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Accepted Paper:

Afrodescendant Seed Infrastructures: Decolonising the Conservation, Use and Value of Caribbean Plant Genetic Resources  
Marisa Wilson (University of Edinburgh) Sylvia Mitchell (The University of the West Indies) Patricia Northover (The University of the West Indies) Talia Esnard (The University of the West Indies) Ruth Segal (University of Sussex) Anthony Richards (Richards Associates) Hugh Johnson

Paper short abstract:

In this paper we discuss structural and epistemic violences embedded in the conservation of Caribbean plant genetic resources. We focus on Afrodescendant farmers whose knowledge has been excluded from conservation efforts and propose alternatives including open source seed methods.

Paper long abstract:

For centuries, Afrodescendant farmers in the Caribbean have adapted to economic and environmental stresses by conserving and sharing agrobiodiverse seeds. Yet from the early colonial period, registries of botanical material taken from the tropics were created by the colonial scientist or ‘explorer’, who received all the credit and whose primary interest was in species of economic value to them, which were largely archived elsewhere. Spatial, techno-scientific and moral infrastructures for storing, using and valuing Caribbean plant genetic resources (PGR) continue to reinforce structural and epistemic violences of colonisation, enclosing seeds and excluding direct access and benefit sharing by West Indian scientists and farmers. As a result, Afrodescendant seed savers continue to be marginalised and dispossessed while grappling with climate change pressures. It is time for this situation to be rectified, and in a way that includes Afrodescendant majorities in PGR information sharing, storage, use, and benefits. In this talk we will: 1) explain how (post)colonial seed infrastructures for accessing, curating and sharing information about Caribbean PGR have contributed to racialized processes of structural and epistemic violence; 2) explain how this experience exemplifies long-standing patterns of appropriation and marginalisation of Indigenous interests in the global gene-bank model of conservation; and 3) explore whether and how digital and open source seed methods can be used to co-create alternative seed infrastructures for the sharing, storage, use and benefits of Afrodescendant seeds and knowledges. Our ultimate aim is to decolonise Caribbean PGR by developing innovative, culturally appropriate strategies for seed sovereignty.

Panel P007b
Challenges and Opportunities for Grassroots Conservation
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 October, 2021, -