14th Annual Panhellenic Seed Exchange Festival – Mesochori, Paranesti – Photo: Aris Pavlos

Picture 1 – 14th Annual Panhellenic Seed Exchange Festival – Mesochori, Paranesti – Photo: Aris Pavlos

Report – Sofia Matsi for the Movement of Life Cyprus

On Saturday April the 26th 2014, the 14th Panhellenic Seed Exchange Festival took place at Mesochori, Paranesti – Greece.

The festival consists the biggest event of seed exchange in Greece and Europe and it is organized every year by Peliti alternative community. Peliti and its unique activities are a result of Panayiotis Sainatoudis – the inspiration behind the group and its general coordinator along with the constant presence and support of his partner, Sofia Yida and the active participation of local groups of Peliti all over Greece.

Agriculturists and seed guardians from Greece and every corner of the world, meet every year in the small village of Mesochori, in the county of Drama, bringing along a range of heirloom seeds with the goal of trading and sharing them with the attendees of the festival.

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Picture 2 – Seed packaging for free distribution at the festival – Photo: Sofia Matsi

This year, the festival hosted agriculturists and volunteers from Greece, France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Portugal, Iraq, India and many other countries. Amongst the participants was of course Cyprus with representatives from three groups: Amarandos, Movement of Life Cyprus and Kyprion Sporoi.

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Picture 3 – Volunteers from all over the world packaging seeds – With Petros Sainatoudis representing the young generation of cultivators and seed guardians and Aris Pavlos, representing Peliti local team at Aegina – Photo: Sofia Matsi

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Picture 4 – Seed packages with Heirloom varieties ready to be distributed at the 14th Panhellenic Seed Exchange Festival – Photo: Sofia Matsi

The volunteers arrived at the area of the festival up to a week ahead in order to help out with the packaging and organization of seeds that are sent to Peliti central offices by agriculturists and seed savers from all over Greece and the world. The space is prepared with tables, sheds and other functional structures so it can receive the thousands of people who arrive at Mesochori during the day of the festival.

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Picture 5 – Preparing for the festival – Building structures with the cob technique under the guidance of “Saligkari” Natural Building team – Photo: Sofia Matsi

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Picture 6 – Preparing for the festival – Planting pepper plants with Samuel from Ecotopia Bike Tour team, Sofia Matsi from the Movement of Life Cyprus, Niko Dompazi head of the local team of Peliti in Komotini and Panayioti Sainatoudi the inspiration behind Peliti and its general coordinator – Photo: Aris Pavlos

During the week of preparation, as well as the day of the festival, volunteers run a collective kitchen with legumes, vegetables and grains donated especially for the purposes of the festival by Peliti’s collaborating agriculturists and friends.

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Picture 7 – The group of volunteers getting ready for the big festival – Photo: Sofia Matsi

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Picture 8 – Panayiotis Sainatoudis giving out the final instructions a few hours before the initiation of the 14th Seed Exchange Festival. On his right, his partner Sofia Gida and on his left, in charge of the translations in English, Elena Goggou, head of the local team of Peliti in Athens – Photo: Sofia Matsi

The festival begins on Saturday morning at 10:30 am with the gates opening and allowing hundreds of people in. Each participant receives 4 coupons during his/her entrance which he/she can later on redeem with 4 packages of seeds of his/her own choice. The seed exchange is done without the mediation of money but “from hand to hand and from heart to heart” – as Peliti always supports.

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Picture 9 – People arrive at the 14th Panhellenic Seed Exchange Festival at Mesochori, Paranesti – May 2014 – Photo: Sofia Matsi

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Picture 10 – Collective kitchen during the day of the festival ran by a team of volunteers with grains and vegetables donated to Peliti by friends and collaborating cultivators – Photo: Sofia Matsi

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Picture 11 – Every participant can choose up to 4 seed packages of his/her own choice among hundreds of traditional varieties that have arrived to the festival from all across Greece and various corners of the worlds – Photo: Sofia Matsi

During the day of the festival a series of presentations and seminars takes place on a variety of subjects on resilience and sustainable agriculture. This year, the team of Saligkari analyzed the basics of natural building by demonstrating how to build structures with the technique of cob. Emilios from Miliou Farm in Drama, talked about the importance of organic agriculture and the incorporation of traditional seeds in the production of our food, demonstrating how to plant and how to collect seeds.

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Picture 12 – The Natural Building team “Saligkari” demonstrating how to build with the cob technique – Photo: Aris Pavlos

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Picture 13 – People arrive from every corner of the world to participate in the annual Panhellenic Peliti Festival – Photo: Sofia Matsi

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Picture 14 – During the festival local and international eco initiatives are showcased – Photo: Aris Pavlos

An important part of the festival is showcasing a range of ecology initiatives from all over the world – groups who are currently involved with seed saving and freedom. This year, Cyprus was represented by Sofia Matsi and Dr. George Katsonis, from the Movement of Life Cyprus and Antigoni Agathokleous from the Kyprion Sporoi initiative. The groups analyzed their role in achieving resilience in Cyprus by education and promotion of sustainability tools, among them the maintenance and sharing of our heirloom seeds.

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Picture 15 – Sofia Matsi from the Movement of Life Cyprus along with Panayiotis Sainatoudis, the inspiration behind Peliti and its general coordinator – Photo: Aris Pavlos

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Picture 16 – The team “Kyprion Sporoi” at the 14th Panhellenic Festival – Photo: Aris Pavlos

Among the teams who were showcased, was Garden Organic from the UK with Sally Cunningham and Clare Pritchard as well as Longo Mai community from Germany, with Juergen Schroder. Important was the presence of the Seed Freedom movement through Kartikey Shiva, the son of ecology activist and defender of seed freedom, Vandana Shiva.

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Picture 17 – Dr. George Katsonis – Movement of Life Cyprus and George Amiantitis – Amarantos with Nico Loftsali, head of the local team of Peliti in Kozani – Photo: Sofia Matsi

A key ingredient for Peliti’s successful festivals is of course good music played live by the “Namaste” band, a band collaborating with the community of Peliti for the last ten years bringing people together from every corner of the world through singing and dancing.

This year, the festival ended with a unique manner: With the initiation of the first International Solidarity Caravan for Seeds. The caravan consists a collaboration of the Peliti community along with the international movement for the freedom of seeds – Seed Freedom, the Navdanya movement and Kokopelli organization from France. The caravan set out from the festival’s space in Mesochori, Greece on April 27th and will move through Italy ending in France where it will participate at Kokopelli’s International Seed Days between the 1st and 4th of May 2014.

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Picture 18 – The International Solidarity Caravan for Seeds sets out from Mesochori, Paranesti, making a first stop at Aristotelous Plaza in Thessaloniki while continuing later on its trip towards Italy and France – Photo: Sofia Matsi

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Picture 19 – 14th Panhellenic Seed Exchange Festival, Mesochori, Paranesti – May 2014 – Photo: Sofia Matsi

Peliti’s Panhellenic Seed Exchange Festival is an experience that inspires every participating volunteer and attendee. It is an event that empowers every single one us to keep up everything we are doing on our effort to create a positive change on our world and turn it to a more sustainable and nature-resonated habitat.

In order to find out more about the Panhellenic Festival and participate in next year’s event as a volunteer, stay tuned through Peliti’s website or inquire about it by writing to the community at peliti@peliti.gr.