FERMENTATION IN SEED SAVING

Seed extraction in pulpy vegetables is unique and requires an extra effort. This category include; tomatoes, melons, pumpkins, cucumber, Courgettes, black nightshade and most fruits. At the field the farmer needs to identify diseases free, true-to type, high yielding, resistant to adverse growth factors and high growth rate seed plant.

The farmers need to follow this procedure to save seeds for above crops;

  1. Cut a mature and well ripen fruit into two equal halves (Tomato, pumpkin, melon etc.)
    A Farmer extracting tomato seeds

    Black night shade seeds extraction
  2. Scoop the pulp while for black night shade and small sized fruits squeeze the seeds into a clean container
  3. Add clean water just to cover the mixture
  4. Cover and Leave the content to sit for 4 days (Mold will start to form)
  5. Remove the scummy top layer
  6. Add water and clean the seeds
  7. Remove the floating ones as healthy seeds will sink
  8. Ensure the seeds are clean and without the gel
  9. Spread clean seeds on material(towel,newspaper,manila etc.) to dry away from direct sunlight for 7 days
  10. Store the dry seeds in a tight container
Air tight storage container

Fermentation in these seeds is important as it removes germination-inhibiting gel and also kills disease causing organisms. Farmers should embrace the practice and shift from the traditional way of saving seeds for these crops. This compromised the quality of saved seeds.

The farmer is expected to carry out a germination test before planting the saved seeds. Ideally Seed Savers Network recommends 20 seeds which are put in watered sand. A germination of above 80% is acceptable and farmers can be able to monitor the viability of seeds.

OPEN SOURCE SEED SYSTEM

Existing Seeds legal framework locally and internationally continue to prioritize complete ownership of seeds by individuals. This is done through provision of intellectual property rights. This limits the freedom of farmers to save the seeds. As an organization  we have realized an ideal system in addition to farmers seed system called Open Source Seed System that encourage breeders not to patent the seeds but declare them Open Source.

This has been made possible by learning from Hivos. This ensures that seeds remain free for use with no limitation. The system enhances seeds as a public good free to all. In team of three we have been analyzing the existing legal framework to identify challenges and opportunities for Open Source Seeds in Kenya.

We have gathered views from Kephis and Gerri which have enriched our paper and deepened our understanding on the implication of the system on seed freedom. So far the paper is at a draft stage. This will be published for a free access to the public as well like-minded organizations. The findings will then be disseminated through our online platforms. This will be done after a launch where various stakeholders and farmers representatives will be invited.

As a network with farmers saving local seeds we have integrated this concept where farmers are packaging and labeling their seeds Open Source Seeds. So far this has been done for local vegetables. This is also denoting the communal ownership of the seeds which is part of their cultural heritage.

We also try to bring plant breeders and research institutions to embrace the system and declare their seeds as OSS.This will ensure that farmers are free to use the materials for multiplication, propagation and in improvement of their crops. The system promotes existence of economic justice and enhances food security through diversity.

FIELD GENE BANKS

Yam field gene bank at Kenyan Genetic Resource Research Institute(GeRRI)

Agro-biodiversity conservation requires different approaches to cover all floras. However to many farmers seed saving has been taken to mean literally ‘seed’ for seed producing plants. At Savers Network we have integrated field gene banks in addition to seed banks to cater for non- seed plants.

Farmers are guided to set a small section in their farm to conserve plant genetic resources for arrow roots, yams, sweet potatoes, banana, cassava etc. for availability of their planting materials. This category of crops has inherent characteristics which make them difficult for stocking in an agro-shop.

The materials are bulky, occupy large space and have less shelf life which makes them unpopular for multiplication and distribution by the commercial seed sector. This affects their availability for planting and limit crop diversity in farms. Farmers are better positioned to conserve them at their farm in form of a field gene bank to be self-reliance.

The same concept is at the core of Genetic Resource Research Institute (Gerri) which has set aside land for non-seed crops at their headquarters in Kamuguga.During our visit at the National gene bank we learnt that their Field Gene bank holds over 200 varieties of yams, arrow roots, sweet potatoes,potatoes,cassava,fruit trees and grasses. The same was evident when we visited Ugandan National Gene bank at Entebbe. They have also maintained a botanical garden dated 1898 which comprises many varieties of plants.

At our network we recognize the work done by a farmer called Joseph Gathuru. His efforts in managing and expanding his field gene bank for sweet potatoes and yams have been outstanding. He was among many farmers who got the materials from our extension officers for multiplication and establishment of field gene banks.

sweet potato vines ready for distribution

This season he graduated from self-reliance to supplier of sweet potato planting materials to other farmers in his area. When we received the call from farmers we redirected them to him to provide them with planting materials.

The Procedure for establishing a field gene bank

  • Identify the local planting materials for non-seed crops which you need to plant and conserve
  • Identify the source for its initial planting materials
  • Isolate a section in your farm (fertile and well drained) for planting them
  • Obtain the materials and plant them away from animals
  • Multiply them frequently to obtain enough quantity
  • Monitor your field gene bank to remove diseased and pest attacked crops

Always harvest them when ready and replant them for continuity