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.
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