RCE Inje - 2024

Preserving Indigenous Seeds
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Preserving Indigenous Seeds
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Inje
Contributing organization(s) : 
National Women Farmers' Association Hwaseong Branch, Unni's Farm, Indigenous Seed Platform (National SNS Gathering), Sinnam High School, Seohwa Elementary School, Wontong Middle and High School, Bantipputri Social Cooperative, Hanam Elementary School, Girin Middle and High School, Yongdae Care Center, Seohwa Middle School
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Chang heum -Kim
Organizational Affiliation: 
RCE Inje
Format of project: 
Face-to-face activities, PowerPoint presentations, surveys, campaigns, festivals
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Monday, January 8, 2024
At what level is the policy operating?: 
Geographical & Education Information
Korea, South
Inje County, Gangwon Province
Address of focal point institution for project: 
Schools within Inje and DMZ Peace Life Park

Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Inje County was a battleground during the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 and remains a war-disrupted area where the North and South are facing each other around the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Located at the intersection of the Baekdu-Daegan mountain range and the DMZ, Inje County, due to military reasons, its geographical location, and natural conditions, is restricted from development, making it one of the areas with the highest ecological diversity in Korea.

With a population density of less than 20 people per 1 km², it is a rural mountainous area. It boasts the highest oxygen content nationwide, and the water quality of 18 out of 19 rivers used for tap water is excellent, with one being good.

To experience this natural environment, over a million tourists visit Inje County annually. Notable attractions include Seoraksan National Park, the first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Korea, Daamsan Yongneup Wetland (Korea's first Ramsar site), the DMZ, Self-growing Tree Forest, Baekdamsa Temple, and more.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
"토종종자"(Native seeds) refers to seeds that have adapted to various climates for decades to thousands of years. These seeds are resilient to disasters and pests, making them suitable for cultivation. Seeds produced by companies typically germinate only once to maximize profits, forcing farmers to purchase disposable seeds each year. However, these seeds, intertwined with modern agricultural practices, rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, contributing to soil and water pollution.
The royalty payment for seed acquisition over the past 10 years is 1.33 trillion won (2010-2019, Rural Development Administration). This burden falls heavily on farmers, especially those with small-scale farms. Seeds represent our food supply and are deeply connected to our lives.
During the Japanese colonial period, the Korean War, and the modernization of agriculture through development, many indigenous seeds in Korea were lost or exported. The lilac, which holds a 30% share in the global lilac market, originated from the Korean mountain lilac and was improved in the United States. The Christmas tree, generating billions in profits, is derived from Korea's spruce tree. Additionally, while the origin of soybeans is Northeast Asia, the country currently holding the most soybean varieties with 17,000 is the United States.

Indigenous seeds represent biodiversity. Market-oriented vegetables and fruits are designed to be large, sweet, and preservable according to consumer preferences. The seeds are standardized and mass-produced. However, indigenous seeds, true to their inherent qualities, exhibit diverse characteristics in terms of size, color, and taste.
April, 2016
Collection and Cultivation: We collect and cultivate our indigenous seeds, sharing them within the community.

Preserving the Diversity of Flavors: We aim to allow future generations to experience and remember the diverse flavors of native vegetables and fruits.

Recording Traditional Farming Methods and Recipes: We document traditional farming methods related to indigenous seeds and the ways to prepare dishes using them.

Documenting Seed Stories and Farmer's Lives: We record the stories associated with the seeds and the lives of farmers who have preserved them throughout history.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
Collection and Heritage Survey of Indigenous Seeds
-In 2016, club students from Sinnam High School, along with local women farmers' organizations and nationwide indigenous seed groups, conducted a collection of indigenous seeds and gathered stories about them. (Collected 88 varieties in the first year)

A regular meeting was organized for the Inje region's indigenous seed resident community, and a heritage survey was conducted to collect seeds that have been passed down in the Inje region. (Collected 27 varieties, including pumpkin, corn, crown daisy, eggplant, cucumber, beans, and millet)

Planting, Cultivating, and Sharing Locally
-Since 2016, we have been sharing the importance of indigenous seeds with elementary, middle, and high school students. Together, we cultivate crops, harvest seeds, and distribute them in the local community. (Participating schools and organizations include Sinnam High School, Wontong Middle and High School, Wolhak Elementary School, Hanam Elementary School, Girin Middle School, Seohwa Middle School, Yongdae Care Center, Seohwa Elementary School, etc.)
-We primarily conduct the program weekly from April to October, often incorporating it into the school curriculum. Alongside teaching about indigenous seeds, we also provide education on the importance of elements in nature such as soil, water, air, and sunlight.

Ecological Garden Research Group and Training Activities for Children"
- In this initiative, we focus on fostering an Ecological Garden Research Group and conducting activities to train individuals who can engage children.
Size of academic audience: 
From 2020 to 2023, approximately 80 participants completed the course.
We currently possess over 100 varieties of indigenous seeds and consistently educate the younger generation about the importance of seeds and farming:

Indigenous seeds have been passed down through 3-4 school gardens each year and participate in nationwide events.
Some students who were active in the high school club have pursued higher education (e.g., Korea National University of Agriculture) and are now working in agricultural professions in the region.
In recognition of these efforts, Sinnam High School Club received the 4-H Grand Prize in Gangwon Province in 2017 and 2018, the Minister of Environment Award in 2019 and 2022, and the Gangwon Environmental Award in 2023.
Operating a weekend farm in 2024 that focuses on safe food, healing, and care through indigenous seeds.
Systematized the Inje County Indigenous Seed Association and established regulations, enabling future projects and support.
Planning to establish facilities to survey and excavate seeds from both North and South Korea, with a focus on border areas, once reunification occurs.
Lessons learned: 
The industrialization and modernization of agriculture have progressed to facilitate large-scale production through mechanized farming and the use of uniform varieties. In this process, traditional rural communities emphasizing collaboration, like "dure" and "poomati," have disappeared, and seeds have been neglected by farmers. During the survey of indigenous seeds in Inje County, it was observed that many farms within the county are transitioning to greenhouse farming or high-income specialty crops, rather than preserving and developing the unique agricultural traditions of rural communities. There were not many farms holding indigenous seeds. As climate change intensifies and conflicts arise worldwide, the importance of food and seeds will increase. Therefore, it is necessary for farmers to establish sovereignty over our seeds
Key messages: 
It is said that over 60% of the vegetables and fruits displayed in supermarkets in Korea are produced from F1 hybrid seeds and disposable seeds. When future generations look at nature, it is crucial for them to remember the original taste inherent in the diversity of species. To preserve not only the diversity of species but also the diversity of thoughts and emotions, such education is deemed necessary.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
None specified.
The school and RCE Inje share the responsibility, with each covering 50%, for education and research activities.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 
SDG 6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all 
SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
SDG 16 - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Disaster Risk Reduction 
Traditional Knowledge  
Curriculum Development 
Plants & Animals 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
Priority Action Area 4 - Mobilizing youth 
Priority Action Area 5 - Accelerating sustainable solutions at local level 
I acknowledge the above: