As interest in seed saving grows, more people are being attracted to our work. Seed Savers Network is an ideal organization to train and provide practical exposure on agro-biodiversity conservation. Our approach involves engaging those interested in our work in field activities with the farming community to enhance their understanding of agro-biodiversity conservation and seed banking. The Seeds Savers Network Extension Department has also developed a Seed Saving Extension Manual to be used as a reference guide which is available for only KSh 500.
One example of this was a one-day academic tour provided to students from Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences. The event started with an early morning interactive session in which students were oriented on agro-biodiversity conservation over a cup of tea with Seed Savers staff. Students were provided a copy of the Seed Saving Extension Manual which outlines how to save open pollinated seeds. The students then saw organic farming in practice in the demonstration garden managed by our interns from organic training colleges (Baraka and Manor House College). They were later engaged in weeding the avocado seedlings where they were exposed to nursery seed management practices. The day ended by interacting with 30 farmers in Mwitamayu Self-Help Group where we had a common lunch. The farmers enjoyed their company by learning greetings in Italian. The students were later taken through the process of agro-biodiversity conservation (selection, field management practices, harvesting, sorting and storage in the seed bank). A total of 15 students attended along with their tutor. It was clear from the smiles on the students faces that this was a pleasant and fruitful event.
A similar interest in our work prompted a visit from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. This group was analyzing the state of seed saving in the country and wanted to see a seed bank, so Seed Savers Network arranged for them to see the seed banks of two local farmer groups. We were glad to see an interest in the so called ‘orphaned crops’ which are not bred by commercial breeders for food security.
Our work has attracted international Journalists Hans Wetzels, from Webnews (Netherlands) and Svens Toffins (consultant photographer sent by Hivos) to take photos on seeds and interview on agro-biodiversity conservation. In his recent article, Wetzels wrote, “On one end of the village of Gilgil is the headquarters of Seed Savers Network – a club of nearly ten thousand farmers who want to protect traditional seeds. They organize workshops, build seed banks and ensure that locally grown seed varieties are available in markets nearby. Daniel Wanjama is director of the organization and looks from his small office on the fabulous depth of the Rift Valley.”
“Farmers around here use crop rotation to keep their soil healthy and disease outside the door,” he says. “If they would all switch to a resistant designed GMO crop means the end for many local crops . . . The farmers have constructed a seed garden in the hills.”