the seed thief resources + study list – afrikan reads book review

I have begun doing Youtube book reviews in a new series titled “Afrikan Reads”. Check out the first video on my Youtube channel, a review of the book “The Seed Thief” by Jacqui L’Ange.

Let me know how you like it, subscribe for more, and here is an accompanying resource and reading list on many things seed.

various indigenous seeds and seed accoutrements in Tharaka-land.

on seed – a resource and study list

“Many familiar foods—millet, sorghum, coffee, okra, watermelon, and the “Asian” long bean, for example—are native to Africa, while commercial products such as Coca Cola, Worcestershire Sauce, and Palmolive Soap rely on African plants that were brought to the Americas on slave ships as provisions, medicines, cordage, and bedding.”

“A major argument of the book is that multiple innovators – rural communities, healers, scientists and drug companies – contributed to the shaping of scientific knowledge concerning therapeutic plants, but they benefited differently. The six plants in question were used medicinally by healers and by lay communities. However, the patents developed from the plants recognised only the intellectual efforts of the colonial and postcolonial scientists.”

“Reviving seeds as commons, through a telling of seeds as story, we move from seed as object to seed as relation, making visible that which has been concealed and hidden from sovereignty.”

Streetscape in Salavador da Bahia, Brazil where much of the action in the book The Seed Thief takes place


“Synthetic nitrogen use, they argue, creates a kind of treadmill effect. As organic matter dissipates, soil’s ability to store organic nitrogen declines. A large amount of nitrogen then leaches away, fouling ground water in the form of nitrates, and entering the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas with some 300 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide. In turn, with its ability to store organic nitrogen compromised, only one thing can help heavily fertilized farmland keep cranking out monster yields: more additions of synthetic N.”

“seeds in a seed bank are locked away, not reproducing, waiting for plant scientists or a planetary food emergency to call them into action. This is why, to their proponents, seed libraries occupy an important (if still small) role in that bigger story: They actually bring plants into circulation, town by town, encouraging local variety and even potentially developing new strains. “The more seeds you can get out into the field, the broader the base of conservation… In the gene bank, evolution is frozen, there’s no more natural crossing.”

  • Utviklingsfondet, ‘Banking for the Future: Savings, Security and Seeds. A short study of community seed banks in Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Honduras, India, Nepal, Thailand, Zambia and Zimbabwe’ [report]
  • On the history of the state of global patenting and seed breeding: Carolan, ‘A sharing economy for plants’ [article]

“As a result, the majority of commercial crops and garden plants in use today were developed by agricultural companies, to the point that three companies – Bayer Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – account for roughly 50 percent of all global seed sales.”

Let me know what you think about this new series on the video or in the comments below 🙂



the memory of seeds and indigenous resurgence in tharaka, kenya

“In the global North, it has become more common to declare that indigenous peoples hold the solutions to the climate crisis. Such rhetoric risks being only lip-service if solutions don’t recognise and resource indigenous-led work to repair damage to indigenous cultures, commit to indigenous resurgence and integrate the wisdom of indigenous values.  After decades of shame, suppression and devaluation, much indigenous knowledge held by groups like the Tharaka has been forgotten, hidden or impaired. Tharaka women commented that it seemed like “everything was going to disappear”. Facing this eco-cultural crisis, remembering and restoring indigenous women’s knowledge and practices, grounded in a paradigm of respect and collaboration with the Earth, emerged as a pathway to resilience.”

As part of the inaugural Climate and Environmental Justice Media Fellowship run by FRIDA, the Young Feminist Fund and Open Global RIghts, I am investigating the intersections of gender justice and climate and environmental justice. For my first article, I travelled to Tharaka, in the central part of Kenya to speak with women who are remembering and reinstating their eco-cultural practices thus regaining their value and roles in community, restoring the Earth, and rebuilding resilience through indigenous African wisdom and practices.

Read the full article on Open Global Rights here. Also available in Spanish and Portuguese.

why we should study afrikan history

“Tracing African pasts through the interlinked lenses of agency, possibility and imagination allows us to counter narratives of Africa as a blank slate, to challenge the privileging of whiteness and Europeanness, and to debunk myths about Africans as people who are destructive or unchanging. It allows us to illuminate diverse possibilities of human living to build on, against the hegemony of a present moment that unsees and devalues us. For Africans, studying African history is an opportunity to trace the stream of African living for the last 200,000 years.
Unseeing was a colonial predicament. There is no reason why we must continue with these glasses on.”
Read more about why and how I think Afrikans need to study Afrikan history to recover our agency, possibilities and imaginations at:
The Elephant – Speaking truth to power.

on development (reclaiming naming worlds)

Development is a word and a world,
A word from a certain kind of world

In an ecosystem of other words
(progress, growth,
sustainable development,
adjustment, reforms,
good governance, democracy)

That makes a certain kind of world,
Built for certain kinds of people


What world?

A world of scarcity,
Of not enough

Lower – on a ladder
Behind – in a queue,
Slow – in movement,
Least – in value,
Failing – in progress,
In whose project?

So you become developing,


(Didn’t your mother birth you complete?)

But you don’t know, you must be taught,
You must be shown, you need help, you need experts
You need you need you need,

You can’t,

you are not.

I reject development and its miscontents, discontents, un-contents

I’m getting off that train to nowhere very fast

What names and namings did other worlds have for their dreams?
What names do other worlds have for their aspirations
Desires, presents pasts futures?

I want to use those names,

To foreground those worlds.

Keep your development, I’ll have my wiyathi,
Keep your development, I’ll have my sumak kawsay,
Keep your development, I’ll have my ujamaa,
Keep your development, I’ll have my swaraj,
Keep your development, I’ll have my whanau,
Keep your development, I’ll have my lek’il kuxlejal,
Keep your development, I’ll have my dreaming,
Keep your development, I’ll have my ubuntu,
Keep your development, I’ll have my madaraka,
Keep your development, I’ll have my yir kura,
Keep your development, I’ll have my raara to buri,

Yes, keep your development, I’ll have my living

c 2018

I wrote this in response to a class on ‘development’ in my Masters programme, and in which the majority of readings were from non-African and non-indigenous contexts – so I refused to read them. I updated the poem and included it as one of the interlude poems in my Masters dissertation on regeneration grounded in African lifeways. I remembered it because of a conversation about an alternative vision for the world and for the continent, at a conversation post film screening this weekend.

I remembered it because of my belief, desire and work towards articulating visions from the philosophies and lifeways of the people of this part of the Earth, that sometimes is seen like a blank dark gap. I was reminded today that being a story species, the things we don’t have a narrative for elude our sight. Part of imagining other worlds is seeking those names and naming ways that re-member community: human spirits, Earth spirits and unembodied spirits.