Traditionally, agricultural extension personnel had the task of diffusing scientific knowledge to farm families in the farms and homes. This limited the farmers reached and geographical area of coverage. Despite its many benefits, it has limitations which require other approaches in service delivery.

Food Agriculture Organization recommends a ratio of 1:400 (Extension officers to farmers). This is much below the reality in Agricultural sector. Integration of additional farmers outreach methodologies to train and enhance accessibility to agricultural information would benefit more farm households.

As an organization we continue to reach farmer groups’ directly where extension officers meet them at grassroots level for training and in setting demonstrations.We also receive farmers at our demonstration farm as well as offer trainings at our training hall. However, we have amplified our work by use of electronic media, forums, agricultural shows and exhibitions to diffuse the idea of saving local seeds for agro-biodiversity conservation. Through the interactions we have been able to expand our work and reach more small scale farmers.

We have been hosted by Mulembe FM and Radio Amani on various farmers’ programmes where farmers have been trained on seed saving and ecological agriculture. Our presence in the media has helped farmers to inquire through

At Radio Amani

phone calls and follow up on seed saving concept. This has also been the outcome of Inooro TV coverage in ‘Mugambo wa Murimi’ show. We also contributed to a documentary through Hivos in collaboration with Open Society Foundation where we highlighted the plight of farmers managed seed systems. This will be useful in reaching and enlightening more farmers across the globe who shares the same challenges. Also we contributed to a podcast available online on the ‘Role of Agro-chemicals in Kenya’. Listen This was developed by Jason Farr a graduate student at American University after his internship at our organization. It unveils the untold story and serves as a guide for farmers to enhance their conservation efforts.

Through agricultural shows and exhibitions we have been able to showcase farm saved seeds to farmers.Our extension officers have trained them on the procedures of mass seed selection, harvesting, extraction, sorting,treatment and storage of seeds. This has also been an opportunity to reach senior government officials for instance during Chandera agricultural field day early December, we hosted Agriculture Cabinet secretary Willy Bett and CEC Agriculture Dr. Immaculate  at our stand. In July this year during Nakuru Agricultural show, we hosted by then Nakuru governor Kinuthia Mbugua, CEC agriculture Dr.Stanley and Director of Agriculture.

Agriculture cabinet secretary Willy Bett at our stand

We recently held annual seed fair with farmers from Kakamega, Nakuru, Nyandarua and Kiambu County. Various organization which includes; Hivos, slow Food Kenya, COSDEP and RODI attended.

Farmer-farmer training at a seed fair

The event came two months after an international seed fair at Nyando in partnership with Bioversity international and two weeks after World Organic Congress  at India where a farmer from our network and extension officer were sponsored by Hivos and KBIOC to participate.All these gave participants opportunity to learn more on our seed saving concept as well as giving opportunity for farmer-farmer training and mentorship.

A farmer(Francis) at India
A farmer(Francis) at India

Another approach is partnership with like-minded organizations locally and internationally.Through PELUM,

Farmers hosting visitors at their seed bank

KOAN, ABN and KeFAAS we have been able interact with other agricultural extension Officers across the country.This has been an opportunity for experiential sharing on best practices in various organizations .Collaboration with international organizations;European Centre for Development Policy Management  and 4 Italian Universities consortium,Bioversity International and Irish Seed Savers provides more information to farmers through inclusive research at farm level,sharing their work in documentaries and other resources.Through these Seed Savers Network links extension services to farmers  from outside world to boost our agro-biodiversity work.






Youths are the drivers of change and have potential to transform the population by igniting the spirit of agro-biodiversity conservation and adoption of ecological agriculture. The future of agriculture lies squarely on them as they will be the next policy makers, agripreneurs, private and public actors in this sector.Therefore,agricultural students graduating from universities and colleges require exposure on ecological agriculture and agro-biodiversity topics to deepen their understanding on the interrelationships between various elements in the ecology for a sustainable agriculture.
Some students from Bukura Agricultural College with their attachment supervisor

They also require interaction with the old farmers to tap traditional knowledge on local seeds on their uses, growth traits and cultural attachment. The old are custodians of the traditional seeds and knowledge but there is a risk of emerging a knowledge gap when they die.As our Kenyan Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and fisheries Willy Bett said recently, on average farmers in Kenya are 60 years old;this is alarming as we have fewer youths in agriculture.  Therefore  there is a dire need to engage the old to transfer their traditional knowledge on seeds to the youths.

Agricultural students should be all rounded by integrating ecological agriculture and agro-biodiversity conservation principles in their work. Learning only conventional agriculture exposes the Kenyan farming communities in danger of getting expert advice sidelining local based solutions.As an organization, we believe in giving the youths an opportunity to learn these key principles.Seed savers Network continues to offer attachment and internship to agricultural students. The students work with the farming communities in their day to day farm activities.This is to enhance inter-generational learning.(EAGLE,2008) defines it as a process through which individuals of all ages acquire skills and knowledge, but also attitude and values from daily experience, from all available resources and from all influences in their own‘ life world.

Seed Savers Network aim at changing the attitude of the students as the foundation of attaining the desired outcome. Students learn on the importance of saving local seeds and are engaged in identifying them in their respective localities. This is organized under experiential learning initiative where students from different Kenyan communities are brought together to share on their different traditional seeds.This is further built by engaging them in agro-biodiversity conservation work through traditional seeds saving working closely with the extension department. They are able to meet various farmers groups where they participate in the training. The students also own the idea and are expected transfer the same back to his/her community. Obtaining  traditional knowledge forms part of the inter-generational learning. Students work with the research department in documentation of traditional knowledge and seeds. This gives them the opportunity during data collection to tap the existing knowledge on local seeds and getting insights on their cultural attachment with the seeds. All this targets cultivating a new culture of appreciation of the rich benefits of conserving traditional crops heritage.


our office  library                                                              

The students are also provided with reading materials which are availed at our office library,internet connection for online desktop research and shown films on traditional knowledge and seeds.These resources aim at broadening their understanding on the mentioned two principles under our inter-generational learning programme.On ecological agriculture, the students get opportunity to interact with other students from Tertiary organic institutes like Manor House and Baraka Agricultural College. In addition, our staff has rich knowledge and training on ecological agriculture. The students are trained through our Extension Department where they are guided after the training insetting up a demonstration in our farm.

The practical sessions helps the students to internalize various ecological agriculture elements learnt.These demonstrations has been useful in training farmers,other stakeholders and students during our open days. The students are instrumental during this time as they are expected to explain their demonstration to the visitors.

A student preparing a key hole garden for his demonstration
Therefore, Seed Savers Network recognizes the need to train the youths from tertiary institutions,secondary school(Agriculture and environment clubs) and farmers groups to appreciate the role of agro-biodiversity conservation and ecological agriculture in realizing sustainable agriculture.

Agro-biodiversity on the field defies army worm

   2000m² Kenyan field

There is enough to harvest on 2000 m² field of Maina’s family despite shortage of rain and outbreak of army worm (Photo: Seed Savers Network)

Seed Savers Network and also our 2000 m² Team are happy to report that the idea of the 2000 m2 Field in Gilgil in Kenya has shown some potential in feeding households, especially at this period when Kenya has experienced production challenges due to shortage of rain and outbreak of army worm.

This marks the most difficult moment for farmers across Kenya as maize, which is their staple crop, was heavily attacked by this pest. It led to high harvest losses and crop failure. The national government through the Ministry of Agriculture intervened with a State Pest Control Programme. However, this only large scale farmers benefited from this programme. This situation neglected small-scale farmers such as Maina’s Family, which struggle the pest control difficulties.

The low maize production resulted in the import of maize grains and the introduction of subsidized maize flour by the Kenyan government. This was intended to fill the production deficit to match with the consumption needs. However, Maina’s family enjoyed Irish potatoes and continued to consume vegetables from their field. The surplus is sold which gives them an extra source of income and partially meets the household financial needs.

The Seed Savers Network is happy to see that the future of feeding the population lies in crop diversification and they would like to train many farmers to embrace the idea in their farming system. Despite these challenges, Maina’s family harvested 450 kilograms of potatoes, 100 kilograms of beans, continues to harvest carrots, kale, spinach, pepper, courgettes and other local vegetables – in addition amaranth, kahurura, comfrey, black nightshade and spider weed. The family uses the area which had maize furrow and is well covered with grass for feeding their livestock. Already, they have started with the primary cultivation and are ready for planting in the next season.

The Seed Savers Network is working closely together with Maina‘s family in order to establish another field for the coming season. Soon they will be visiting them to deliver some seeds for planting.

2000 m² Kenia

2000 m² field of Maina`s family in Gilgil (photo: Seed Savers Network)

Their dream is to set a demonstration garden where Maina’s neighbours can come to learn and embrace the idea of diversified cultivation practices. The Seed Savers Network is looking forward to invest more on this idea and establish more 2000 m2 gardens across the country to serve as training centers for crop diversification which will enhance attainment of our agro-biodiversity conservation Mission.

We would like to thank the Seed Savers Network for the important work they are doing and spreading the idea of diversity in agriculture to promote food security.

By Lisa Mair ,2000m2 Field

Lisa Mair