Carmen Lozano from the Kichwa Village, Saraguro, Ecuador.

“We have the right to food, food sovereignty, good living, and good health.”

We are the people of corn, children of corn and we live from corn. Corn is the source of life and the fundamental basis of our communities. It is our medicine and food. Our seeds are the inheritance from our ancestors. Our seeds are more resistant, healthy and energising. Corn is the sustenance of life, we use corn for everything; when we make “mingas”, for lunch, dinner, for the holidays, for Christmas, for Easter, without corn any gathering is incomplete. If someone dies, it is the main food, we make various types of  tamales. We make humitas, tamales, tortillas, corn and mote. We make chicha, a very sacred drink and it gives us a lot of strength and energy. Different types of corn  are used for different things. If the corn is lost, the community cannot survive. We do everything with corn, we need to have corn. In the cities, people live off mercantilism.

Our foods are part of our identities. The new hybrid and transgenic seeds that the governments are filling with chemicals leads to the loss of our identity, of production and thereby affecting food sovereignty, causing poor nutrition. The new seeds are contaminating our seeds; the new seeds and food carry all kinds of diseases that contaminate our towns, lands, and waters. You cannot suck the cane of this hybrid corn. We have the right to suck cane and eat corn on the cob from our corn. We have the right to food, food sovereignty, good living, and good health. We guarantee that with our seeds.

Our seeds and our traditional knowledge belong to us and we do not accept that the government is interfering with that. Our grandparents lived for more than 100 years and nowadays we do not even make it to 60. As ancestral peoples with their own autonomy, we do not accept that anyone; no government or company take away our right to life. We have to be included and we have to write the regulations; we must be able to participate fully. It must be the case that any law that may affect our seeds nonetheless guarantees the survival and sovereignty of our people. We have autonomy as indigenous nations, and we are the ones who  define how we maintain our native seeds and our cultivation models. Our seeds are the heritage of humanity, they have no owner. Corn is all that is collective and in growing it we foster solidarity, reciprocity, coexistence and harmony . Corn is our life and if we lose corn, we lose our lives.
Photo: Carmen Lozano and her granddaughter Tamia, with her shawl where she carries “mote” (corn grains cooked in water with ash or lime) used to share with the family and their deceased in the community cemetery on the day of the dead.
Photography: Karen Swift