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