Seed Savers Coordinator during the launch

Family farming forms an integral part of feeding the population in Kenya. Households derive their livelihood from their farms either from the production of crops or animals. This is a decade practice which helps in fighting food insecurity in the country. In addition, it contributes to the conservation of agro-biodiversity and natural resources as it is part of cultural heritage in the farming communities.

The idea of Family farming is timely as the United Nations strive to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The approach by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) proposes to put farmers at the centre to achieve SDGs; No poverty,Zero hunger,Good Health and well-being,Quality education,Gender equality,clean water and sanitation, affordable  and clean energy,decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities,sustainable cities and communities,responsible consumption and production,climate action,life below water and life on land.

The vision of the UN Decade of family farming 2019-2028: A world where diverse, healthy and sustainable food and agricultural systems flourish, where resilient rural and urban communities enjoy a high quality of life in dignity, equity, free from hunger and poverty.

Diverse farm-saved seeds

To achieve this vision, various pillars from local to global level forms the basis of actions. Countries need to; Develop an enabling policy environment to strengthen family farming, support youth and ensure the generational sustainability of family farming, promote gender equity in family farming and the leadership role of rural women, strengthen family farmers’ organizations and capacities to generate knowledge, represent farmers and provide inclusive services in the urban-rural continuum, improve socio-economic inclusion,resilience and well-being of family farmers, rural households and communities, promote sustainability of family farming for climate-resilient food systems and lastly to strengthen the multi-dimensionality of family farming to promote social innovations contributing to territorial development and food systems that safeguard biodiversity, environment and culture.

This is necessary because farming is faced with numerous challenges which affect its success. Farmers continue to experience high post-harvest losses, undeveloped marketing systems and value chains, high cost of production, low farm investments, loss of biodiversity, less agricultural extension, land fragmentation due to increasing population, less government support, gender disparity in ownership of land, dominance of production by old population, declining consumption of local food, declining space of farmers’ rights, less crop diversification, soil degradation, unfavourable agricultural policies and climate change.

This was vividly and thoroughly tabled during the event. Speaker after speaker highlighted the plight of the family farmers from their respective regions; Africa, America, Europe and Asia. It was evident from different parts of the world that this category of farmers comprises the majority. Various governments and agricultural actors have injected billions as subsidies or payments to boost production. It was also notable that there is an unacceptable loss of biodiversity and unsustainable production in various parts of the world.

This is an area Seed Savers Network has tried to raise awareness in Kenya. This is in line with our mission ‘To

Farmers sorting their seeds

conserve agro-biodiversity by strengthening communities’ seed systems for improved seed access and food sovereignty.’ It was a great honour to get the opportunity to join like-minded organizations and share our experiences in the conservation of biodiversity which is closely linked to food and nutrition security during the UN Decade of Family Farming Launch, FAO Headquarters-Rome.

Mr Daniel Wanjama, Seed Savers Network Coordinator represented the organization in various forums with the message of empowering family farmers to conserve their agro-biodiversity for well -being of the population. The drive being helping each farmer to have access to diverse and less costly seeds for planting to contribute to the mitigation of climate change, fighting food insecurity in the country and also enhance food sovereignty.

Agro-biodiversity loss is one of the challenges! This is a wake-up call to various stakeholders in the agricultural sector to combine efforts and expertise through consortia to eliminate various challenges facing family farming. This has also been affirmed during the event and in the future family farming will receive high attention in various regions.

Seed Savers Network as a grassroots organization for family farmers is keen to take full advantage of the global attention on family farmers and transform policies and goodwill to tangible support that will change the lives of family farmers within the decade.


FAO and IFAD.2019.United Nations Decade of Family Farming 2019-2018.Global Action Plan. Rome


Ms Jane Wangari-a member of Mwiruti Women Group at Kariandusi in Gilgil, explains to guests how a seed bank works.

As a way of addressing challenges faced by farmers ranging from climate change and health hazards leading to low yields, several groups of farmers in Gilgil Sub County of Nakuru County have begun embracing agro-biodiversity.

Agro-biodiversity is the result of natural selection processes and the careful selection and inventive developments of farmers, herders and fishers over millennia. But in Gilgil, the groups of women farmers have focused on community seed systems and seed access after receiving training from Gilgil based Seed Savers Network.

And with the many challenges that have faced farmers in the past leading to low yields and loss to farmers, these groups of women believe that seed systems and seed access is the only solution to food insecurity in the country. The groups include Makongo Farmers’ Network, Diatomite Budget Women’s Group and Mwiruti Women Group.

The Gilgil-based farmers’ groups are now focusing on agro-biodiversity by ensuring that they have variety of seeds. The Farmers are now practising what they had been trained in by Seed Savers Network such as the importance of saving, selling, sharing, and exchanging their locally produced seeds with each other.

They have also established seed banks which are used to store their various indigenous seeds that keeping agricultural production at a higher level and makes it sustainable. A visit to Mwiruti Women Group at Kariandusi in Gilgil, you meet Ms Rachael Waithera who is now making money from selling Black Night Shade (Managu) and Amaranda (Terere) seeds which she makes from natural selection. She sells the seeds at Ksh.50 for every spoonful.

Besides, she is also involved in agro-biodiversity farming on her 2-acre piece of land in Kariandusi area. Ms Waithira says this has empowered her economically as she has become more independent rather than waiting for her husband to provide everything. Her advice to the women is to wake up and embrace agro-biodiversity.

“These are Black Night Shade (Managu) seeds that I selected myself. I have been selling to other farmers and getting some coins for my needs. My appeal to other women is for them to wake up and embrace farming. This is the only way we shall have plenty of food and also become empowered economically” said Ms Waithera.

Sentiments echoed by Ms Jane Wangari-a member of the group that has 20 members so far.Ms Wangari who is now in charge of the group’s seed bank says since they embraced the culture of saving their own seeds, they have been able to exchange various varieties hence boosting yields.“The concept of seed banks has helped us so much as a group since we have a variety and also improved yields” says Ms Wangari.

Ms Lydia Nyambura who has been taking the women groups through various training on agro-biodiversity and selection of seeds says she has been able to reach several women groups in Gilgil and Naivasha sub-counties. to Ms Nyambura, there is a need for farmers to be taught documentation of indigenous seeds so as to avert losing heritage of such.

“Agro-biodiversity and documentation are what will help save our heritage when it comes to matters of food. So far I have reached more than 20 groups in Gilgil and Naivasha sub-counties” she said.

The groups of farmers have also been trained on how to use organic fertilizers. Ms Lennah Wangari from Eco Fuels Kenya-that is focusing on environmental soundness and robust agricultural sector towards realizing sustainable development says yields will only be boosted if the soil is restored back to its normal nutrients content.

She is appealing to all stakeholders and more so the government to come up with projects that will help boost organic farming in the country.“The only way we shall ensure the safety of our farmers and the nation at large is by all stakeholders coming up with projects that will enhance organic farming” says Ms Lennah.

In a move to protect the indigenous seeds, farmers have now commenced a move that will see the establishment of Kenya Indigenous Seed Movement. Chairman Makongo Farmers Network Mr Francis Ngiri says the movement will play a big role in protecting their rights as indigenous farmers. He adds that there have been cases where some individuals have bred the indigenous variety with others and achieved the patent.

Ngiri adds that the laws of Kenya as far as farming is concerned only favour the commercial farmers and neglecting the indigenous ones.“We want the government of Kenya to help us the indigenous farmers to assist us to save our indigenous seeds” said Ngiri.

Sentiments echoed by Mr Dominic Kimani from Gilgil based Seed Savers Network. Mr.Kimani says to address food insecurity in the country then there is a need for farmers to be sensitized on the need to embrace agro-biodiversity through the community.“With the climate changes, it is high time we think of agro-biodiversity. We plant those crops that can withstand the harsh climate” says Kimani.

Written by Pristone Mambili




In 2009 Daniel Wanjama and his four colleagues left their jobs at the Ministry of Agriculture to start the Seed Savers Network, a non-profit agro-diversity social enterprise based in Gilgil, Nakuru County to promote environmentally free access to seeds by farmers.

According to the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, the informal seed sector in Kenya accounts for about 60-70 per cent of most seeds planted by farmers across the country. In this, farmers recycle seeds from previous harvests thereby denying them the chance to maximize yields.

“We did our own survey in five villages in Gilgil with sample farmers and found many challenges that they encountered like low prices, low-quality products, oversupply leading to wastage in the farming of traditional crops such as arrowroots, cassava, sweet potato vines and cereals,” said Daniel.

With skills acquired in his previous career in the ministry, the four implemented their idea to educate farmers on a variety of services including seed bulking, seed multiplication, seed selection, small-scale seed bank development, among others that would see farmers in the region grow different types of crops chemical free.

“After farmers harvest seeds, we normally sort the best grains from the weak ones and thereafter preserve them with diatomaceous dust, a pesticide and agent that absorb moisture and keeps the seeds dry,” said Daniel.

Farmers preparing sweet potato vines for planting

This type of farming ensures the conservation of natural resources (land, water and air) by ensuring no environmental pollution by use pesticides. This involves training of farmers on the use of organic bio-pesticides formulation, liquid manure and vermin compost to minimize the use of external inorganic farm inputs such as urea or diammonium phosphate.

“Through agro-biodiversity, we established that indigenous foods such as yams, arrow roots, cassava among others were almost going into extinct and thus it was necessary conserving them by showing farmers how to do it for free,” said Daniel.

The process comprises saving quality seeds from their farms in a bank and identifying the best seeds for a certain region.

The network gets their resources for training, workshops, practical’s and agricultural lesson, seeds buying and planting materials through local and International grants like the Government of Kenya, Tudortrust, Kenya Food Rights Alliance (KEFRA) among other organizations.

They have so far trained more than 50,000 farmers across Kenya. They also train the youths through mobilization and believe that due to the high rise of population food will be scarce hence need to venture into agro-biodiversity.

According to World Bank, Kenya’s population is growing at a rate of 2.5 per cent annually.

“We believe in a bright and healthy future of the population thus the success of plants and animal biodiversity practices lies in today’s youth and that is why we are relentlessly reaching out to more youth groups and individuals to train them on the importance of seed and biodiversity preservation,” he said.

However, they encounter some challenges like biopiracy; exploiting their genetic material from the farmers without paying compensation of patents by some foreign organizations.

“We need to keep away from philosophical ideas on farming and put the right practices and research in crops conservation for our people,” said Daniel.

Interested farmers can contact Daniel on +254 712 451 777

Written by Gerald Njihia