Hortensia harvests broad beans. She was born and lives in Casa Quemada village, near Quilota Volcano. She has dedicated her whole life to agriculture, sowing and protecting potato, mashua and beans seeds. She lives with her husband and 7 children, the older ones work with her in the crops
Harvested lentils, some of them are cooked by Alegría and others are selled in the market
Hortensia and her children Alejandro (5) and Nina (8) in the garden. Since early age, they have learned to feel respect and be responsible for their crops
Alegría Chavez's bedroom window. Alegría was awarded, by her community, as ‘seed guardian’ because she has more than 40 different corn seeds. The view from her window shows her hometown called Cercado
Two women in the Organic Market of Cotacachi sell seeds, fruits and vegetables. Many of the seed guardians meet every Saturday to sell their products to locals and tourists
Hortensia steps on recently harvest potatoes. She keeps many of these in a dark room for two months until they grow roots and can be sown.
Alegría Chávez’s altar. In several corners of her house, she has small altars with offerings for the Pachamama (mother earth). Alegría is not only a seed guardian but spiritual healer
Woman dancing during the Uyanza, a celebration to honor mother earth and new planting season
Ecuador was declared free from transgenic crops and seeds in 2008 and it is the only country in Latin America that bans them in its constitution. Industrialized transgenic crops (cotton, rice, soybeans, corn, canola) jeopardize biodiversity, food safety, and human and animal health. Seed guardians are the ones responsible for safeguarding and reproducing ancestral seeds.
From my research the most successful seed safeguarding projects are women-led. Rural female guardians base their work on ancient knowledge, neo-rural female guardians base theirs on scientific information. They generously trade knowledge and build up a powerful regional network. There are networks of female guardians with over 3000 seed varieties.
Getting to know the everyday lives of these women through photographs carries us to a parallel universe where time passes differently from what we know, where land and traditions reign, where their seeds are considered family treasure, sustenance and currency that save us from the danger of some genetic experiments.
*As a photojournalist, I am very interested in all life stories in which women are responsible for taking care of mother earth, food and climate change adaptation processes