Sunday 1 January 2017

cornucopia or fertile crescent

Although I’d like to believe that I would personally be able to recognise the courage and the dedication of the staff at the headquarters of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas completely on its own merit, I think a measure of thanks for the capacity for appreciation and foresight—both in besieged Tal Hadya in Syria and Saint Petersburg—is due to the parallel history and challenge of botanists that remained to protect the Vavilov Institute of All-Russian Plant Industry that I learnt about recently.
The act of determination and defiance, also adapted into podcast form, saved the vast seed banks of Leningrad whilst under Nazi assault and had the staff themselves dying of hunger to stave off mass-starvation that would result if there were no repository of food-crops for planting after the war. The Syrian institute itself is host to refugee cultivars saved from the Iraqi seed vault in Abu Gharaib and other regional combat-zones, however, while these and other reserves are of vital importance in re-establishing a healthy and prosperous populace after fighting has ceased, seeds are not just artefacts—like so much cultural heritage that could not be salvaged and works of art in the former case that were evacuated from the Hermitage, but rather need the farmers (with their institutional knowledge that may or may not already be on the run) to till fields free of fighting. The legacy is for future generations as well but dividends are yielded in one season.