Horrendous civil war in the former Yugoslavia (east of Italy, across the Adriatic Sea) left the country fragmented. These fragments -Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia & Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia- were then “home” to tens of thousands of people trying to survive in burned out ruins but unable to feed themselves or their families.
Calls for aid went up around the world. Many responded. In 1998, a newspaper article planted the idea for “Seeds of Peace” in the mind of a garden center operator in Saratoga Springs, NY (USA). That idea germinated in 2003 (incorporated in 2008), when this tiny mustard-seed of a group began collecting, packaging, and sending packets of seeds to a town in Bosnia. In 2000, the group was able to provide seeds for eight “peace gardens” in Bosnia and Herzegovnia. The gardens themselves were the work of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), and were planned with the intent of providing a safe and supportive environment where people from different ethnicities could work side by side to grow food for their families. The gardeners were diverse: widows, pensioners, students, refugees, prisoners and the mentally challenged. Almost all the participants require social assistance, and were it not for these community gardens, they would rely on Red Cross kitchens for sustenance. By 2004, the number grew to 15 gardens that served some 280 families. In 2007, while the gardens number 14, the number of people participating in the program in Bosnia and Herzegovina is approximately 3000. All the participants enjoy this highly successful project, as it gives them the opportunity to learn gardening (work therapy for many), to enjoy otherwise unavailable vegetables (a degree of self-sufficiency), and to meet and interact with others (re socialization and reconciliation after several years of hostilities).
“Seeds for Peace” has provided vegetable and flower seeds, as well as simple garden tools, for communities in Bosnia, Ukraine, Guatemala, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa. The aid hasn’t only been abroad; in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the group sent over 50,000 seeds to residents in Waveland, Mississippi.