Early in December 2016, a group of 54 indigenous corn farmers from nine countries were joined by NGO, academic, and artistic allies in Ek Balam, Yucatán, where we drafted the Declaration of Ek Balam. Our work was presented before the 13th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which was held December 5-17 in Cancún, Mexico. Our gathering was the culmination of a yearlong series of regional meetings of native maize farmers and seed savers. The Acequia Institute was represented by Dr. Devon G. Peña. The principles and policy demands embodied in the Declaration of Ek Balam seek to “protect the sacred in corn.” The Declaration expresses concern for the status of maize biocultural diversity, the threats posed to this civilizational heritage, and the strategies and ongoing responses of indigenous global grassroots action networks.
Highlights of the Declaration include principles of respect for indigenous cosmovisions (and ways of knowing and being); recognition of our collective practices of solidarity and conviviality; rejection of any law that will criminalize the free exchange and caring flow of seeds among indigenous peoples and peasant farmers; prohibition of the introduction, planting, and legal or illegal sale of transgenic maize seeds in all the countries whose indigenous peoples, through present times, have conserved and diversified this plant and its associated cultigens and wild ancestors.
The Declaration is based on two vital principles: First, is the tenet that maize is the center of life for us with sacred value for original peoples, and together with biological diversity must never be treated as a commodity. Second, as original people, we have conserved, maintained, and improved, day to day, until the present, all of the varieties of maize and the biodiversity that are linked to traditional resilient, equitable, and sustainable right livelihoods. While all of us face the threats posed by transgenic maize, neoliberal enclosures and displacements, and other forms of structural violence and historical trauma, an equally serious challenge involves mentoring youth and the next generation of corn protectors. The Ek Balam Declaration illustrates the possibilities for transnational circulation of local struggles and networking practices (‘glocalization’) involving place-based indigenous community responses to threats posed by the new enclosures of a neoliberal phase of settler colonial capitalist maldevelopment.
For the full text of the Declaration go here: Seed Sovereignty Documents: The Declaration of Ek Balam