Exchange Visit To Uganda

The team at Uganda

In strive to build capacity for staff, farmers and journalists (Mulembe FM and Seeds of Gold) in our network, we had a seed saving learning journey to various destinations in Uganda. The 5-day trip targeted interaction with farmers, government actors and Non-governmental organizations from Uganda to share their experiences and best practices in seeds saving.

They included; National Research Organization (Naro), National Gene bank, Bioversity International, GRAIN and Community Seed Banks. The team got an opportunity to learn from them on; Seed Revival, agro-ecological agriculture, seed multiplication, treatment and storage, Concept of Quality Declared Seed (QDS),Running community seed banks as business, records in the seed bank and Quality Assurance function the operations.

What excited us throughout the visit was the support of government and research institutions in promotion of community seed banks. The role of Ugandan National Research Organization (Naro), National Gene bank and Bioversity International was at the lips of every speaker. The team followed each closely hoping that one day this will happen in Kenya.

Kiziba Community Seed Bank at Sheema District of Uganda was the evidence of success due to this engagement. The members got initial seeds for multiplication from the National Gene bank and National Research Organization in collaboration with Bioversity International. Naro has been instrumental in building technical capacity of farmers for quality seed production.

At a community seed bank

At the heart of their work was to ensure farmers access seeds. This has made the government to move an extra mile and provide land for construction of the seed bank. The presence is also visible in day to day running of the facility as

the local area member equivalent to a chief in Kenya forms part of its leadership. He ensures that beneficiaries (farmers) repay back the loaned seeds in the ratio of 1:2 as stipulated in the by-laws of the facility. This prevents the incidences of defaulters aiding in the growth and expansion of the seed bank.

The support from the government and internal control systems has been the drive for its growth to a cooperative which was legally registered last year (2017). This has enhanced their work in community seed business in the area. The achievement has resulted into opening of other seed banks and seed distribution outlets to satisfy the demand for the seeds.

What encouraged us more was the progress and efforts at individual member level. We noted that members have adopted the idea and have developed their own seed banks at their households. About 1km from Kiziba Community Seed bank we accompanied Joyce as she led us to her home.

On arrival we found a group of women seated in a circle with smile on their faces perhaps they knew how knowledgeable we would be after the visit. Their t-shirts were branded ‘Joy and Family’ an in-

Joyce and family receiving us

dicator of ownership of the work and success in their homestead. As we sat down their leader introduced us and at this time we realized Joyce was an exceptional farmer.

Her role as a mobilizer in Kiziba seed bank also manifested itself at the family seed bank. She is a renowned farmer in the area and her work has received recognition in Uganda and internationally. In her hands she held certificates, pictures at seed fairs and trophy.

Indeed she is ‘the best farmer’ as the community refers to her every time when they are introducing her. Her farm was well organized with crop diversity and high soil fertility. As she took us through various sections of her farm the team was keen to grasp new concept to take them back home. As she took us through the banana plantation the team learnt how to use traditional trapping methods to control banana weevils. To our surprise it worked so well and at every trap we saw three to four weevils which were then physically crushed.

Her farm was spongy-like and we did not hesitate to ask her the secret. With smiles over her face she said, ‘the credit goes to agro-ecological farming. I use my crop residues by incorporating them in the soil especially banana to improve soil fertility.’ She then took us through the process of field management practices for banana which were insightful to the team.

All along she depicted dedication and efforts to learn on quality seed selection, multiplication and knowledge from every word she spoke. Farmers in the team got motivated and termed her as a role model. They felt the need to be pioneers and saw a brighter future in their seed saving work by setting the same standards here in Kenya.

At her homestead stands a structure which serve as a seed bank for the family. Inside were different colours, shapes and sizes of different varieties of seeds. Over 40 varieties of beans, sorghum, millet and local vegetables. The seed bank is well organized and at the corner we saw records and a weighing balance which showed commonality in the operations of the family seed bank with the Kiziba Community seed bank.

We were lucky to receive a cup of a traditional porridge made from fermented millet from the seed bank. This is one way the family seed bank try to value add some of materials which does not qualify as seeds. We then visited another local seed bank which shared the same attributes like the others. The team left the destinations empowered, informed and motivated to strengthen and grow our seed saving work here in Kenya.

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

SEED EXCHANGE TRANSFORMS LIVES

Francis Ngiri is at his farm when I visited, he is a farmer from makongo, Kiptagwanyi area in Nakuru County. He is a member of makongo farmer’s network group, one of the groups managed by Seed Savers Network.

He started saving seeds in 2014 where he was saving seeds that were common to other farmers such local beans, maize,vegetable,,sorghum among others. Francis is a role model to  other farmers in his group since he has been able

to save huge  amount of seeds in their seed bank, for example 90 kg of red kidney beans, red sorghum 45 kg, 30 glasses of black night shade and many more .Being a leader of makongo farmers network group he attends different seminars and trainings organized by seed savers network  on farming .

During one of the training in November last year,a diverse seed competition organized by PELUM-Kenya, ,he was

Francis sorting seeds

able to interact with other farmers at a different level where they exchanged, loaned  and shared seeds among

themselves. To him, this was a great opportunity since he exchanged 500gs of thorn melon seeds for 500g hibiscus seeds. Through the knowledge he had in seed saving, he went on and multiplied the seeds which gave him bumper harvest even during hash climatic conditions in the area. He is currently giving other group members these seeds to benefit from seed saving initiative. He has enough for planting in an acre.seed savers network has already secured market for these crop which will boost their income and seed saving efforts.