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Why seed banks establishment crucial

Why seed banks establishment crucial

LAST year, when President Samia Suluhu Hassan made her first address to the National Assembly she pointed out the need to up agricultural production during her leadership.

President Samia stated that it was the fact that agriculture sector made strides in the past years.

The sector contributes by 100 per cent to the country’s food basket, and 60 per cent of industrial raw materials come from the agriculture while it contributes by 27.7 per cent to the national income and 25 per cent of foreign currency.

She stated that despite these achievements, the sector still face number of challenges, mainly poor efficiency or poor harvest.

For instance, efficient maize farming can produce eight tonnes per hectare, but in Tanzania farmers produce an average of 1.9 tonnes per hectares.

Production of quality seeds, preserving and applying them is one of key aspects in boosting the harvests.

There are two ways of saving seeds, formal seed systems (commercial) and community seed banks

The then Deputy Minister of agriculture, Mr Hussein Bashe, who is now full minister of the docket,  hinted in October last year that plans were underway to create a bank for traditional seeds in a move aimed at promoting indigenous farming in the country.

Mr Bashe said the creation of the community seed banks will be done in tandem with the establishment of a department that will specifically deal with organic farming.

He revealed the plans when he opened the second National Ecological Organic Agriculture Conference organized by the Tanzania Organic Agriculture Movement in the Indian coastal region of Mtwara.

He said the Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) would be tasked to research and produce traditional seeds with a view to conserving seed varieties for organic farming.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture will set aside funds in the 2022/2023 financial year for the establishment of the department of organic farming that will be mandated to support the development of indigenous agriculture in Tanzania.

According to the Development Fund, a community seed bank is a locally governed and managed, mostly informal, institution whose core function is to maintain seeds for local use.

Normally, seeds are obtained from the farmers in the community and are selected and stored depending on the agreed storage system.

Community seed banks can take different forms, for example, seeds can be stored in pots, in a shed or community building, or in a clay pots on the floor, in a family granary of on the kitchen shelf or above fireplace.

One of the purposes of a community seed bank is to serve as an emergency seed supply when farmers experience a shortage of seeds, due to failure or destruction of crops as a result of floods, droughts, pests and diseases.

Community seed banks are also important in promoting and sustaining the cultivation of a variety of crops.

 According to the Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity (TABIO), seed saving is a practice that farmers and their families have been engaged in for millennia.

It has allowed them to cultivate a large number of different local varieties, which have been able to adapt to different environmental conditions and changes, such as to the shortages of water, strong winds, limited soil nutrients and so on.

TABIO’s Coordinator, Mr Abdallah Mkindi said although seeds can be saved at the global level, community seed banks can help farmers to access seeds to grow crops during the next planting season or they can be used as an emergency seed supply when their crops are damaged and destroyed by pests, flooding, drought etc.

Mr Mkindi said the agricultural production system in Tanzania has been significantly impacted by climate change and therefore, growing local varieties, which have a high degree of genetic diversity, is highly important.

“This is because these varieties have the ability to better withstand and adapt to environmental stresses and changes,” he argued.

Although seed banks have not been widely adapted by farmers, setting up them may help farmers to acquire varieties that are adapted to local conditions.

Community seed banks are important in preservingthe open pollinated varieties which are possessed by farmers or those coming from our agricultural research institutes (ARIs) through their breeding programs.

At the global level, a measure has been taken in 2008 through the establishment of the ‘Svalbard Global Seed Vault’. This seed bank is located in the permafrost on a remote island off the coast of Norway and has become the most diverse seed repository in the world.

 

r Mkindi argued that seed banks are one of the most important instruments to guarantee the autonomy of farmers and their food sovereignty.

Policy measures (seed laws and plant variety protection) are increasingly restricting access to seeds with the intention of leaving the seed market to industry.

Never hide them, let them out

UNIVERSAL Declaration of Human Rights, ...

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Author: BERNARD LUGONGO

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