in Bulgaria which organizes annual seed festival along with the Green Team of Bulgaria. They too, follow the Peliti principles, that is they give the seeds for free, free food, etc.
We inspired some people in Cyprus and now there are seed festivals there and organizing of school gardens again following the Peliti principles.
Over the last two years we have been collaborating with the Theological School of Halki in Turkey. The festival takes place with the blessings of the ecumenical (universal) Patriarch who is the person responsible for 300.000.000 three hundred million of orthodox people.
There is also a representative in Guatemala.
Each one of us is important and every day we create our future and the future of the whole world with our choices.
When we sit at the table let us think what we support according to the food choices we have made. For example when we buy lemons from Argentina we support the universal commerce and the destruction of the local production.
We have visualized what we already have today for example the mobile phone, fb, this meeting etc
Lets visualize a better world and one day this will come true because we have worked on it today.
Each of us is important regardless our political, economic or social position.
Everyday with our thoughts and actions we determine the future of the whole planet so let’s see what we support with our thoughts and actions.
Everything we see in human societies are fulfilled dreams. The microphone I’m talking to you, the computer I’m writing to you, the clothes I’m wearing, the mobile I have in my pocket the conference we are here today and the freedom we have to talk about some of these things are realized dreams of some people.
When they started to materialize those dreams nobody believed them. They were laughing at them, saying they would not make it calling them heretics.
Today, however, we are talking from one side of the planet to the other and we consider it self-evident. So let us envision a better planet with traditional seeds of free and free people and one day this will be the reality on our planet.
This will be because we have worked to make this a reality, through our own change.
Peliti & Olympic Seed Festival Founder