In a span of 3 years, Seed Savers Network has conducted two surveys that reveals loss of over 50 local varieties. The important crops varieties are in farmers’ memories but they are no longer traceable or available in the farming communities. This trend is alarming and appropriate interventions are required to amend this situation and halt further loss. Shift to commercial varieties, criminalization of farmers seeds, absence of grassroots activities, lack of support to community seed banks and poor coordination of all government agencies to support agro-biodiversity conservation initiatives is among the weakest link that contribute to the massive plant genetic resource erosion.
The findings from the two surveys showed a worsening loss trend in availability, production and consumption of local varieties as well as its associated traditional knowledge. This was revealed by use of five cell analysis tool in various focused group discussions with farmers in different locations including Nakuru, Kiambu, Machakos, Baringo, Kisumu and Bungoma counties. All the local crops identified fell into two cells of the broader Five Cell as either underutilized/high risk of getting extinction or totally lost and no longer traceable in the localities.
The local crops comprised of cereals, legumes, vegetables and root tubers. In 2018 survey, 30 local varieties were listed by farmers as already lost in 10 villages while 121 varieties as underutilized in Nakuru county. In 2020 survey, 18 local varieties were listed by farmers as lost while 33 local varieties as at risk of extinction in sample of farmers from Nakuru, Kiambu, Baringo, Kisumu, Machakos and Bungoma.
This is an indicator that most underutilized local varieties soon will be lost if grassroots interventions for motivation and empowerment of farmers for their utilization is not supported by various actors in the country.
A multi-sectoral approach is necessary to save agro-biodiversity in Kenya. More is required to operationalize the work of National gene bank/Genetic Resource Research Institute (GERRI) which is a government institution to have grassroots activities for conservation of agro-biodiversity in different farming communities and support more the work of community seed banks.
In a publication entitled integrating the Conservation of Plant genetic Resources into Climate Change Adaptation planning in Kenya which GERRI Director, Dr.Nyamongo is a co-author highlighted existence of policy and legal frameworks at national level. However, there is overlap and disconnects amongst the government institutions in their agro-biodiversity functions. The institutions include various government ministries and agencies. The duplication of the work at local governments further escalate the situation. Therefore, more collaboration and streamlining amongst all the actors is critical.