The new Balkan Seed Network: opportunities for Eastern Europe

Bori Lipka, from the Hungarian Seed Savers in Maghaz, attended the meeting of the new Balkan Seed Network. Here is a report of the meeting, which can be very important for other Eastern European realities to network together, for seed diversity!

After becoming a member of the Let’s Liberate Diversity (LLD) network, Magház Association just had another great opportunity for international networking – this time in Bucharest. The occasion was the final meeting of the Balkan Beets (https://www.arche-noah.at/english/projects/balkan-beets) project between the 25th and 27th of May, where the organizers kindly invited LLD to have a formal introduction with the project partners from all over the Balkans. It so happened that I represented Magház and LLD as well at this wonderful meeting.

Outputs of the session on Farmers’ seed quality

I was a little anxious before arriving as I haven’t met with most of the participants – not even on a Zoom meeting – and sometimes it’s hard to arrive to a group that has been working together for a long time. It turned out soon that it was unnecessary to worry: I was accepted very kindly and warmly, the participants were interested both in the work of Magház and LLD, and we even started to plan some future collaborations. The venue of the meeting was fantastic, we spent most of the three days in The Legacy ((https://bucharest.the-legacy.life/)), a small and green oasis in the center of Bucharest. Besides the great place I also have to mention the amazing food that was made onsite by our two cooks, mostly from local and seasonal vegetables.  

The Balkan Beets project: partners and details 

The coordinator of the project was Arche Noah Schiltern from Austria, and the participants were coming from all over the Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. Some of the participants represented some organizations, like ZMAG from Croatia, Okvir života network from Serbia, ALICA Foundation from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Casa Semintelor from Romania, AEGILOPS from Greece, or the Instute of Plant Genetic Resources of the University of Tirana. Some other participants came from community seed banks or were seed farmers. It was wonderful to spend time in such a diverse and interesting company! The program was quite busy, most of the topics being about the project itself, seeds and plant cultivation, but we had some opportunity to talk about various other topics as well in the breaks.

The agenda of the Bucharest meeting

There were only two and a half days to go over all the planned sessions, so the program was quite busy and tiring but so much productive as well. We spent the first day mostly with introductions: participants reported on the achievements during the Balkan Beets project. As I only knew the basics about the project, this session was particularly interesting for me. After all the reports, I also had the opportunity to introduce Magház and LLD, as well as sharing the invitation for all the participants and organizations for the international conference about agrobiodiversity and seeds in October.

The second day started with another intriguing session about varieties that can somehow adapt to the effects of climate change. First we heard a short introduction to the topic, why is it important to research this area and some of the most important aspects. After this, participants presented some good examples from their countries, for example a drought-tolerant corn variety from Serbia, a very resistant broad bean from Croatia and a drought-tolerant running bean from Albania. Being seed savers, of course, we had a small international seed swapping after this session.

The Balkan Seed Network: the aims and actions!

Then came the hardest and longest but incredibly fruitful discussion, at the end of wich the Balkan Seed Network was officially established. The aim of the network is to join the efforts of the organizations and individuals that are working on seed sovereignty and the conservation of old varieties and landraces. In the afternoon we also talked about the current European Union seed legislation and the relatively new legislation about Organic Heterogenous Materials. After discussing legal questions we changed to the next key topic: what kind of projects and collaborations can we build together? These discussions were so enthusiastic that we continued them on the next day as well. Unfortunately I had to leave after lunch and I couldn’t stay for visiting the garden and seed bank of Casa Semintelor. But these two and a half days were a great experience for me nonetheless and I’m really grateful for the opportunity for Arche Noah and LLD as well! I really hope that we can soon establish some closer cooperation, and that we’ll meet many of the participants in Budapest in October!

Balkan Seed Network
The Balkan Seed Network