By Dalmus Mitei
Seed Savers Network has been conducting a participatory research with farmers in the western part of Kenya ,Vihiga County on neglected and underutilized varieties. From the findings of the research; 34 indigenous varieties are neglected and underutilized. These varieties include traditional leafy vegetables, cereals, tubers, fruits and the traditional medicines. 7 varieties are no longer traceable in the area and some were found in the wild. Focused group discussion and five-cell analysis tool was used in this research in order to get a reliable information’s.
As of June 2021, seven million people in Kenya lacked sufficient food for consumption. That corresponded to nearly 14 percent of the country’s population. Furthermore, the number of inhabitants in food insecurity increased by 20 percent compared to the previous months, this is an alarming trend which need a quick intervention from all the stakeholders involved to support farmers managed seed systems and reintroduction of the lost seeds from our national gene bank and call for awareness on the importance of utilization of our indigenous varieties that are more adapted to our climate and our soils.
Malnutrition and diet insecurity in large has increased drastically especially in densely populated areas and ASAL areas due to lack of diverse food. This is due to loss of agro-biodiversity farmers which makes farmers to only rely on hybrid seeds hence monocropping in all parts of the country.
Our work in the research also involved;
- Seasonal calendar of harvesting and use (availability)
- Food group/nutrients classification [ Diet diversity: 4-cell analysis
- Identification of seed custodians of this varieties and they are preserving
- Identification of local food recipes and medicine and their use
- An assessment of the impact of climate change and other factors.
We have also created awareness and capacity building on the importance of these neglected and underutilized species to various communities in Vihiga County.
We call on Government, farmers and all actors in the agricultural sector to support us in this course of protecting indigenous seeds to be available in local communities for enhancing crop diversity. Interventions geared towards promoting farmers seeds are needed urgently for food and nutrition security through policy formulations to support community seed banks and informal seed sector in large as well funding for revival of the lost seeds and multiplication of the seeds with farmers in the country.