Farmers collecting their seeds

When Nimbus clouds form in the sky in the months of March and September, farmers start to search for seeds for planting. Agricultural and weather forecasting departments feature in the media advising farmers on the unpredictable weather patterns and in some instances requesting them to take advantage of the little rainfall available.

This call kept on ringing at the minds of farmers and to some, it reminds them of dark days ahead of food insecurity due to lack of money to buy seeds. To others, it gives them hope of feeding their families as they have seeds from their seed banks. This is anchored in the farmers managed seed system which is an ancient practice in agriculture.

The lucky farmers have adopted this practice of seed saving after training by Seed Savers Network. This concept shares some aspects of money saving in the financial sector. Money saving has acted as a vehicle of empowering communities where members deposit some money for a given time in his/her savings account which in return benefits a borrower who needs the money for investments. The borrower pays back the principal amount with interest.

This also applied in community seed banks where members own a given quantity of seed. Those with excess seeds loan other group members who in return brings back twice the quantity lent. This activity is carried out during seed collection in a seed bank before the onset of rainfall for timely planting. Members leave 10% of seeds saved to help them obtain seeds in events of crop losses.

Seed Savers supports them to organize this activity which has various items; germination percentage where 80% is encouraged for planting, cultural food, traditional dances, record keeping, seed exchange, sharing and selling. These help farmers to obtain diverse seeds thereby encouraging crop diversification. During this season, Officers from Ministry Of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, CHALICE and Biovision Trust attended.

Farmers from various groups had different seed collection dates from 15th March to  15th April 2019. Boniface Kagundo a farmer from Njeru Baraka Self-Help Group says,’ “In 2018, I was given 2 kilograms of kidney beans by a friend and I have been able to save them after the training. Last season, I harvested about 50kg of the beans after selecting and eventually saving. Now I have enough seeds for my two-acre piece of land.’’

Nancy Njoki a farmer from Muoroto Women Group explains, ‘After preparing my land I have joined other group members today to collect seeds from the seed bank. I want to plant them early as I wait for the rainfall. I have exchanged my Kahato bean and Makueni Maize with Kawanjiku and Yellow from members. Seed Savers has helped us because we not rushing to the agro shops like before and we are also secure on seeds in case of crop failure due to unfavourable environment.’

Seed Savers applauds the groups for their concerted efforts in agro-biodiversity conservation. Genetic erosion has been increasing over the years in the country and solutions lies with farmers managed seed system. Kenyan 2010 constitution and Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 remains guiding framework for Kenya in biodiversity conservation. When simple efforts are combined from all sectors of the Economy Kenya will realize biodiversity conservation.